Doonhamers Down Raith
Raith Rovers slipped a place to sixth in the Championship table this afternoon, after a frustrating 1-0 home defeat to the team that leapt above them, Queen of the South.
After a tough opening quarter to the game, Rovers eventually found their feet, but some impressive goalkeeping from on-loan Middlesbrough man, the wonderfully named Solomon Brynn, as well as some stout defending from the visitors, meant that Lee Connolly’s early goal was enough to take the three pints back to Dumfries.
John McGlynn made two changes from the midweek victory over Ayr United, with Blaise Riley-Snow missing through suspension, while Aidan Connolly was forced out through injury.
However, that scenario enabled Brad Spencer to return to the starting eleven for the first time since picking up an injury on the opening league game of the season against Hamilton, while Kai Fotheringham started on the right.
With captain Kyle Benedictus losing the toss, Queen’s elected to swap ends before kick-off, which brought the chorus of boos it always does, although on this occasion, the fans who suspected it was a bad omen would possibly be proven correct.
That said, Rovers looked in the mood in the opening few moments, looking bright and taking the game to the Doonhamers.
Dylan Tait was the first to get things rolling in the third minute, breaking forward and supplying Dario Zanatta on the left, but with only Ethon Varian to aim at, his cross was too close to Brynn, who managed to gather just before the onrushing Varian could connect.
Varian then tried his luck from the opposite side, stepping inside and teeing himself up, but his effort was well over Brynn’s bar.
Queen of the South were looking quick on the break though, and possibly should have made more of their chance in the 8th minute.
The evergreen Wullie Gibson did well down the right, and his deep cross to the back post found Harry Cochrane, but with time to bring the chance down, he lashed at it and it bounced harmlessly away.
Not that the Queens fans had to be frustrated for long however, as they were a goal to the good in the 12 minute.
Allan Johnston’s men took full advantage of some sloppy defending in the penalty area, with Lee Connolly able to waltz his way past a number of challenges, before thumping a fine finish into the bottom corner to give them the lead.
The goal seemed to rock Rovers onto their heels, and they should have been two down within a few moments.
Cochrane did well to tee up Ruben Soares, but his effort was deflected over the crossbar, and they came even closer seconds later, when Connolly struck the crossbar, as Rovers rode their luck.
Rovers appeared to ride out the storm however, and just started to get themselves back into the game after 25 minutes, but while they were back on the front foot, the Queen’s defence were doing a decent job of repelling them.
Rovers struggled to contain two short corners as Queen’s pressed again on the half-hour mark, but after eventually clearing them, they should have restored parity in the 33rd minute.
Liam Dick’s cross from the left looked ideal for Tait, but from 10-yards, he was unable to generate much power into his downward header, which was easily snapped up by Brynn.
Zanatta was then denied by some off-the-cuff defending from Gibson, who spotted the danger as the wide midfielder shaped to shoot, and dived full length to block his shot while lying on the ground, like he was impersonating a draft excluder, in an unorthodox but effective move.
Rovers then forced a number of corners of their own, and they almost equalised from two of the three.
The initial plan from the second one appeared to have gone wrong, with the ball being played low out the area, but it eventually broke to Ross Matthews, whose shot from 25-yards was zipping into the bottom corner, but from a fine intervention from Brynn.
The next corner was slightly less dramatic, with a deep cross finding Benedictus at the back post, but his header from an angle was into the side netting.
It was the final piece of noteworthy action in an entertaining half, with Queen’s initially looking like they were going to blow Rovers away, only for the hosts to feel they could easily have been level going in at the break.
Rovers made a change at half time, with Matej Poplatnik replacing Spencer, as John McGlynn attempted to augment Rovers in the forward positions as they switched to a 4-4-2.
Rovers were still creating chances at the start of the second 45, but much like the opening half, they weren’t making enough of them.
Zanatta danced infield from the left across the face of the penalty area, but after finding enough space for a shot, he dragged his chance wide.
They were almost left to rue that a minute later, when Queen’s missed a rarely seen triple chance.
First, Gibson’s free-kick from 20 yards was blocked, and with the ball bouncing around the area, Soares looked like he was about to sweep it home from 10-yards, but his chance was also deflected, but only as far as Connolly, who looked sure to score, but his effort was blocked on the line for a remarkable piece of escapology from the hosts.
Rovers were struggling to create much in the first 15 minutes or so of the half, with Queen’s controlling the tempo since the break and dealing well with Raith’s change of shape.
With 25 minutes left, Fotheringham made way for Dave Mckay, who went to right back, with Tumilty pushed further forward.
Rovers almost snatched a goal in the 72nd minute, when the ball broke to the feet of Tumilty, but from a tight angle, his near post effort was turned wide by Brynn.
It was looking increasingly like Rovers could play all day and not score, and they made their final substitution in the 78th minute, when Varian made way for James Keatings.
The new addition had a sight at goal a minute after coming on, but the attempt sailed high and wide.
Rovers thought they’d grabbed a leveller in the final minute, when a cross from Tumilty was met by Zanatta, but from close range, Brynn again did well to block the shot on the line.
It was the final piece of action in a game in which Rovers could arguably feel a little hard done by that they didn’t get a share of the spoils, but Queen of the South’s fans could point to the fact they created the game’s best chances over the piece.
Rovers will hope to get back to winning ways next weekend, when they head west to face Morton at Cappielow.
Photographs © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the match:
After a fine win over Ayr United in midweek, Raith Rovers will look to make it two league wins in a week this weekend, when Queen of the South visit Stark’s Park.
Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the Honest Men was Rovers first league win of the season, although they still have a game in hand over the bulk of the division, and now sit fifth in the table, one point ahead of eighth place Queen’s.
Allan Johnston’s side have one league win to their name this season, a 3-2 victory over Morton, but go into this game on the back of a 3-0 win over Broomhill in the SPFL Trust trophy last weekend.
John McGlynn’s men had a mixed bag against the Doonhamers last term, with two ins and one defeat from the three meetings.
Rovers came out on top in the first meeting, in what was the most straightforward win from the three meetings.
Ross Matthews had put Rovers ahead after just two minutes, but Stephen Dobbie restored parity three minutes later.
Manny Duku put Rovers ahead in the 12th minute, while Daniel Armstrong had the visitors 3-1 up after less than half an hour.
Ayo Obileye got the hosts back into it on the hour mark, but despite some initial concerns, John McGlynn’s men eased to the three points with further goals from Dylan Tait and Duku.
It was a different story at Stark’s Park in December, when goals from Connor Shiels and Tommy Goss gave the Dumfries side a surprise 2-0 win, but Rovers won the final meeting in April, when a solitary goal from Gozie Ugwu was enough for the win.
The teams can’t be split in terms of recent meetings, with fur wins and two draws apiece from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Steven McLean.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Queen of the South:
Raith Rovers Wins: 29 | QOS Wins: 17 | Draws: 9
Raith Rovers Goals: 100 | QOS Goals: 59
Raith Rovers: D-D-L-W-W-W | QOS: W-L-L-W-L-W
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 4 Dario Zanatta 4
QOS: Ally Roy 7 | Ruari Paton 5
Raith Rovers: 5/6 | QOS: 14/5 | Draw: 13/5