ROVERS GO TOP WITH HAMPDEN WIN
Raith regained top spot in the League One table with a comfortable 3-1 win over Queens Park at Hampden – goals from Euan Murray and one each from new front pairing Liam Buchanan and Willis Furtado were enough to take all three points. An excellent first half – lit up by a twenty-five-yard blockbuster from Furtado – sealed the victory, Rovers capitalising on another home defeat for Ian McCall’s Ayr United.
While both sides had vibrant spells in an even second half, Rovers won the match with a strong first half performance, restoring confidence to Raith ranks, heading back to Starks Park after three consecutive away matches, top of the League again.
Making three changes from last week’s uninspiring draw at Alloa, manager Barry Smith was keen to use the vast expanses of the National Stadium to Raith’s benefit. Playing two wingers in Bobby Barr and Dario Zanatta, with a centre-forward pairing of Buchanan and Furtado, Smith sought to take the game to Gus MacPherson’s Queens Park early on.
Zanatta started wide on the left, and took to his task with relish. An early cross fell just beyond Buchanan at the near post; released by a lovely ball from Herron moments later, the youngster opted to shoot, his effort blocked away. It was all Raith in the opening five minutes.
Queens have struggled for goals all season. With a goal difference of minus twenty-five, evidently there have been problems at both ends of the park – the Spiders made four changes following last week’s 4-1 home reverse against Ayr. Luke Donnelly and William Mortimer dropped to the bench; there were starts for defenders Ross Millen and Lewis Magee; and young loanee Aiden Keena started on his own upfront.
Raith nearly gifted the home side an opener. With five minutes on the clock, Davidson was caught under a high ball, Keena escaping in behind – with Lennox opting to stay on his line, the front-man’s shot looked goalbound, the Raith keeper saving well. Full-back Burns – an angular, rangy stride masking real pace – was next to threaten, his cross thumped clear by Mckay.
Moved inside from his wide berth in last week’s draw at Alloa, Willis Furtado started upfront alongside Liam Buchanan. The Frenchman’s strength in the air was clear from the outset, winning several challenges. Herron had been briefed to support – his burst on ten minutes allowed Furtado a shot on goal. White gathered well.
On fourteen minutes, a Raith opener. Lewis Vaughan’s corner was allowed to bounce through the six-hard box. Euan Murray finished with glee. With a noisy travelling support in full voice – “Geordie Munro” echoing around Hampden’s banks of seating – manager Smith’s hope must have been for a comfortable win, with goals and a clean-sheet if possible.
On eighteen minutes, a real thunderbolt to put Rovers two to the good – Vaughan won a challenge in midfield, and Furtado was off and running. Galloping between Magee and Cummings in the Queens defence and moving well, Furtado walloped a twenty-yard drive past White, the home net bulging for the second time in five minutes.
The Spiders looked to respond. Aiden Keena twisted inside Davidson and fired a shot over Lennox’s bar. Burns again probed down Raith’s left. Gus MacPherson was an animated figure on the touch-line. For the first time, midfielder Docherty linked with his strikers, Euan Murray taking evasive action. Lennox’s weak clearance was nearly seized upon by Leitch, with Davidson clearing the danger.
Leitch again came close on twenty-eight minutes, his strike flying over when well placed – the midfielder turned away in anguish; he knew a better effort was required.
On the half-hour, a soft third put Rovers three up – Barr burst down the right flank, showing pace to beat a retreating Millen to a through-ball. With time to set his feet, somehow centre-half Magee fly-kicked, allowing a grateful Buchanan to prod home past the helpless White.
Further chances followed. Furtado struck a post having controlled Thomson’s cross on his knee, Magee was pressured into a corner with the Frenchman breathing down his neck, and Buchanan was crowded out looking to shoot.
With five to go till half-time, and roared on by manager MacPherson, Queens pulled a goal back. Substitute Gullan escaped from midfield, finding Docherty well with a reverse pass; Docherty shipped the ball on to Keena, and – taking time to set himself – the youngster fired a deflected shot past Lennox.
Docherty’s rising drive could have cut the deficit to one moments later. With Queens in the ascendancy at half-time, Raith’s players trooped off at half-time – doubtless to receive a rollicking for letting their guard down as the half progressed.
Raith, early out for the second half, were first to fire. Herron’s sharp free-kick found Buchanan – holding off Magee, the striker’s shot was well saved by White. Vaughan buzzed brightly around the midfield, Furtado ran hard at Magee, and Thomson – well-found by a Barr cross – set up another Vaughan strike, well blocked away by Cummins. At the other end, the Queens centre-half nearly reached a Galt free-kick.
Hearts loanee Aiden Keena was a tireless performer for the home side. Often with little or no support, he dropped deep to lend numbers in midfield, and had the confidence and pace to commit defenders. His individual battles with Davidson and McKay were a feature of the match – his persistence won a corner from Davidson on the hour, and showing his relish for a physical challenge, he outpaced McKay running wide right – releasing his defence from a long period of Raith pressure. The youngster deserved his goal today – his running and athleticism one of few bright spots for the hosts.
Chances were fewer in the second-half. Sean Burns drove a free-kick at Lennox, the goal-keeper’s firm hands steering the shot wide at the expense of a corner. Queens’ keeper White scampered from his line only for Barr to nip in – Buchanan’s shot eventually being blocked clear. Buchanan again escaped, crossing high looking for Furtado, only for White to scramble the ball to safety. Buchanan’s header from a Zanatta cross rose above White’s bar. Millen’s trip on a speeding Zanatta earned the game’s first yellow card.
With twenty minutes to go, a lovely slide-rule pass from Millen found David Galt in stride – his blast was well blocked by McKay at full stretch. With Queens committing more numbers forward when breaking from midfield, and substitute Mortimer introduced to support Keena upfront, the ball zipped across the wet Hampden turf in both directions – Raith still passing brightly and using both flanks well, but the Spiders also attacking with some purpose. Galt’s cross fizzed through the Raith area, whilst Thomson did well to shepherd the ball to safety as full-back Burns threatened to break.
Following a Millen tug on Zanatta, Vaughan fired a free-kick into a crowded six-yard box – with Davidson and Murray in the six-yard box, White stuck out an arm. Magee completed the clearance.
On eighty minutes, a glorious chance for a Queens second – with Gullan looking crowded out in midfield, the youngster somehow escaped and freed Burns. The full-back returned the compliment – Gullan took a touch, eventually being crowded out by the Raith defence.
With the introduction of Greig Spence late on, manager Barry Smith sought to re-energise his front-line. While the result looked not in danger, the hosts had become steadily more involved as the half had progressed. The change almost paid dividends straight away – with Barr finding Buchanan on the edge of the area, Spence linked well with Furtado to fashion a chance – under pressure from Magee, Buchanan’s shot was wonderfully saved by White.
With the floodlights on, and Glasgow’s skies heavy with imminent rain, a Raith debut for Regan Hendry, on for Liam Buchanan. The sparky young midfielder exchanged passes well with Vaughan with his first touches. Queens’ Fotheringham, having been booked previously, earned a second yellow for hauling down Vaughan. With the match already deep in stoppage time, the errant midfielder had barely reached his early bath before referee Beaton brought matters to a conclusion. Manager Barry Smith reflected on a tactical job “well done” as he made his way down the Hampden tunnel – his two-man strike-force the difference as Raith once again took the lead in this season’s League One campaign.
As Raith staff and supporters alike headed for the M74 and away, attention shifted to the visit of Albion Rovers to Starks Park on Tuesday night, and the possibility of opening up clear blue water over their promotion rivals with another home victory.
© Eddie Doig 2018
Barry spoke to RaithTV after the victory at the national stadium
Aaron Lennox spoke to RaithTV after the game at Hampden
Raith Rovers travel to Hampden this Saturday, for the third of their three successive away league matches.
The previous two have only produced one point for Raith, and the need for three points this time around has become even greater, with Ayr now sitting top of the table by a single point, with Rovers having played a game fewer.
The Spiders go into the match with no wins in five, with their last win coming at Station Park two days before Christmas, with a 3-0 win over Forfar Athletic.
That sequence has seen Gus MacPherson’s team slip to the bottom of the table, three points behind Jim Weir’s Loons.
Raith should take confidence from Queen’s sketchy home form, with only Albion Rovers picking up fewer points on their home turf, while their attack has produced the fewest goals in the league this term.
Raith have won both previous meetings this season, with the first a 5-0 win in September, with goals from Liam Buchanan, Lewis Vaughan, Dario Zanatta, Bobby Barr and Jason Thomson sealing a comfortable win.
The next fixture in November was slightly less straightforward, although second-half strikes from Zanatta and Greig Spence eventually saw Rovers home.
Raith Rovers have won their last seven matches against the Spiders, with their last defeat coming in a Second Division match back in 2008. As a consequence, their most recent record against Queen’s Park is an impressive one, winning eight and losing two of their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Graham Beaton.
Head-To-Head League Record at Queen’s Park:
Queen’s Park Wins: 18 | Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Draws: 11
Queen’s Park Goals: 71 | Raith Rovers Goals: 58
Queen’s Park: W-D-D-D-L-L
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-D-L-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Queen’s Park: Adam Cummins 8 | Luke Donnelly 5
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 19 | Greig Spence 13 | Liam Buchanan 11
Queen’s Park: 18/5 | Raith Rovers: 8/11 | Draw: 29/10