Queen’s Too Good For Raith
Raith Rovers chances of getting back to the Championship already look to be forlorn, after a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Queen of the South in the first-leg of the second-tier playoff.
Goals from Lyndon Dykes, Connor Murray and David Brownlie appeared to put Allan Johnston’s men on easy street, but while Dave McKay’s late strike gave the home fans some hope, John McGlynn’s side head to Dumfries with a mountain to climb in Saturday’s away leg in Dumfries.
McGlynn again went with the three at the back which performed so admirably against Forfar in the previous round, although there was one change of personnel, with Jamie Barjonas dropping to the bench, with his place going to Nathan Flanagan.
The match started encouragingly from a Rovers point-of-view, with the home side in the ascendancy in the game’s opening stages, although they had little to show for it, other than an ambitious shot from distance which whistled a yard over Alan Martin’s crossbar.
Rovers continued to be the more dangerous, and Kevin Nisbet’s quick break saw him supported by Callum Crane down the left, but his cross into the area wasn’t quite accurate enough for Flanagan to get on the end of.
The deadlock was broken in the 17th minute, and although it was against the run of play, it was a fine finish by Dykes.
The Australian picked the ball up in a huge pocket of space which had opened up between the defence and midfield, and with Nat Wedderburn unable to get back goal side, Dykes was able to toe-poke a fine curled effort past Dean Lynass from 18-yards out.
Despite the blow of falling behind, Rovers should have been level just a moment later, when Nisbet took advantage of Scott Mercer slipping, but with an option to shoot, and with support inside, he seemed to get caught between two minds, and the chance was wasted.
Rovers chances of taking any kind of of result to Dumfries became even harder in the 22nd minute, when Queen’s doubled their advantage.
The Rovers rearguard were probably a little unwise to firstly give Stephen Dobbie time in the area, and then once he’d gained possession, fail to shut him down, and his low cut back was turned home by Callum Murray, to make the score 2-0 to the away side.
Rovers had to trim the arrears soon, and they almost did under bizarre circumstances in the 27th minute, when Martin threw the ball straight to Flanagan, and while the ball eventually rolled towards Gullan 20-yards from goal, he couldn’t get enough power into his effort towards the empty net, allowing Mikey Doyle a chance to get back and clear.
Queen’s were having more joy in gaining possession between the lines, and while the introduction of Flanagan had meant Raith had caused the Championship side some problems, Barjonas’ absence was making it far easier for Dobbie and Dykes to pick up possession in dangerous areas in Rovers final third.
While the home side were unlucky to go into the interval two down, their wastefulness in front of goal, and in possession, combined with Queen’s ruthlessness, meant it was going to take a phenomenal comeback to avoid heading to Dumfries in arrears.
It was the Doonhamers who were on the front foot at the start of the second period, and a cross from Dykes down Raith’s right-hand side was almost steered home by Murray at the near post, but for the quick thinking of Crane.
Rovers hadn’t been seen as an attacking force in the second period, and with Nisbet looking increasingly isolated up front, any long punts up towards him were simply coming straight back at a Rovers defence that was looking increasingly frayed.
With 20 minutes remaining and Rovers chasing a two goal deficit, McGlynn made a swap to Raith’s defensive midfield position, bringing off Wedderburn for Barjoans, but they were almost three down within seconds.
A corner was swung in from the left, and Darren Brownlie jumped higher than anyone, only for Ross Matthews to clear off the goal-line.
It was game, set and match with 15 minutes remaining though, and has been the case all season, it was through calamitous defending.
A set-piece was swung deep into the area, and with Kyle Benedictus unable to get close enough to Brownlie, his downward header appeared to be heading into the net, even without the glancing deflection off Euan Murray.
The scoreline was almost worse after 80 minutes, when Dykes was played through, but with just Lynass to beat, the goalkeeper just got a toe to the finish, which was enough to deflect it onto the post and back into his arms.
Rovers heads now looked completely gone, and one through ball from deep was enough to leave Dykes one-on-one with Ian Davidson, and after turning this way and that, the forward got a shot off which Lynass did well to get down to.
However, out of nowhere, Rovers grabbed a goal, when Murray’s cross into the area eventually fell kindly to Dave McKay, who drilled a low shot past Martin to make the score 3-1.
The goal lifted the home support and players, and while they put Queen’s under some pressure a number of cross balls into the area for the closing five minutes, they were unable to close the two goal deficit any further.
John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the 1st leg of the SPFL Championship Play Off Final
After a hard fought 3-2 aggregate victory over Forfar Athletic last week, Rovers will contest the Championship playoff final against Queen of the South, with the first leg taking place this Wednesday at Stark’s Park.
Rovers followed up a 2-1 home win over the Loons with a 1-1 draw at Station Park, with Kevin Nisbet’s penalty cancelling out John Baird’s headed opener.
Q.O.S had a far more comfortable second leg than the first in their semi-final. Trailing 2-1 to Montrose after their encounter at Links Park, Stephen Dobbie returned to the fold for the home leg, and his hat-trick inspired Queens to a 5-0 win on the day.
It was the first win for the newly installed manager, Allan Johnston, who replaced Gary Naysmith after Queens were ended the campaign in ninth place.
At one stage, Queen were sitting in the promotion places, but a poor second half of the campaign saw them slide down the table, with a final day defeat at Partick Thistle condemning them to the playoffs.
If Rovers are to progress to the Championship, they’ll almost certainly have to keep Queen’s talisman Dobbie quiet, with the prolific forward on 43 goals for the season, and while injury has curtailed him in the latter stage of the season, his hat-trick against the Mo’s suggests he’s getting back to his best.
Rovers have the upper hand over the last 10 meetings, with five wins and two draws.
Wednesday evening’s match referee will be David Munro
Head-To-Head Home Record Versus Queen of the South:
Raith Rovers Wins: 29 | Queen of the South Wins: 16 | Draws: 9
Raith Rovers Goals: 100 | Queen of the South Goals: 57
Raith Rovers: L-D-W-D-W-D
Queen of the South: L-W-L-L-L-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 35 | Liam Buchanan 13 | Lewis Vaughan 9
Queen of the South: Stephen Dobbie 43 | Lyndon Dykes 9
Raith Rovers: 6/4 | Queen of the South: 8/5 | Draw: 12/5