Raith and Doonhamers Battle To A Draw
Raith Rovers and Queen of the South shared the spoils with a 1-1 draw following a Championship clash at Stark’s Park this afternoon which bristled with early promise but ultimately failed to sparkle as stalemate took its uncompromising hold.
Rovers boss John Hughes, buoyed by last week’s win against Dundee United, named an unchanged starting eleven, and the home side were looking to not only distance themselves from the clubs at the foot of the table, but pull themselves level with their opponents who occupied fifth place at kick-off. The Doonhamers had appeared odds-on to reach the play-offs not so long ago, but Gary Naysmith’s charges have faltered of late, a return of one point from their last four games leaving them well adrift of the top four.
Rovers won narrowly and possibly undeservedly when the sides lined up in Kirkcaldy last October, although the visitors could lay claim to victory on each occasion this season when they have clashed in Dumfries. Any notion of anything short of a close encounter this time appeared remote, and true to form this is precisely how events unfolded as two sides with little to separate one from the other lined up amid a sun-kissed afternoon in the Lang Toun.
Following an impeccably-respectful minute’s silence to mark the dreadful events in London during the week, it was the visitors who showed initial intent, forcing two corners during the first minute. While neither cross came to anything, Rovers knew quickly they were in for a tough afternoon, and Craig Barr’s loose pass then allowed Stephen Dobbie to send John Rankin scampering down the left wing, though the Queens captain ran the ball out of play to the relief of the home side.
Rovers then began to enjoy early possession, and from Jason Thomson’s quick throw-in Ross Callachan should have done better than scuff a shot wide of the target from a promising position just outside the penalty area. However, soon after, before ten minutes had elapsed, the home side took the lead. The ball fell invitingly for Ryan Hardie deep inside the box, and the in-form striker wasted no time in dispatching a low shot beyond former Rovers keeper Lee Robinson.
Few Rovers fans, of course, would have assumed that this early advantage would lead to an ensuing ninety minutes of trouble-free play towards a much-needed three points, and indeed after quarter of an hour only a superb sliding challenge from Craig Barr prevented Dobbie from levelling the scores.
Neither side was in the mood to concede ground in what was a competitive clash, a fact reflected in the number of challenges that attracted the attention of referee Colin Steven. With twenty minutes played, Queens defender Andrew Dowie was cautioned for blatantly fouling Ross Callachan as the Rovers midfielder surged forward, and a minute later he was joined in the referee’s notebook by Rovers captain Jason Thomson, whose needlessly rash challenge on Jordan Marshall on halfway left the defender in a crumpled heap.
This presented the visitors with the chance to put pressure on the Rovers defence, and shortly afterwards hey drew level. Rovers conceded a free-kick about 25 yards from goal, and Stephen Dobbie’s arched shot smacked off the junction of post and bar before bouncing along the goal-line and away to safety. However, cheers of relief emanating from the south stand soon turned to howls of protest as the railway stand linesman signalled that the ball had in fact crossed the line, and Queens belatedly celebrated their equaliser.
On the half-hour, Ross Matthews became the third name in the referee’s book for an innocuous-looking challenge on Derek Lyle close to the far touchline. This decision clearly frustrated the home fans, whose ire was a reflection of the fact that the opening period was punctuated with free-kicks and stoppages, in turn denying the game any real sense of rhythm and cohesion.
Early in the second half, the ever-alert and undeniably dangerous Dobbie charged down a clearance by Rovers stopper Pavol Penksa, and Barr did well to head clear the subsequent floated cross into the box by the Queens striker. Rovers then passed up a glorious opportunity to regain the lead, when Callachan was presented with a header six years from goal. Unfortunately the midfielder appeared to lose his composure and barely made contact when it appeared the goal was at his mercy.
With an hour played, manager Hughes made the first of a quick burst of substitutions in a bid to galvanise the home side. Rudi Skacel replaced Chris Johnston, who had had an altogether quieter afternoon than the previous weekend, and it wasn’t long thereafter before Bobby Barr was introduced to the fray at the expense of Kyle Benedictus, who it must be said continues to look uncomfortable occupying the left-back position. In between those changes, Declan McManus became the third Rovers player to earn a yellow card.
McManus then became embroiled in an unnecessary spat with Robinson, before the Rovers forward was replaced by Scott Roberts.
The final quarter became frustrating for the home side, as the ball appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time in the air, and for all the Rovers faithful demanded the home side seek to restore cohesion to their play, the match became seriously disjointed and devoid of quality. The game became a dour struggle within an increasingly congested midfield, and both goal keepers were virtual spectators as the match ebbed towards its inevitable conclusion.
With ten minutes remaining, man of the match Craig Barr, perhaps frustrated by the lack of activity at either end, accepted a pass and let fly from fully 35 yards. While his shot was never likely to seriously trouble Lee Robinson, it did at least serve to call the keeper into action for the first time in the second half.
Neither side could fashion a match-winning opportunity over the closing stages, and the game petered out to the draw that was almost certainly a fair result. There was a feeling that Rovers missed an opportunity to continue a winning run at home, although in truth they did not do enough over the ninety minutes to win this match. Afterwards, the feeling persisted that the match ball would be in serious need of a couple of paracetamol.
However, the point gained today could yet prove decisive in terms of retaining Rovers’ Championship status for next season, although with two away matches looming against Falkirk and Dunfermline, and strugglers St Mirren and Ayr United showing little sign of battle fatigue just yet, few of a Raith Rovers persuasion will be resting on their laurels for the time being at least.
RaithTV chatted with the Gaffer after the 1-1 draw with QoS
Raith Rovers are looking to make it three wins from their four matches this weekend, when Queen of the South visit Stark’s Park this Saturday.
With the division currently so tight, a win would lift Raith level on points with the Doonhamers, who currently reside in fifth place in the table.
It’s been something of a mixed bag for Rovers in this fixture so far, with two defeats and a single victory from the three meetings to date.
Jean Yves M’Voto scored with a late header at Palmerston Park in September, but it was no more than consolation, as Queens ran out deserved 3-1 winners.
Rovers come out on top in October when the two met at Stark’s Park, after a late Mark Stewart goal was enough to seal a 1-0 win, although the Dumfries side must have been kicking themselves, after looking the likelier winners for the bulk of the match.
The most recent meeting was in February, and again, M’Voto was Raith’s scorer with a header on the hour mark, but it failed to spark a revival, with Queens holding on for a 2-1 win.
That win was Queens last in the league, and in the four matches since, they’ve picked up just a solitary point.
That sequence has left Gary Naysmith’s side requiring a another win or two to be sure of staying up this term, after a run of just two defeats in ten between December and February appeared to see them safe.
Rovers have a slight advantage in the most recent head-to-head meetings, with five wins to Queens four from the last ten match ups.
Saturday’s match referee will be Colin Steven.
Head-To-Head League Record at Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 29 | Queen of the South Wins: 16 | Draws: 8
Raith Rovers Goals: 99 | Queen of the South Goals: 56
Raith Rovers: D-L-L-W-L-W
Queen of the South: L-W-L-D-L-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 6 | Ryan Hardie 5 | Declan McManus 5