Queen of the South 1 Raith Rovers 0
Raith showed little sign of getting out of their current rut in this narrow defeat in Dumfries.
The failure to score for a fourth successive game and the general lack of conviction on show did little to ease the club’s winter blues.
Rovers boss Grant Murray felt that his side never got the rub of the green, and in a couple of instances, this was certainly true. Ross Callachan’s stunning 20-yard shot deserved to find the net instead of rebounding back off the post, while Calum Elliot’s late effort was blocked near the line by a defender who knew little about it. That’s the way it’s going for Raith at the moment.
But in spite of those near misses, it would be generous to suggest that Rovers did enough to warrant a result because this was a performance that left you wanting more.
For long spells the game seemed to pass the Fifers by, in particular the half hour between the start of the second half and the 75th minute when Raith contributed nothing to the game in an attacking sense. For a team that was supposed to be chasing the game at 1-0 down, that was simply not good enough, and a late gung-ho push for an equaliser was too little, too late.
Rovers lined up in the same 4-5-1 formation that had helped steady the ship at Morton the previous week, although captain Jason Thomson returned at right back in place of Fraser Mullen.
There was nothing between the teams in the early stages but Rovers fell out of the game for a spell and paid the price in the 26th minute.
They switched off for the Queen’s goal, allowing a midfield runner, Ian McShane, to race into the box unopposed to latch onto a sublime Derek Lyle lay-off before drilling low past Ross Laidlaw. The finger-pointing from Dougie Hill was more than justified - no one tracked the runner and there was little the centre-half could do.
Raith’s response was to replace an injured Kevin Moon with Greig Spence and switch to a more traditional 4-4-2 shape, and Rovers enjoyed their best spell of the match before half-time with Callachan striking the post, and Grant Anderson denied by the legs of goalkeeper Zander Clark in a one-on-one.
The second half was littered with poor touches and passing from both sides, but with Raith needing a goal, it was doubly frustrating for their fans, some of whom had travelled 400 miles in a week without seeing a goal.
It took some good defending from Hill and Donaldson in particular to keep Queen’s lively forwards at bay, before Cardle registered Rovers first attempt of the second period on 73 minutes, firing narrowly wide from 18 yards. Murray replaced Liam Fox with Lewis Vaughan to go with five attackers on the pitch and the youngster almost created an equaliser when his cut-back was turned goalward by Elliot, but defender Chris Mitchell managed to get his body in the way.
The last 10 minutes saw Rovers pump high balls into the box, and each time the Queen’s defence headed clear. By the time the full-time whistle sounded, Rovers had ran out of ideas.
This is a team that needs to start believing in itself again and get back to the style of football that brought them success earlier in the season. But after watching the players leave the away dressing room with their heads down, restoring confidence may be easier said than done.