Raith Rovers got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Queens Park at a bitterly cold Stark’s Park this afternoon. In truth, the manner of the victory wasn’t pretty at times, but the win brings to an end a wretched run of three defeats which had cast a cloud over Rovers’ aspirations for this season.
Rovers manager Barry Smith was able to restore top scorer Lewis Vaughan to his starting eleven following last week’s disappointing Scottish Cup defeat at Peterhead. Smith had also expressed his relief at being back at Stark’s Park, where results have been kinder to Rovers of late.
While Rovers had despatched The Spiders with the minimum of fuss when the sides last clashed at Hampden in September, few seriously expected a repeat of the 5-0 score that day, even allowing for the fact Gus Macpherson’s men are isolated at the bottom of the table, having lost their last four matches.
Indeed, Queens Park were the first to threaten inside a minute, when Sean Burns let fly from distance, although Graeme Smith was able to watch the shot sail wide of the target. The opening exchanges typified two off-form teams, and for all Rovers enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they were unable to convert this into meaningful scoring opportunities.
Euan Murray had to look lively to snuff out a Queens foray into the penalty area, before good work by team-mate Jamie Watson forced Rovers’ first corner kick of the game after ten minutes. Vaughan’s cross caused mayhem in the box as Rovers looked to force an opener, but an offside flag scuppered their efforts.
Liam Buchanan then burst into the penalty area with intent, but his clever cut-back found no takers, and the chance was cleared. Minutes later, the same player drove down the left wing, and this time Greig Spence was a whisker away from latching on to his low cross.
Queens’ Ciaran Summers then decided to copy Buchanan, dashing into the Rovers penalty area and attempting to play a square ball across the box, but for all they made a meal of it, the Rovers defence eventually cleared their lines. Christopher Duff was next up, but again the home side managed to scramble the ball clear.
Five minutes before the interval, Lewis Vaughan attempted to enliven what had become a dour struggle with a free-kick from 25 yards, though the forward’s shot curved narrowly over the bar with Queens keeper Michael White struggling to get close to it.
For all the first half did little to warm the fans shivering in the stands, Rovers emerged for the second period determined to put more pressure on the visitors. Within five minutes, a deep cross from Watson fell invitingly for Vaughan, though the forward’s shot from close range was blasted high into the south stand. Perhaps indicative of the increased tempo being applied by Rovers, Queens’ Gregor Fotheringham was booked for a crude tackle on Scott Robertson on halfway.
With almost an hour played, Smith replaced John Herron with Dario Zanatta in an attempt to inject attacking momentum to Rovers’ play. It would prove an inspired substitution as the young winger scored the opening goal within five minutes of his introduction to proceedings.
Vaughan took possession in the centre circle, and picked out Zanatta who had peeled off his marker on the left wing. Zanatta advanced into the box, and drove a low left foot shot into the far corner of the net, to the delight and relief of the home fans. The home side then capitalised on this by doubling their advantage within three minutes.
Once again, Vaughan was the creator, his run deep into the box finding Zanatta, who was felled inside the box. However, Vaughan pounced on the loose ball and once again fed Zanatta, whose shot was parried by White into the path of the lurking Greig Spence, who headed the ball home with the minimum of fuss from three yards.
Of course, the second goal did more than double Rovers’ advantage in the match – the feeling that the two-goal cushion would almost certainly be sufficient to secure the three points was palpable within the ground. Indeed, Rovers, clearly galvanised by their goals, should have had a penalty shortly afterwards when Buchanan was clearly pulled back inside the box, but referee Mike Roncone waved away the appeals.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Ross Matthews required lengthy treatment for a nose injury, but the same player recovered quickly and almost got on the end of a searching Zanatta cross into the box as Rovers pushed for a third goal. Zanatta, who could certainly lay claim to have made his mark on the match since his introduction, was then sent sprawling in the box, but the assistant ref’s flag was already up for offside when the Canadian loanee from Hearts hit the deck.
A third goal did look to be in the offing shortly afterwards, but following good work down the right wing by Vaughan, Spence’s close-range shot was blocked on the line by White when a goal looked certain.
With the match effectively won, Spence and Buchanan were replaced by James Berry and Yaw Osei in the closing moments. Indeed, there was just time for the 1,200 hardy souls – including 50 who had lustily cheered on the Spiders from the main stand throughout – to be thanked before the final whistle sounded on one of those games where, in truth, the points were of far more importance than the performance as far as those of a Raith Rovers persuasion were concerned.
As the fans drifted from the stadium into the cold night air, stamping their feet in an attempt to bring warmth to freezing bones, the feeling was that this win was just what the doctor ordered for Rovers. Few would suggest Barry Smith’s men had restored themselves as title favourites – Ayr’s late winner at Alloa dispelled that notion – but it served as a timely boost to recently-diminished confidence. The hope, of course, is that this can be carried forward to another home match, with Alloa the visitors to the Lang Toun next week.
RaithTV spoke with the Gaffer after the 2-0 win against Queen’s Park
RaithTv spoke with Dario after the 2-0 win against Queen’s Park
After recent disappointments on their travels, Raith Rovers return to Stark’s Park this weekend, for an encounter with bottom-of-the-table Queen’s Park.
Rovers now find themselves three points behind Ayr United, albeit having played a game fewer, with the fixture in hand against Stranraer now scheduled for January the 20th.
Both these teams go into the game having exited the Scottish Cup last weekend, with Rovers being dumped out by Peterhead, while Gus MacPherson’s Spiders were losing 4-1 at home to Dunfermline.
That result made it four straight losses for Queen’s, with their last win coming on the 21st of October against Albion Rovers.
That form has seen them slide to down to tenth spot in the League One table, four points behind a resurgent Forfar Athletic, and seven behind eighth placed Airdrieonians.
Rovers will be hoping for a similar result to the last time the two sides met back in September, when goals from Liam Buchanan, Lewis Vaughan, Dario Zanatta, Bobby Barr and Jason Thomson handed Rovers a decisive 5-0 win.
It’s been almost ten years since Queen’s last posted a victory at Stark’s Park, with a 1-0 win back in March 2008.
As a consequence, Rovers have been the dominant side in the most recent fixtures, with eight wins and two defeats from their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Mike Roncone.
Head-to-Head Home Record Versus Queen’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 21 | Queen’s Park Wins: 10 | Draws: 10
Raith Rovers Goals: 83 | Queen’s Park Goals: 53
Raith Rovers: W-D-W-L-L-L
Queen’s Park: D-W-L-L-L-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 18 | Liam Buchanan 7 | Greig Spence 6
Queen’s Park: Anton Brady 3 | Thomas Orr 3 | Dominic Docherty 3
Raith Rovers: 3/10 | Queen’s Park: 9/1 | Draw: 9/2