Rovers Lose Again In Dumfries Defeat
John Hughes endured his first defeat as Raith boss in his first away game this afternoon, in a disappointing 2-1 loss to Queen of the South.
There was just one change from last week’s encouraging 1-1 draw with Hibernian, with Ross Matthews dropping to the bench for Iain Davidson.
The returnee was charged with sitting in front of the back-four which had done so well against Hibs, with Kyle Benedictus on the right and Jason Thomson on the left.
As Hughes alluded to in his post match interview, the game was only seconds old when it had its first contentious decision.
Thomson found himself on the receiving end of one of Derek Lyle’s elbows as they contested a high ball straight from kick-off, and while it would have been an almost unprecedented decision for Barry Cook to brandish a red-card, the fact he didn’t admonish Lyle with a yellow was also slightly unusual.
Whilst Rovers may have felt slightly hard done by with that decision, it didn’t explain their ragged start to the game, with the defence looking susceptible to Queen’s forward forays right from the off.
After five minutes, good work from Jordan Marshall allowed the left-back to swing a cross into the area for Lyle, but his nod down was straight at Conor Brennan who handled it well.
If that was a warning then it’s one the Rovers players failed to heed, as Queen’s took the lead three minutes later.
Stephen Dobbie ran at the Rovers defence, and as three players converged on him, the ball was eventually cleared to the left.
However, that was an area which was inhabited by John Rankin, who from from the left-hand-side of the penalty area, placed a shot past Brennan into the opposite corner to give the home side the lead.
Rovers had coped admirably with what Hibs had to offer the previous week, but they were struggling to deal with the Doonhamers in this one.
Dobbie and Lyle have rattled many a backline this term, but the recent addition of Joe Thomson to the Queen’s midfield has clearly been a clever one, with the Celtic loanee proving something of a handful in the middle of the park.
Queen’s almost doubled their advantage after 25 minutes, when a Dobbie free-kick from the left was swung into the area towards Andy Dowie, and the defender’s glancing header was sent just wide of Brennan’s left-hand-upright.
As has so often been the case this term, Rovers were struggling to create too many chances, with Bobby Barr and Mark Stewart chasing too many lost causes up-front, while Thomson and Benedictus were struggling to get forward to give the team the width it badly required.
After half-an-hour, Rovers problems intensified, when Brennan picked up an awkward looking knock, with no substitute ‘keeper on the bench.
Lyle gathered up a long ball forward, and with ample time to control it and play it inside to Dobbie, his strike partner’s shot at goal was palmed away by Raith’s custodian, which was eventually cleared after a minor stramash.
However, Brennan was only able to continue after lengthy treatment, but he would concede again after 35 minutes.
A deep corner from the left was nodded down at the back post by Joe Thomspn, allowing Lyle to poke it home from close range.
As much as it was a had been a bad goal to lose, the 2-0 scoreline was an accurate reflection of how poor the half had gone for Raith, in an opening period which was bereft of positives.
The second-half looked like it would be tough too, with Conor Brennan reemerging from the tunnel apparently unable to walk, but in fairness to the away side, they dealt far better with what Queen’s had to throw at them, with a clearly struggling Brennan having little to fend off.
Indeed, after a reasonably staid start to the second-half, Rovers halved their deficit with a goal on the hour-mark.
Davidson’s cross from the left found Jean-Yves M’Voto, and his neck muscles allowed him to thunder a header past ex-Raith ‘keeper Lee Robinson to make the score 2-1.
Within moments of the goal, Hughes made changes, with Ryan Hardie and Declan McManus swapping places with Jordan Thompson and Bobby Barr, and just after, Chris Johnston replaced Ryan Stevenson.
The changes helped continue the swing in momentum in the match, although Rovers were unable to capitalise.
Hardie teed up fellow substitute McManus who dribbled along the edge of the area, but while his shot was dealt with awkwardly by Robinson, the ‘keeper was able to repel Johnston’s effort from close range.
There was no grandstand finish though, and while Hardie should have done better with a close range header as the minutes ticked down, Queen’s comfortably held on for a deserved victory.
Rovers now head to Somerset Park on Tuesday, for a huge match at the bottom of the table.
© Eddie Doig 2017
Interviews will appear soon
John Hughes takes charge of his first away match as Rovers boss this weekend, and much like last week, he’ll be up against a side who are in the midst of a fine spell of form.
The Championship’s early pace-setters were in something of a slump when Gary Naysmith arrived to take charge in December, but after embarking on a win-less run which stretched from the end of September to January, Naysmith has now steered his new charges to just two defeats from their last nine fixtures.
Raith’s last league win was actually against The Doonhamers back in October, but since then, a number of new additions have bolstered the Dumfries side’s squad.
Right-back, Scott Mercer followed Naysmith from East Fife, whilst experienced midfielder, John Rankin has signed up after leaving Falkirk.
Joe Thomson has signed on loan from Celtic after impressing so much during a similar deal at Dumbarton, and he’s been joined by wingers Dom Thomas from Motherwell, and Danny Carmichael after he was released by Hibs.
There’s been a win apiece so far in this fixture, with the first back in September a fairly convincing 3-1 win for Queen’s at Palmerston.
Stephen Dobbie scored twice, while Dean Brotherston added a third, before a Jean Yves M’Voto header deflected in off Jamie Hamill for a late consolation.
Q.O.S were slightly unfortunate not to take anything from the return encounter at Stark’s Park the next month, as they held the upper-hand for the majority of the match, before falling to a last-minute Mark Stewart goal in a 1-0 Raith win.
Rovers can take some encouragement from Queen’s home form this season, with their recent 3-0 win over Morton their first league win in Dumfries since beating Rovers there back in September. They’ve also conceded 19 goals at home in the league this term, the joint highest figure in the division, along with Ayr United.
Rovers have a slight advantage in the recent record between the clubs, with five wins from the last ten league meetings, compared to Queen of the South’s four. Saturday’s match referee will be Barry Cook
Head-To-Head League Record At Palmerston Park:
Queen of the South Wins: 19 | Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Draws: 16
Queen of the South Goals: 81 | Raith Rovers Goals: 70
Queen of the South: W-D-W-L-W-L
Raith Rovers: L-L-L-L-L-D
Queen of the South: Stephen Dobbie 19 | Derek Lyle 12
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 5 | Declan McManus 5
Queen of the South: 4/5 | Raith Rovers: 7/2 | Draw: 27/10