Raith Freeze In Stark’s Defeat
On a bitterly cold evening at Stark’s Park, Raith Rovers put in far and away their most tepid performance of the season, meekly going down to a Queen of the South side who lifted themselves off the bottom of the table in the process.
An early goal from Connor Shields handed the visitors an advantage they never looked like squandering, despite a late change to their team which saw a debut for 16-year old goalkeeper, Charlie Cowie, and a last minute goal from Tommy Goss sealed all three points for the Doonhamers.
Manager, John McGlynn was forced into one change from Saturday’s 5-2 win over Alloa Athletic, with Jamie MacDonald missing out after going off at half time through injury, with his place going to Robbie Thomson.
That meant a return to the squad for David McGurn who took a place on the bench, while Manny Duku was considered fit enough to lead the line, after he hobbled off in the second period of that impressive win over The Wasps.
Queen of the South’s plans were disrupted in the warm up, when starting goalkeeper, Jack Leighfield, who himself has been playing back up to Rohan Ferguson this season, was injured in the warm up, meaning Charlie Cowie came in for his first senior appearance.
Rovers started this one like an Olympic sprinter out the blocks, haring into the Queen’s half straight from centre, with Regan Hendry supplying Ethan Ross on the left, who made his way into the penalty area and sent a low ball into the middle, which caused a mighty stramash which the visitors were eventually able to clear.
Any thought that this was going to be one way traffic was quickly dispensed with however, when experienced campaigner, Willie Gibson made good headway down the right and whipped a dangerous cross into the penalty area which was slightly too high for Shields, who was unable to steer his header on target from close range.
Indeed, that piece of action was more indicative of what was to follow, with Gibson and Joe McKee seeing a lot of the ball and delivering a few testing crosses into the box, which the Rovers backline was managing to deal with.
Despite Allan Johnston’s side looking bright, Thomson in the Raith goals had had little to do, although he was called into action in the 13th minute, when Gregor Buchanan got his head to a corner kick, but while his downward header was on target, it lacked any pace, allowing the Raith ‘keeper to gather easily.
He had less chance in the 18th minute though, as the visitors took a lead they thoroughly deserved.
The ball was worked from left to right for Queen’s, with Shields gathering the ball on the right hand side of the penalty area, before cutting inside and picking his spot in the bottom corner to blast the Doonhamers into the lead.
It was now going to be a test of character for Raith, who had looked curiously flat in the game’s opening quarter.
The goal failed to kick start them though, and Queen’s could have made it two in the 23rd minute.
A McKee free-kick should have been cleared not once but twice, but after it wasn’t, Alo Obileye was able to get his head onto the cross from the right, but he could only loop it over the bar.
Rovers hadn’t made any inroads in the opening half hour or so, with the ball being played long to Duku, a tactic which hadn’t been employed all season, and wasn’t working at all on this occasion.
Nothing was sparking in the middle of the park at all, with Ross and Armstrong out wide struggling to get involved, while the middle of the park was being pressed into mistakes by a hard working Dumfries side.
They were just starting to get their foot on the ball though, and while they’d failed to trouble Cowie in the Queen’s goal, with the play still lacking any kind of flow or rhythm, they had at least taken the sting out of Queen’s play.
That said, Queen’s still looked the more threatening, and Rovers were struggling to defend their lines from set pieces, with Queen’s forcing three successive corners that Rovers just about managed to repel, as the first half reached its conclusion.
Perhaps surprisingly, considering the paucity of the first half showing, there were no changes at the interval, as Raith looked to put in a far improved showing in the second 45.
It wasn’t forthcoming in the opening passages of the second period though, with Rovers attacks continuing to wither on the vine long before they reached the opponent’s final third.
McGlynn made his first change in the 55th minute, with Ethan Ross being replaced by Lars Lokotsch, who went alongside Duku to form a striking combination.
However, it was the visitors who should have made it two soon after the change, when Dan Pybus somehow went from being marked to suddenly in yards of space at the back post, and while Thomson did well to palm his header out, it was a gilt edged chance that the midfielder should have finished.
Rovers were getting forward a little more, but were now looking open on the break, and if anything, were looking more inclined to fall further behind, rather than drawing level.
Raith then made their second change in the 64th minute, with Brad Spencer replacing Dan Armstrong.
Three minutes later, Rovers had their first attempt at goal, with Reghan Tumilty lashing over an attempt from 25-yards.
Rovers did think they’d brought the scores level with 20 minutes remaining, when a cross into the area eventually found its way to Duku who smashed into the net, but the referee had correctly spotted that he’d initially controlled it with his hand before hooking it into the net.
Raith were sending a number of forward punts, crosses and throw ins into the area, but virtually every single one of them was finding the head of Obileye who was doing an excellent job of swatting anything and everything away.
With 15 minutes remaining, Raith made their final change, with Dylan Tait being replaced by Gozie Ugwu who was making his first appearance for the club.
Rovers now had their guests penned in for the first time in the game, but Queen’s defence was doing an excellent job of staying compact and restricting their space.
They did create their first good chance in the 81st minute, when Lokotsch’s flick on from a corner picked out Mendy at the back post, but he had to take it on the volley, and his attempt was pinged over Cowie’s bar.
Rovers never looked like threatening after that though, and they went two down in the 90th minute, when more slack defending down their right-hand side saw Queen’s in on the counter, and after Pybus squared it to Tommy Goss, he had the easiest of tasks to slot home to make the points safe.
It was just the Doonhamers second win of the year in their final match of 2020, and after a difficult few days for them, they rightly celebrated a win that lifted them out of the relegation places.
For Raith, the result was a dull one, especially with a January fixture list that sees Hearts twice, Dunfermline, Dundee and Inverness in quick succession.
With The Pars next up this weekend, they’ll need to up their performance levels if they’re to trouble their near neighbours.
Paul Smith chatted to RaithTV after the defeat to Queen of the South
Raith Rovers play their final match of the year this Tuesday, when they welcome Queen of the South to Stark’s Park.
The Doonhamers go into this one at the bottom of the table, with no wins in four matches, and desperate for three points which could lift them towards safety.
Raith on the other hand go into the match in fine fettle, after an excellent 5-2 away win at Alloa, a result which lifted Raith back up to third in the table, two points ahead of fourth placed Dundee, and three behind near neighbours, Dunfermline Athletic.
Coincidentally, John McGlynn’s men inflicted a 5-2 defeat on Tuesday opponents the last time they met back in October, with goals coming from Ross Matthews, Dylan Tait, Daniel Armstrong and a brace from Manny Duku doing the damage in Dumfries.
These two sides haven’t met at Stark’s Park on league duty since March 2017, in a game which ended one apiece. Ryan Hardie had given Rovers an early lead, but a disputed Stephen Dobbie equaliser saw the match end all square.
Rovers last home win over the Dumfries side was from that same season, October 2016, when an injury time Mark Stewart goal saw Rovers take all three points.
Rovers have the upper hand in this fixture recently, but only just, with four wins and three draws from the last 10 meetings.
Tuesday evening’s match referee will be Barry Cook.
Head-To-Head League Record Versus Queen of the South at Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 29 | Queen of the South Wins: 16 | Draws: 9
Raith Rovers Goals: 100 | Queen of the South Goals: 57
Raith Rovers: D-W-L-D-D-W
Queen of the South: W-W-L-L-L-L
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 9 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Queen of the South: Stephen Dobbie 4 | Connor Shields 3
Raith Rovers: 8/13 | Queen of the South: 7/2 | Draw: 7/2