Raith Rovers' pre-season came to a close at a sodden Starks Park on Saturday, with a two-all draw against an enterprising and energetic Queens Park side. A first-half deflection from Aidan Connolly had seen Raith go in a goal up at the break, only for goals from Longridge and Baynham just after half-time to put the visitors ahead – a late equaliser from new signing Matej Poplatnik saw an engaging and evenly-matched friendly end level.

In a match of many talking points, Raith’s defensive pairing of Benedictus and Berra continued to develop their understanding for the season ahead, Lewis Vaughan and James Keatings looked polished as a strike pair, while Queens Park’s running and vibrancy across the park gave Rovers a stern test as the Stark's Park side begin their competitive calendar with next week’s League Cup visit to Cowdenbeath.

With Liam Dick still a distance from full match fitness following an injury niggle, Raith’s line-up had a familiar feel to it, despite this being only the third pre-season game. With Benedictus and Berra in the centre of a back four, Reghan Tumilty began at right-back, and with young Trialist A at left-back. Tumilty was first to show, driving down the right flank in familiar fashion, his cross well gathered by Willie Muir.

Upfront for Raith, again Lewis Vaughan partnered James Keatings, as Raith fielded a front-two. Vaughan’s first action of note was a thumping free-kick high to Muir’s near-post with quarter of an hour gone - the visiting keeper was required to pull off a fine early save; another Vaughan effort was blocked by Muir moments later.

Queens Park, led by a former Starks Park management team of Grant Murray and Laurie Ellis, lined up in the bright orange and blue colours of long-time fizzy-drink sponsors, and began proceedings with the confidence of League winners. Having led League Two since the opening weeks of last season, the Spiders are set fair for a positive season in League One this term. Liam Brown caused early trouble in the Raith defensive third, his rising drive from twenty yards flying over MacDonald’s cross-bar in the seventh minute.

Although at this stage of the season teams are looking to instil new systems and incorporate new players, it is often the experienced players who stand out. On fifteen minutes, Louis Longridge – another former Stark's Park favourite – broke down the inside left; his excellent cross saw striker Baynham fire his header just over the bar. Michael Doyle, the former Falkirk stalwart captaining his side here, was a roving presence on the right-hand side, pulling Raith’s midfielders across to cover. Queens’ best chance of the opening stages came with Brown and Moore working space well, freeing Doyle to cross – Brown was muscled out in the act of shooting, the scores remaining level.

Raith began to dominate as the match approached the half-hour – Lyon’s clearing header from a Vaughan corner was volleyed narrowly wide by Tait; another Vaughan corner was headed clear with Muir flailing, and in twenty-eight minutes, Aidan Connolly was in the right place at the right time in a crowded box to put Raith a goal to the good – Christophe Berra’s close-range hit was blocked, and as Spencer returned the clearance with interest, Connolly deflected past Muir.

As the summer rain lashed down upon Stark's Park, Raith were inches away from a second minutes later, as a lovely flowing move through midfield found James Keatings running at a retreating back-line – his finish flew narrowly over Muir’s cross-bar.

With seven days before Raith’s first competitive fixture – a trip to Central Park to meet neighbours Cowdenbeath in League Cup action next Saturday – several of the new partnerships within the Rovers team look to be developing keen understandings. Lewis Vaughan and James Keatings seem already to be combining well – one dropping short while the other goes down a channel, quick one-twos creating space, and neat interchanges leading to shots on goal. Another Tumilty cross flew through the six-yard box on forty-one minutes as a result of one such passage of play. The early portents look good, and can only improve as Vaughan and Keatings spend more game time together.

The players restarted the second-half with the rain still pouring down – the welcome return of supporters to the North and South Stands somewhat muted by the poor conditions – and it was the visitors who began the better. Will Baynham had already troubled Berra into a rushed clearance before Lewis Moore’s lovely cross found Longridge with a step on his marker, the experienced striker planting his header beyond MacDonald into the far corner to bring the Spiders level.

Five minutes later, another header put Queens in front – with Doyle escaping down the right flank following good midfield play from Lyon, Will Baynham found space between Benedictus and Tumilty to nod back across goal, Jamie MacDonald rooted to the spot as the header found the inside of the post and nestled in the Raith net. With Raith having made a change at half-time – introducing Trialist B for Brad Spencer – and Grant Gillespie now patrolling the central third for the visitors, suddenly Raith were second-best with the momentum against them.

The match just passed the hour mark before Raith generated their first chance of the second period – Trialist B striding through midfield and playing in Vaughan behind Kilday, with only a late defensive tackle preventing a shot on goal from the Raith striker.

With Raith a goal down, Rovers fans got their first sight of new signing Matej Poplatnik, introduced for James Keatings on sixty-eight minutes. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with opposing centre-half Morrison, Poplatnik’s first action was to stroke a beautifully-flighted cross-field pass finding Tumilty in space.

Indeed, Raith’s supporters only had five minutes to wait before the Slovenian striker broke with Starks Park duck – Vaughan nut-megged his man wide on the right, working his way inside and feeding Connolly, whose first-time cross found Poplatnik in space at the far post – in truth, the substitute could hardly miss, but he made no mistake in any event, drawing Raith level at two a-piece.

Although looking raw and perhaps short of match sharpness, Trialist B made an impression lining up in central midfield. Broad-shouldered and with a pass off both feet, his threaded through-ball nearly played in Connolly on seventy-five minutes, with Morrison scrambling to avert the danger. At the other end, a good break from Moore saw the young Trialist struggling to cover runs from deep midfield, with two Queens’ players getting in each other’s way as the chance was wasted.

With ten minutes to go, each side was pressing the other – Tait’s change of feet in the far corner resulted in a Connolly header drifting narrowly over. For Queens, Baynham was a continued source of concern in the Raith rear-guard. Christophe Berra – taking part in his nineteenth pre-season – had a solid work-out here with Queens’ front-line both vibrant and physical in their approach. Longridge’s turn and shot buzzed inches over MacDonald’s bar with five minutes remaining.

Late Raith substitutes Kieran Mitchell, Quinn Coulson, and Aaron Arnott also had a run-out - Coulson particularly catching the eye with several driving runs into forward areas, and linking well with his midfield.

The match retained its energetic pace in the closing minutes. Trialist B was unlucky as his powerful near-post header was deflected clear – referee Williams enjoying a pre-season of his own, erroneously awarding Queens a goal-kick. With the final chance, Longridge cut inside Benedictus and brought out an excellent save from MacDonald, rushing from his line to narrow the angle.


Photographs © Tony Fimister



John Mcglynn spoke to RaithTV after the pre-season friendly at Stark's Park

Live Updates

Welcome to today's friendly Raith v Queens Park. We welcome back former manager due Lawrie Ellis and Grant Murray who are in the away dugout. New loanee signing Poplatnik starts on the bench.
Raith get the game underway, shooting towards the McDermid stand
Good play between Tait, Keatingd and Zanatta. Play ends with a free kick to Queens Park
Zanatta plays to Connolly who knocks it on to Tumilty. The latter goes for a low shot but Muir gets down to gather
Zanatta plays to Connolly who knocks it on to Tumilty. The latter goes for a low shot but Muir gets down to gather
Vaughan passes to Tumilty screams for the early return pass as he starts up the right wing but Queens intercept
Connolly with a mistimed pass as Brown intercepts...he goes for a long hopeful shot which ends up with the ball well over the Raith bar
Tumilty makes a run back and makes a timely tackle, ball goes out of play, Queens thrown in
Raith freekick deep in Queens half after a foul on Vaughan
Vaughan with a powerful shot forces Muir to tap the ball over the bar, Raith corner
Corner from Vaughan gets into the box, Muir collects
Longridge runs onto a loose ball, keeps it in play and cuts back to Baynham. He tries for a shot and is just over the bar
Freekick Raith after a foul on Connolly
Corner from Keatings gets to the front post but Queens head clear
Brilliant run back and timed tackle from Tumilty as Longridge eyes up his cross into the Raith box
Ball falls to Tait approx 20 towards out. He decides to go for a pop but ball goes directly to Muir
Spencer with a rather hopeful pass to Connolly it's a bit too heavy and Queens intercept and boot the ball out the park
Spencer with a rather hopeful pass to Connolly it's a bit too heavy and Queens intercept and boot the ball out the park
Vaughan tries to maze his way through the Queens defence but is tackled. Ball falls to Trialist A whose pass is intercepted, Raith corner
From another Raith corner ball is cleared. It falls to Tait who has a pop forcing Muir to get low, another corner to Raith
From another Raith corner ball is cleared. It falls to Tait who has a pop forcing Muir to get low, another corner to Raith
Another Raith corner gets into the box, Muir punches clear, ball falls to Tait who has a go ball eventually falls to CONNOLLY who fires home
Vaughan passes to Keatings who decides to shoot, his shot doesn't dip in time and ball goes just over the bar
Freekick Queens after Tumilty clatters with Longridge
Zanatta tries to cross the ball into the box, it's intercepted results in a Raith corner
Freekick Raith after a foul on Keatings booking for Kilday
Long ball to Tumitly who takes the ball into the box, he goes for a low cross but Keatings can't quite connect as he slides threw
Right in 45 Ref blows for half time Raith 1 (Connolly '27) Queens 0
Queens get the second half underway. Raith have made a substitution off goes Spencer and on comes Trialist B.
Queens have also made a substitution off goes Lyon and on comes former Raith player Grant Gillespie
Play has stopped for treatment to a Queens player in the Raith box
Play gets back underway
Goal Queens. Ball is lopped by Queens into the Raith box and Longridge heads home for Queens
Tait booked for a foul, freekick Queens
Connolly tries to lay the ball onto Vaughan but it's too soft and Queens intercept
Queens goal Baynham heads the ball down and ball falls eventually into the back of the net
Form a Queens corner Longridge gets the ball deep into the box thankfully Raith clear
Benedictus tries for the long pass to Keatings but Doyle is there to takeover
Vaughan gets the ball to the byline, tries for a cheeky cut back but ball cleared
Play has halted for treatment to a Queens player in their own box
Game gets back underway
Queens are forced into a substitution as off goes an injured Kilday on comes Biggar
Trialist A gets a long pass upfield to Tait but unfortunately it's just too much
Raith sub off Keatings and on comes new loan signing Poplatnik
Long ball to Tumilty who tries to fight keep the ball and fight his way through ball eventually results in a Raith corner
Vaughan to Tumilty, he tries to find a way through, passes back to Trialist B who loops the ball into the box but ball is cleared
Vaughan finds a way through gets the ball into the box, ball deflects from from bar to POPLATNIK who gets low to head home
Meanwhile the rain is absolutely thundering down
Trialsit B lays a lovely ball onto Connolly who tries to get it back through to Zanatta but ball is intercepted
Raith sub off Vaughan and Zanatta and bring on Coulson and Mitchell
Doyle takes the ball up the park puts in a low cross but the ball trundles out for a Raith goal kick
Poplatnik to Coulson who passes to Tait who whips the ball into the box Conolly heads and ball nicked away by Muir
Coulson to Connolly but he his challenged and Raith lose possession
Tait to Tumilty who tries to loop the ball into the box but it's too heavy and ball goes out for a goal kick
Connolly come charging through tries to pass to Mitchell but Queens there to intercept
Good play between Connolly, Coulson and Tumlity the latter goes for a pop and forces Muir to palm away
Raith sub off Tait and bring on Arnott. Queens sub off Moore and bring on Gillies
MacDonald comes out to shut down a Longridge shot
Ref blows for full time Raith 2 (Connolly '27, Poplatnik '72) Queens 2 ( Longridge '50, Baynham '54). Raith's next game is away in the cup to Cowdenbeath.