Rovers Earn A Point Under Friday Night Lights
Raith Rovers left Dumfries with a valuable point on Friday evening, after a 1-1 draw temporarily lifted them back into the play-off places.
Ray McKinnon made two changes from the side which won through to the next round of the Scottish Cup against Elgin. Lewis Toshney returned to the side at right-back, replacing David Bates in the process, while Ross Callachan came in for Jon Daly, to make a five man midfield, with Mark Stewart as the lone-forward.
Queens’ boss James Fowler went for a different approach, front loading his side with a forward duo of Iain Russell and Derek Lyle, and supplementing them with Alex Harris tucked in behind.
Raith looked the brighter side in the game’s opening moments, although this was assisted by the home team’s wastefulness, with their distribution sloppy and wayward at times. Despite that, Rovers were struggling to cash in, despite regularly picking up possession in dangerous areas.
Chances for both sides were at something of a premium, but Rovers looked the likelier of the two to create them, with the numerical superiority in midfield meaning the home central pairing of Mark Millar and Kyle Hutton were struggling to make any in-roads. Ryan McCord in particular was having an effective match, rarely wasting a pass and generally dictating the events around him.
Grant Anderson had made a bright, sparky start to the match, but he was forced off with an injury after just twenty minutes, replaced by on-loan Dundee forward, Craig Wighton.
Despite the disruption, Rovers took a deserved lead just two minutes later, although it arrived via an unlikely source.
Lewis Toshney gathered a loose clearance and made good headway down the right-flank, before looping a high cross into a congested penalty area. Despite the crowd of bodies, there didnt’t appear to be too much danger, as Robbie Thomson rose to claim the ball. However, under pressure from Kyle Benedictus, Thomson fumbled the ball behind him and into the net to put the away side one up. Thomson claimed the challenge from Benedictus had been a foul, and while the defender’s arm was leaning in to the ‘keeper, referee Craig Charleston deemed it acceptable.
The goal eventually sparked some life into the home side, and while the first half-hour had belonged to Rovers, Queens’ were just starting to create some chances. A long ball almost picked out Russell, but he was just beaten to it by Kevin Cuthbert, who took a sore one from the advancing striker in the process.
Lewis Toshney and Russell appeared to be having something of an ongoing spat, with the Queens forward apparently unhappy with the Raith defender’s challenges, while Toshney insisted that Russell was making the most of it. The referee eventually decided Russell may have had a point, when he dished out the game’s first booking for Toshney after a late challenge on the same opponent.
It was the same player who was involved a few moments later, when the Dumfries outfit produced their best piece of football in the match. Andy Dowie, Lyle and Millar were involved in a move which freed up Russell inside the area, but from an angle, he pulled his cross-come-shot wide of the mark.
Despite Rovers bossing the opening half, it was a sign that the home side were more than capable of upping their performance levels. Unfortunately, it was a warning that went unheeded, as the home team equalised shortly after the half-time interval.
An alteration in personnel and formation from Queens saw Lewis Kidd replace Darren Brownlie in what appeared to be a more orthodox 4-4-2, with Millar behind Lyle, and the second-half was barely bedded in when the changes reaped dividends.
Kidd released Harris who had found himself in swathes of space on the right-hand side, and although Benedictus advanced over, the winger sidestepped him easily, before threading the ball across the face of goal to the awaiting Russell, who finished calmly.
The equaliser was something of a jolt to the system, but normal service certainly didn’t resume afterwards, with the momentum completely switching to the Doonhamers, who looked like a team transformed.
Harris had a snapshot that tested Cuthbert, before Kidd, who had made a lively impact since arriving as a substitute, swept a great ball across goal that found no takers. Russell then almost completed the turnaround, after a Dowie flick-on was diverted into his path by Chris Higgins, but the former Livingston man put his chance wide.
Despite being under the cosh for the majority of the period, Rovers perhaps should have retaken the lead, when Wighton got on the end of a good move, but from 12-yards, his shot was placed too close to Thomson, who batted the effort away.
Toshney then made way for David Bates who went to right-back, before Queen of the South brought on Gary Oliver, and the former Hearts forward almost made a dramatic introduction, when he was put through by Derek Lyle. However, with just the Raith goalie to beat, Cuthbert’s narrowing of the angle forced Oliver’s hand, and his shot was blocked by the custodian.
The withdrawal of Rusell for ex-Rovers midfielder, Ryan Conroy appeared to take the sting out of Queen’s game somewhat, although Oliver and the lively Harris were still a concern. However, the Ray McKinnon’s men held on for a point, and will be in action again next Friday, when they travel to Greenock, to play Morton.
Highlights for this match are available in the UK from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/scotland/35071066
The full game is also available until 18th December on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06ryjf5/scottish-championship-201516-queen-of-the-south-v-raith-rovers
After Storm Desmond put paid to to Raith’s match against Rangers last weekend, Rovers head to Dumfries this Friday evening, for their first Championship match since the 1-1 draw with St. Mirren.
They’ll face off against a Queen of the South side whom they’ve defeated in their last two meetings, matches in which they haven’t conceded a goal in the process, although Ray McKinnon’s side are without a win at Palmerston since September 2013, when a Greig Spence goal was enough to see all three points head north.
It was the same outcome in the sides only meeting this season too, with a late Kyle Benedictus goal all that separated the teams in a closely contested encounter back in September.
If the previous meetings are any gauge, then there’s almost certainly going to be a winner on Friday night, with the last 17 games producing a winner. The last time the fixture ended all-square was a 0-0 draw back in April 2010. If the game does produce a winner, then it’ll propel them into the play-off spots, with Rovers currently fifth, behind Morton on goal difference, while James Fowlers team are just two points back.
The match is being broadcast live on BBC Alba, the third time the fixture has been chosen as the channel’s live broadcast. The first was in October last year, when Queens’ won a 4-3 thriller at Stark’s Park, while the second was just a month later, with the Doonhamers again prevailing in a rather more straightforward 2-0 win.
Despite that, Raith hold the upper-hand in the last ten meetings between the two teams, with six victories to Queens’ four.
Friday evening’s match referee will be Craig Charleston.
Head-to-Head League Record at Palmerston Park:
Queen of the South Wins: 18 | Raith Rovers Wins: 15 | Draws: 15
Queen of the South Goals: 76 | Raith Rovers Goals: 66
Queen of the South: L-L-W-W-L-D
Raith Rovers: L-L-L-D-D-W
Queen of the South: Derek Lyle 9 | Iain Russell 4
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 6 | Kyle Benedictus 3 | James Craigen 3
Queen of the South: 6/5 | Raith Rovers: 21/10 | Draw: 13/5