Raith Grab Vital Three Points

Raith Rovers all but mathematically guaranteed themselves Championship football next season, after a dramatic 3-2 win over Queen of the South.

Grant Murray made several changes from the disappointing weekend loss to Dumbarton. Out went Fraser Mullen and Greig Spence who were on the bench, while Dougie Hill and Grant Anderson missed out through suspension and injury respectively.

It meant a return to the side for Reece Donaldson at centre-half, while the midfield featured the regular names of Joe Cardle, Liam Fox and Kevin Moon, while Gordon Smith slotted-in on the right-hand-side. Callum Elliot and John Baird started up-front.

Due to huge traffic delays on the Forth Road Bridge, the match was held up by half-an-hour, and if either side seemed affected by this disruption then it appeared to be Queen of the South, as Raith swept into the lead after just 3 minutes.

Cardle opens the scoring....

Callum Elliot won the ball in the air, flicking it on it to John Baird, who kept the ball moving by feeding it to Joe Cardle, wide on the left. The winger cut inside his man, before driving it low past Zander Clark and into the bottom right-hand-corner of the net

The Rovers fans had barely taken their seats, when they had reason to jump out them again. Liam Fox's deflected free-kick had gone out for a corner, which Cardle had swung into the back post. After a poor attempt at a clearance, Paul Watson smashed the ball on the half-volley, through a flurry of legs and into the net. Two goals to the good, and just over 6 minutes played, it was an extraordinary start to the game.

The opening period continued to see Raith dominate, with the attacking triumvirate of Baird, Cardle and Elliot all to the fore. Several players seemed to be playing with a brio and confidence that has been missing at times over the last few months in the league. Thomson and Booth were both making themselves available down the wings, while the movement and passing was very much reminiscent of how the team was playing at the start of the campaign.

The impressive opening was almost reflected by a third goal after 18 minutes. Queens centre-half Durnan managed to find himself in a tangle with John Baird, which the Raith attacker managed to come out on top of. With options to his left and right, the striker unsurprisingly went for goal himself, but his well struck shot from 20 yards thumped the left-hand post and bounced to safety.

...and Watson quickly makes it 2

By this stage, Queen of the South had rarely been seen in an attacking sense, although Iain Russell was constantly an outlet for them, and he was proving a handful for Jason Thomson, and makeshift right-midfielder Gordon Smith. Any crosses that were coming into the box were being dealt with effectively by Paul Watson and Reece Donaldson, but there seemed a feeling of nervousness in the stadium, any time ball was swung in.

Gavin Reilly had the away sides first attempt at goal with just under half-an-hour played. His clever flick towards the Raith net, appeared to be dipping under Lee Robinson's crossbar, and although the keeper clutched it above his head, his backpedaling caused a momentary cause for concern as he stopped on the line.

A few minutes later, Iain Russell was allowed to drift inside, past three challenges, before sending in a shot that was going wide. His attempt was gathered up by Reilly, but his turn-and-shot was well gathered by Robinson.

There seemed a definite shift in the dynamic of the game, with the Queens midfield starting to get-to-grips with the game, winning their own individual battles, resulting in the play all heading towards the South Stand. That said, the next chance fell to Raith, after Zander Clark's poor kick-out, allowed Cardle another sight at goal. Despite getting hold of his shot, Clark made amends by tipping his drive past the post.

Liam Fox was then booked after 35 minutes for a sliding foul on Russell, and from the resultant set-piece, Queens were back in it. Chris Mitchell's delivery was good, but Mark Durnan was given too much time to send his header downwards and into the Raith net.

The confidence that seemed to be oozing from the home team seemed to have evaporated, as Queen took the proceedings by the scruff of the neck. Ian McShane almost sneaked in to equalise, after a moment of indecision between Watson and Robinson, then the same man sent a 22-yard drive just past the post.

The equaliser wasn't long in coming however, and when it did, it arrived, somewhat predictably, via a set-piece. Mitchell's corner was swung in, and despite several Raith players in the box, all remained passive, while Durnan ran a few yards past them to send his header into the net.

It was the final piece of action in an enthralling half, which, by ending all-square, probably reflected both sides respective spells on top.

While the opening period featured a gung-ho opening, and a blistering fightback, the second-half, perhaps predictably, was a tighter, edgier affair. The tepid opening to the half, seemed to suggest that both sides, but especially Jim McIntyre's team, seemed focussed more on not losing, rather than pushing for the win.

Callachan drives into the area

Other than a John Baird shot which was deflected wide, and a Reece Donaldson header which was comfortably hoofed off the line by Mitchell, the half was flat, and free from the good play that characterised the early part of the match.

Donaldson was booked for a challenge with half-an-hour remaining, while Ross Callachan was introduced to the fray 5 minutes later.

It was the substitute who almost sculpted the third goal, sending in a great cross after being teed up by Cardle, but from 6 yards, Smith got his header all wrong, sending it well wide of the Clark's right post. Elliot then had a chance from an acute angle that slithered wide.

At this point, Raith seemed the likelier to snatch a late lead, and they did just that on 81 minutes, after great work down the right from Callachan.

His run and jink into the box, allowed him time to look up, and pick out John Baird in the penalty area, who swung a boot at the pass, sweeping it past Clark to put Raith in front again.

Any thoughts that Rovers could build on that lead, were dispelled 2 minutes later, when Donaldson was given his second yellow card for a foul on the half-way line, which at first glance, seemed innocuous. This led to John Baird making way for Fraser Mullen, with the defender going to right-back, with Thomson moving to the centre.

Baird grabs the winner

While the closing moments were tense, Queens seemed devoid of ideas on how to break down the Rovers defence, and Raith held on for a vital 3 points.

The win makes things extremely interesting in the battle for the promotion play-offs, with Dumbarton and Queen of the South now level with just 3 games remaining.

More importantly for Raith fans however, with 9 points now separating Rovers from Cowdenbeath, and a far superior goal-difference, barring a mathematical and footballing improbability, Rovers will be playing in Scotland's second-tier next season.

Rovers now occupy seventh place in the league, 2 points clear of Alloa, and 1 behind sixth placed Livingston. With prize-money there to be won, Raith will hope to leapfrog Livingston this Saturday, as they look to bring back all 3 points from Falkirk.

Report: Shaughan McGuigan Pictures: Tony Fimister



Photographs © Tony Fimister 2014


Live Updates

Due to congestion on the Forth Bridge, kick-off is now delayed until 8:15pm.
Crowd still very sparse - hopefully a late surge of traffic due from the south, and not people saving their money for the Links Market!
Teams are out at last! And QoS are making it relatively easy for me by wearing 1-11 :-)
Rovers playing a 4-4-2 with Smith wide right in Anderson's absence
1-0 ROVERS!!! Cardle smashes it low into the corner after being fed by Baird and then cutting inside the full back!
Free kick Rovers, Booth pole-axed...
Fox tries to place it, deflected for a corner
2-0!!! Corner breaks to Watson and he produces a tidy finish from 12 yards!
Incredible start to the game - worth waiting for!
QoS desperate to get back into it, committing plenty of men forward and a good open game developing as a result
Smith spoken too after blocking Higgins, whilst covering for the marauding Thomson. No card.
Rovers showing what they're capable of - quick crisp passing and loads of movement from the front 6
Baird hits the post from 20 yards! Cardle was wide of him unmarked, but can't blame the wee man for trying
Donaldson and Watson mopping everything up at the back, with QoS continuing to press
Clark comes out to clear 25 yards out as Cardle almost plays Baird clean through
Durnan off for treatment but it doesn't look serious
Cardle cross cleared by Clark with Baird lurking
Higgins drifts a cross over the bar in QoS's first meaningful attack in a while
Reilly almost catches Robinson out with a heel-flick, he gathers under his bar though. Incredible skill if meant, but I doubt it!
Reilly with another attempt after Watson clears. Well held by Robinson.
Great block from Clark to deny Cardle
Fox shown the yellow for a foul on Russell - looked an unnecessary challenge, but not a bad one
2-1. Durnan nods in from close range after a great delivery from the free.
Elliot hacked down but no card
Thomson and Robinson somehow scramble clear - Rovers under the cosh
McShane flashes a shot across the face of the goal, with the south stand crying foul for high feet earlier in the move
Burns jinks through a challenge but shoots straight at Robinson
2-2. Robinson being impeded but no-one claims for it. Durnan with another close-range header - unmarked which is inexcusable.
Cruel on Rovers but no surprise on the balance of play. Another lightning start to the second half please!
McKenna booked for a foul on Donaldson
Baird attempt deflected for a corner, then cleared off the line from Donaldson. Loads happening, but poor signal means I can't tell you!
Elliot and Watson also with attempts in these opening stages of the second 45
Donaldson booked for a nothing challenge - he looked to have been fouled
Callachan on for Moon
Donaldson heads clear to deny a rare QoS break
Callachan shot deflected wide by Higgins
Robinson very quick out of his box to clear a long QoS ball after Smith gifts possession to them at the other end
Good play from Baird and Elliot, but Smith's cross too close to the keeper
Russell raises his foot and catches Smith, but amazingly no card
Elliot almost in, but hooked clear for a corner. Smith puts a free header wide from Callachan's excellent delivery.
Smith fouled in the box but stayed on his feet before shooting wide. Nothing given.
3-2 Rovers! Terrific break, great movement from Callachan and laid on a plate for Baird to roll it in!
Donaldson gets a second yellow for a foul in the centre circle
Mullen on for Baird
Kidd on for McKenna
Elliot held but nothing given, then booked for dissent. Mr Aitken not a popular chap!
Burns booked for a foul on Cardle
Crowd given as 993, but at least 2 (beside me) sneaked in with half an hour to go!
Watson named man of the match
Holt on for Higgins
+ 2 Smart play from Callachan to win the foul and relieve the pressure
+ 3 Full time! Almost safe!!!
+ 3 Terrific victory against the odds. One more point required to make survival absolutely sure.