Clinical Calum Bags All Three Points
Raith Rovers got back to winning ways today, after a hard-fought, but richly deserved 2-1 win over Queen of the South.
Raith made three changes from last week’s disappointing defeat to Alloa at Recreation Park. Kevin McCann and Gordon Smith dropped to the bench, and were replaced by Callum Booth and Greig Spence. Liam Fox was also missing after picking up a knock, and his place in the middle of the park was taken by Ross Callachan, who made his first start of the season.
Manager Grant Murray had spoken before the match about the importance of bouncing back from two consecutive defeats, and the players certainly seemed to have paid heed to his message, as they took the game to the visitors straight from kick-off.
On 3 minutes, a deep cross from the right hand side by Anderson, was brought down on his chest by Joe Cardle, but as he shimmied inside to shoot, his fierce drive from close range was well saved by Queens’ keeper Zander Clark.
The on-loan goalie was again called into action a minute later, diving low to his right to tip away Calum Eliott’s attempt, although it may have been heading just wide.
Raith’s third early chance came from their left hand side, and it showed exactly what the team were missing last week, with the returning Booth combining well with Cardle, who eventually fashioned a chance for Anderson, but he pulled his shot wide.
Any hopes however, that the start to the match was a precursor to an action strewn 45 minutes were sadly forlorn, even though Queens’ at times looked extremely open in midfield, with Cardle and Moon getting plenty of space to exploit. Booth too was making up for lost time after his suspension, but as has been the case recently, Raith were unable to work anything through the middle, while the crosses from wide areas, although plentiful, were either missing their mark, or well defended.
Jim McIntyre’s side on the other hand were resorting to a far more direct approach, which was curious to see, as it often led to possession, something which was already at a premium for the Doonhamers, being squandered yet further.
It was the 33rd minute of a fairly pedestrian first-half, before the next chance came along, and it almost brought a remarkable own-goal from Mark Durnan. The Queens’ centre half swung his leg wildly at Joe Cardle’s cross, squaffing the ball horribly behind him, and just past the right-angle of Clark’s post and crossbar. From the corner, Anderson’s cross-come-shot was hacked off the line, as the game threatened to come to life.
Two minutes later, Jim McIntyre made his first change of the match, replacing Derek Young for Stephen McKenna, although it was unclear at the time if this was tactical or due to an injury.
There was still time for one last chance in the half, and what a chance it was. Kevin Holt misjudged a huge clearance up-field, allowing Greig Spence a clear run on goal. His first touch seemed to steady himself, but his second appeared one too many, and he took it too close to Clark, who had narrowed the angle, allowing him to block the shot with his legs.
After a frustrating first period, things almost got worse for Raith, as they started the second half poorly, allowing Queens’ their first real opportunity. A long ball forward found Reilly, who was under pressure from Dougie Hill, unfairly in the away fans opinion, who loudly howled for a penalty. With the appeals waved to the side, a shot from Carmichael was deflected wide by Hill for the corner.
The early part of the second half saw almost as many chances as the whole of the first, although now, the openings were being created by both sides. Callachan saw his shot blocked by Chris Mitchell, then moments later, a great cross from Cardle was passed up by Anderson, who just needed to get his head on it.
Up the other end however, an excellent ball into the back post, looked to have presented a chance to Gavin Reilly, but it was nicked off his toe by Jason Thomson.
In the 50th minute, a break down the left-hand side by Raith allowed Cardle to again pick out a man in the box, but this time Spence, from 12 yards out, headed straight at Clark, when he seemed to have time to bring it down.
With almost an hour gone, Ross Laidlaw had been given very little to do, but Raith had him to thank for keeping the scores level, with a save that was McGurn-esque in appearance. A whipped in free-kick found the head of Chris Higgins, whose strong header seemed to be heading in, but for a split second intervention from Laidlaw to tip it away.
Back came Raith in a see-saw second period, and this time they were denied by the athleticism of Clark, who kept out a Spence header, from 8 yards.
With time ticking by, it appeared that the game was heading along similar lines as last week, with one goal possibly going to be enough. With that being the case, there was dismay in the home stands, when Queen of the South went ahead in the 61st minute. A long ball was played over the head of Booth and picked up by Chris Mitchell, who laid the ball on a plate for Gavin Reilly, who finished from close range.
Any thoughts that a repeat of last week was on the cards were immediately diminished however, as Rovers responded straight away. A quick free-kick seemed to have went astray, but Calum Elliot picked the ball up 18 yards out at an angle, and fizzed a shot past Clark into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Grant Murray then made two substitutions, swapping in Gordon Smith for Spence, and Laurie Ellis for Hill, who appeared to have sustained a back injury.
With the game now evenly balanced, there was controversy with 15 minutes to go, when play was stopped due to an injury to Calum Elliot. The subsequent uncontested drop-ball, seemed to rile Jim McIntyre, who appeared to order his team on. As a result, substitute Paul Burns sprinted down the wing and almost set up Gavin Reilly to make the score 2-1. The ball seemed to have been deflected wide, but referee Mat Northcroft signalled for a goal-kick, as those of a Raith disposition vented their anger towards the away bench.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Raith spurned two gilt-edged chances to go ahead. First Ellis timed his jump wrong at a corner, putting the ball over with the back of his neck, then Elliot shot over an unguarded net from 8 yards, although he was at full-stretch.
With time running out however, Rovers grabbed a late winner, thanks to a cool finish from man-of-the-match Elliot.
Joe Cardle broke down te left-hand side for the umpteenth time during the game, picking out Elliot, who had defenders all around him, although crucially, none were tight enough, allowing him to turn, and sweep home a lovely finish into the bottom corner, which initiated another celebratory melee from the Raith players in front of the stand.
Raith saw out the time, and remain in third place in the league, 5 points behind Hamilton, and 3 clear of fourth placed Falkirk.
Thoughts now turn to the Scottish Cup, and it’s back to Dens Park next week, a venue that has seen some great wins for Raith in the competition over the years. It’s also a chance to make amends for the 2-0 defeat that Grant Murray’s men suffered a fortnight ago.
The next league match is another important fixture, this time at Falkirk, on the 7th of December.
Words: Shaughan McGuigan Pictures: Tony Fimister
Photographs Copyright Tony Fimister.
Rovers gaffer Grant Murray talked through the games main points with Niall after a deserved victory