Raith Made To Pay For Lack of Cutting Edge
Raith Rovers poor form continued today, after an insipid display at Palmerston Park, saw them lose to their hosts Queen of the South, by a single goal.
Manager Grant Murray made just one change from last weeks 0-0 draw with Morton at Cappielow, with captain Jason Thomson returning at right-back, meaning Fraser Mullen dropped to the bench. Also replicated from last weeks scoreless draw was the formation, which featured Calum Elliot as the lone front man.
The game started slowly, although the away side created the better of the early openings. Thomson seemed keen to get forward, and a gallivanting run to the edge of the Queens box, should have seen him get on the end of Elliot’s cut-back, but the Raith skipper couldn’t adjust himself properly, and the chance was lost.
Liam Fox was the first player to chance his luck, but after eventually controlling the ball, his half-volley disappeared into the home fans behind the goal.
Despite the numerical advantage in midfield, Raith were seeing far less of the ball than their hosts during the opening period, and the Queens strike tandem of Derek Lyle and Gavin Reilly were both looking lively. Michael Paton was also proving to be a distraction, due to his positioning between the Raith back four and midfield. At times, no-one in the Raith team seemed entirely sure who should be responsible for picking up the midfielder, who was just starting to make things tick for the Doonhamers.
Despite this, it was Raith who should have went in front after 15 minutes. Liam Fox picked out Joe Cardle on the left-hand side, and he teed up Callum Booth, but his shot found the wrong side of the side netting.
Raith almost had cause to rue that miss a minute later. Michael Paton hit his 25-yard free kick on target, but the attempt lacked pace, and as such, Laidlaw’s palmed save, back into the 6-yard box took his defenders by surprise. They could only look on, as Iain Russell latched onto the loose ball, but he somehow contrived to miss the target from 6 yards out.
The relief was only temporary however, as the Dumfries side moved ahead on the 23rd minute, after the best move of the game. Chris Mitchell’s cross found Derek Lyle, who feathered the ball into Ian McShane’s path, who coolly slotted past Laidlaw.
Raith were then dealt a further blow, when Kevin Moon was forced off with an injury. His replacement was Greig Spence, who went up front, alongside Elliot.
Parity was almost restored just after the half-hour mark, after Joe Cardle cut inside, and threaded it to Ross Callachan. The youngster crashed a 30-yard effort at goal, but the ball came off the inside of the post, and ricocheted clear. Callachan then had another attempt drift just over, as Rovers started to enjoy their best spell of the match.
The last notable attempt of the half came in the 38th minute, and it should have brought Rovers level. Cardle set Grant Anderson through on the right, but as he held off the defender, goalkeeper Zander Clark narrowed the angle, and diverted the wingers effort clear, with his foot.
The Raith players probably felt aggrieved at going in at half-time a goal down, but a combination of bad luck, and bad finishing had contributed to the one goal deficit.
If anything, the second period started even slower than the first, and despite the scoreline, there seemed a real lack of urgency amongst the Raith players, while Queens seemed content to sit in and soak up any pressure that Raith could exert. More often than not however, that pressure came from long balls from Dougie Hill, which was proving meat and drink for the Queens defence.
The first incident came 10 minutes after the restart, when Fox was booked for clattering into Iain Russell. With the free-kick half cleared, Stephen McKenna’s side foot half-volley from 30-yards went just wide, although Laidlaw looked to have it covered.
With 25 minutes remaining, Cardle fed the ball to Booth who had overlapped the left-winger, but his cross was plucked out the air by Clark. It was the first time that the two left-sided players had combined to that effect during the game, something which is in stark contrast to the beginning of the season, when the combination was one of Raith’s most effective threats.
While Raith had dominated possession in the second half, theyd failed to fashion a chance from it, and they almost went further behind after 66 minutes. Gavin Reilly ran at the defence, and with players backing off, he had time to find Russell in the box, but for the second time that day, he spurned his opportunity by missing the target.
It took until the 73rd minute for Rovers to create their first chance of the half, and it was one they should have taken. Some good work by Elliot down the right-hand side, allowed him to pick out Cardle, but the ex-Airdrieonians player sent his drive past the post from the edge of the box.
A minute later, Lewis Vaughan replaced Liam Fox, and he was immediately involved in creating a chance for Elliot. Despite the ball coming to him inside the 6-yard box, the forward didn’t seem to catch his shot properly, and Mitchell was on-hand to clear the danger.
Disappointingly, despite there being 15 minutes remaining, that would be Raith’s final attempt on goal. Gordon Smith replaced Joe Cardle for the last few moments, and Dougie Hill ventured forward to try to snatch an equaliser, but it never looked like it would materialise. In fact, Queens almost snatched a goal on the breakaway during the dying seconds, but Russell was unceremoniously stopped by Reece Donaldson, who received a deserved caution. Russell’s incandescence at being fouled eventually led to a bit of a melee in the middle of the park.
It was the final incident in a poor game, and the result sees Raith slip out of the play-off places, and into fifth. With no goals in the last four games, and only two wins from 10 league matches, manager Grant Murray will be looking for his players to arrest the steep decline in form next week, when managerless Alloa visit Stark’s Park.
Words: Shaughan McGuigan Pictures: Eddie Doig
Match highlights generously supplied by Malcolm Johnson of Qos TV
Copyright Eddie Doig