TABLE-TOPPING RAITH HIT FIVE
Raith Rovers were 5-2 winners over Queen of the South at Palmerston this afternoon following a performance which was as dynamic as it was resolute, with goals from Ross Matthews, Dylan Tait, Dan Armstrong, and a brace from Manny Duku sealing a deserved three points.
The Kirkcaldy side started brightly with two goals in the first twelve minutes, and although the Doonhamers improved the longer the game went on – striker Stephen Dobbie and defender Ayo Obileye both having great chances to reduce the home side’s arrears late on – Rovers remained one step ahead of their hosts through-out and ran out clear winners. The result puts Raith top of the Scottish Championship table on goal difference, ahead of Dunfermline and Hearts, with two wins in two and eight goals in the process.
John McGlynn fielded an unchanged side from the team who had won so impressively at home to Arbroath last week – Lewis Vaughan wasn’t named among the substitutes, and with Grant Anderson having departed mid-week, youngsters Luke Mahady and Jack Smith made it onto the bench. As in previous games, Raith would look to mix vibrant and energetic running from wide areas with strength in defensive areas.
The hosts Queen of the South had come away from an opening-day trip to Somerset Park with nothing – the Doonhamer’s weakness under the cross-ball had been their undoing, with Ayr United’s two goals each coming from wide areas. Manager Allan Johnston made two changes, one of which was enforced – defender James Maxwell had been sent off at Ayr and was suspended, and youngster Harry Robinson also dropped out – Willie Gibson and Connor Shields made their first starts of the season. The talismanic Stephen Dobbie captained the side, having already opened his account for the season with a penalty in the defeat to Ayr.
The match started at a whirlwind pace. With less than a minute on the clock, Raith led with a nicely worked move straight through the middle – Tumilty’s long ball was well controlled by Manny Duku, giving time for Dylan Tait to play a ball into Ross Matthews running from deep. With Queens’ keeper Ferguson slow to see the danger and defenders Buchanan and Obileye caught on their heels, Matthews nipped in to nudge the ball into the far corner and give Raith a first-minute lead.
Not to be outdone, Queens levelled soon after. Aiden Fitzpatrick found space in midfield and drove at the Raith defence. As Benedictus and Davidson advanced, Fitzpatrick’s neat through-ball played in the pacy Euan East – Reghan Tumilty was a step behind and fouled his man, giving referee Euan Anderson no option but to award the clear penalty kick. Tumilty saw yellow for his troubles, while Stephen Dobbie made no mistake from the spot, finishing powerfully past former Queens keeper Jamie MacDonald.
The match continued at a frenetic rate – Ethan Ross scorched past right-back Nortey and was felled on the edge of the box by defender Buchanan. The tackle was a poor one, with referee Anderson rightly showing another yellow card, and the Raith youngster unable to continue – Brad Spencer coming on in his stead. Queens were unable to fully clear the resultant free-kick, and Iain Davidson’s weighted cross was the perfect invitation to Manny Duku to head home at the far-post – the young striker’s third goal in four games.
Mid-way through the first half, Raith looked good value for their lead. Hendry and Matthews were buzzing effectively around the midfield, and Duku was a constant menace. The early loss of Ethan Ross looked to have been managed well, with Matthews further forward and Brad Spencer slotting into a deeper midfield role. For Queens, Aiden Fitzpatrick had been the brightest performer with a number of direct runs at Davidson and Benedictus, but overall, it was the visitors who looked the stronger.
Raith’s third on twenty-six minutes was a fine advert for John McGlynn’s style of football – harrying and pressing in midfield, and a sweeping transition with numbers in attack. Nortey was dispossessed on half-way, and Hendry burst clear, running at the Queens’ back-four. The Raith midfielder fed Tumilty advancing from right-back, and – with time to review his options – the full-back judged his cross to perfection, finding Dan Armstrong who finished well past a helpless Ferguson. Moments later, Hendry’s drive was well held by Ferguson after sustained pressure around the edge of the Queens box – a Rovers fourth narrowly averted.
Allan Johnston sought to reinvigorate his troops – wide midfielders McKie and Fitzpatrick swapped sides to bring fresh impetus to the Doonhamers’ attack. McCabe’s drive from distance was comfortably held by MacDonald. Raith though continued to look the more dangerous – Armstrong cut inside and fired a deflected drive at Ferguson, the home keeper required to be at his best to prevent another Raith goal.
Queens adopted a more direct style as half-time approached. Rhys McCabe’s long-throws offered the chance for centre-halves Obileye and Buchanan to go forward – Benedictus and Davidson won several key headers, with Spencer diligent in clearing Rovers’ lines. Queens would need to improve their delivery from wide areas if they were to trouble the Raith rearguard. Another Duku header flashed wide on forty-two minutes – a timely reminder of Rovers’ potency in attack.
Full-back Kieran MacDonald suffered a troubling knee-injury late on in the first-half – the defender looked to stretch awkwardly making an innocuous clearance, and required some treatment before nursing his injury through to the half-time whistle. As the teams headed in at the interval, Raith were deserving of their lead, but having already lost Ethan Ross, had new injury concerns over their flying left-back.
Both sides made a change at the break – MacDonald was unable to shake off his strained knee, and Frankie Musonda took his place at left-back. For Queens, Joe McKee was withdrawn with Calvin McGrory offering a more attacking option, pushed up alongside Stephen Dobbie. Within a minute of the restart, Dobbie fired into MacDonald’s side netting as the home side sought to recover their two-goal deficit. Connor Shields was next to test the Raith keeper – the striker’s near-post blast well pushed over by MacDonald as Queens began the second-half on the front foot. A Buchanan header was well-saved.
Stephen Dobbie, who had looked isolated for long spells in the first half, began to cause real problems for the Raith rearguard. The experienced striker – a key figure in Queens’ play-off victory over Raith two years ago with a mesmerising first-half performance at Starks Park – relished having support up alongside him with McGrory’s introduction at the break. Doing well to pressurise Davidson on fifty-five minutes, Dobbie fired just over MacDonald’s cross-bar, turning away in anguish, suggesting he thought he should have done better. Minutes later, the striker created space for Nortey – MacDonald pulling off a fine point-blank save.
Queens’ renewed pressure reaped its reward on the hour – centre-half Obileye heading home powerfully at the back-post from substitute McGrory’s hanging cross. The home side had their tails up, and on the balance of play deserved their goal. With half-an-hour to go, the match was delightfully poised. East’s drive flashed through the Raith six-yard box as Queens continued to press.
To their credit, Raith regrouped – Armstrong became more of a factor on the right wing; Hendry and Spencer also saw more of the ball as Raith regained control of the central third. With Benedictus winning a fifty-fifty challenge on half-way, Spencer saw Obileye and Gibson momentarily caught on their heels – the midfielder’s pass picked out Dylan Tait, who fired confidently beyond Ferguson to restore Raith’s two-goal advantage.
Queens came back strongly. Within a minute of Tait’s strike, Obileye rose imperiously in the six-yard box, his goal-bound header cleared off the line by Regan Hendry; Stephen Dobbie’s free-kick crashed off the underside of MacDonald’s bar with the keeper beaten; Buchanan’s header was again hoofed clear by Hendry. The key to the Doonhamers’ second-half resurgence had been the introduction of substitutes Calvin McGrory and Dan Pybus – the former’s crossing, link-up play, and delivery from the set-piece had revitalised the Queens’ attack; the latter’s energy around the central third tested his tiring opponents.
With Raith weathering the Queens’ storm, a defensive mistake allowed Raith to put the three points beyond doubt – centre-half Obileye hesitated under a high ball and mis-placed a header back to his keeper, allowing Manny Duku to steal in. The young striker showed good strength and composure to hold off his man, notching his second and Raith’s fifth.
Rovers were able to see out the closing minutes, referee Anderson’s final whistle bringing to an end an entertaining match which began at a hectic pace and didn’t let up for the whole ninety minutes. Raith were the better side overall, however the hosts would be disappointed with the soft concession of at least three of Rovers’ five goals. Raith would reflect that the Doonhamers had struck the woodwork and had two goal-bound efforts cleared off the line. However, John McGlynn’s men had survived the onslaught, and secured another high-scoring victory, which propelled the Rovers to the top of the Scottish Championship table.
Photos © Colin Johnstone QoS
Assistant Manager Paul Smith spoke to RaithTV after the 2-5 win against Queen of the South
Dylan Tait spoke to RaithTV after the 2-5 win against Queen of the South