Raith Rovers 2 Queen’s Park 0
The fixture list may have shown that Queeen’s Park were in Fife today taking on Raith Rovers, but your scribe would not have been alone in thinking that events 50 miles away in Airdrie would have a bigger bearing on the division the Spiders would be playing at next season.
We were not expected to take anything from our trip to Stark’s Park, given the disparity in the league positions, but we were also hoping that our rivals in the relegation dogfight – Albion Rovers – would not open up a gap by winning their derby against injury-hit Airdrie.
On the subject of injuries, Gus MacPherson had his troubles to deal with as our list of available central defenders grew smaller by the week. The good news on that respect was that Adam Cummins was available after suspension, but Nimmo, McLauchlan and Foy were again listed absent.
As expected, Cummins returned to the heart of the defence, but what might not have been foreseen was the rest of Michael White’s back line, where Scott Gibson and Lewis Magee joined Cummins, with Ross Millen and Sean Burns occupying the wingback roles. Gregor Fotheringham, Conor McVey and Anton Brady were in midfield, with David Galt supporting Aiden Keena up front.
Given the firepower at Raith’s disposal (Willis Furtado and Greig Spence could only get a place on the bench), we expected to be in for a busy afternoon at the back … and so it proved.
Inside the first minute, White had to turn an effort from Buchanan round the post for a corner, and then watch anxiously as the delivery sailed dangerously across his goal.
Queen’s responded with a corner of their own, but Cummins couldn’t direct his header on target. That effort was the best we produced for some time after that as the home side began to find gaps.
And with 10 minutes on the clock, they capitalised. Thomson swung over a cross to the far post where Barr met it sweetly to volley past White. It was all too easy.
The Spiders enjoyed a fair bit of possession after that blow, but the only time we came close to troubling the home defence was another corner after 15 minutes which almost found its way through to the unmarked Gibson.
Raith looked menacing when they ventured forward and one break led to a yellow card for Magee. Thankfully, there was no more punishment from the resulting free kick.
Keena was living on scraps at this stage, but after half an hour, he almost produced a feast for our sore eyes. He won the ball off McHattie and hared down the right, before firing a low cross into the middle. Sadly, there were no takers in a Queen’s Park jersey and the opportunity passed.
With less than 10 minutes of the half remaining, Lady Luck again turned her back on the Spiders. Magee looked to be fouled in the middle of the park, but referee Newlands penalised him for grabbing the ball with his hand after he was felled. As the ball came into our box, Galt’s clearance was deflected into the path of Zanatta and he finished in style to put the home side 2-0 ahead.
The only good news at this point was that Airdrie had taken the lead against Albion, but while our contest looked a forlorn cause, that game still had a long way to go.
We reached the interval without any further major incidents.
Raith Rovers 2 Queen’s Park 0
Gus changed things at the break, bringing on Robbie Leitch for Magee. Whether the injury curse of the QP centre half had struck again, or whether the Gaffer was just trying to shake things up, was not clear at this stage.
What was clear, however, was that the Spiders hadn’t given up the ghost on this one. Right from the off they drove forward, with Galt and Burns exchanging passes to give Brady a glimpse of goal. The wee man controlled the ball nicely on his chest and hit a dipping volley towards Smith’s top corner. It deserved a goal, but the keeper had other ideas and stretched to tip the ball over. The resultant corner was finally cleared.
The visiting support was cheered by that effort, and the players certainly seemed to get a lift as well. Keena went close with a header from a Galt free kick, but while we were enjoying the lions’ share of possession, Raith still looked lethal on the break.
Just on the hour, we finally enjoyed a bit of luck as a desperate clearing header from Millen smacked our bar and rebounded to safety.
We could – and maybe should – have cashed in on that stroke of fortune moments later. Another Galt delivery sparked mayhem in the home box, but despite the ball bouncing about all over the place, we couldn’t force it home.
Gus made his second change with 20 minutes left, bringing on Luke Donnelly for Brady.
Raith almost grabbed a third goal when Thomson went marauding down the right again and found Vaughan with a low cross. The striker couldn’t direct his effort on target and Queen’s maintained their fingerhold on the game.
We came close again after 74 minutes when a swift break gave Keena the chance to shoot. His goalbound effort was blocked; the follow-up deflected wide for a corner … and as that was partially cleared, Galt tried to curl one into the far corner, but failed to keep it down and the moment was gone.
Thomas Orr came on for Conor McVey as the Gaffer tried one last throw of the dice to get something from the game. We came close again when Gibson heaved a long shy into the Raith box and the flick on was diverted inches off target by Cummins. It could have gone anywhere, but it somehow summed up our fortunes that it went the wrong side of the woodwork.
The final minutes saw the home side come closest to scoring what would have been a harsh third goal. White had to look lively to divert a Zanatta effort round the post with his foot, and then the keeper pounced to grab a wicked low cross from Thomson. Right at the death, White kept out a powerful header from substitute Matthews and the game ended with Raith winning 2-0.
The result was no surprise given the fact that Raith had won 14 and drawn their other two home games this season. What should encourage those who follow the Glorious Hoops was the second half performance from Gus’ boys … and the news that Airdrie had beaten Albion by the same score.
So the position is simple; to avoid the automatic drop into League 2, we need to take one point more from our last two games than Albion Rovers take from their remaining fixtures. We face Forfar away and then Arbroath at home. Rovers host East Fife before rounding off their season with a trip to title-contending Ayr United.
It’s far from over, and the play-offs remain a realistic target. Keep the Faith!