New loan striker squares pre-season friendly for Raith Rovers
Raith Rovers 2, Queen’s Park 2
Matej Poplatnik came off the bench and grabbed the goal which brought Raith Rovers back on terms in an entertaining, rain-soaked pre-season friendly at Stark’s Park on Saturday.
The Slovenian striker, on a season-long loan at Kirkcaldy from Livingston, stooped low to head home a close-range leveller, just four minutes after coming off the bench.
Rovers had spent a lot of the first half in the visitors’ half and possibly should have been further ahead that the single goal scored by Aidan Connolly after 27 minutes.
The Glasgow side, managed by ex-Raith favourite Laurie Ellis, had show some good touches of their own in the first half and turned things around in the second with a pair of similarly crafted goals, both headers, to take a 2-1 lead.
Poplatnik’s strike ensured parity at the end but both teams showed a strong willingness to win the game in a lively, end-to-end last 10 minutes.
Raith manager John McGlynn felt his side possibly shaded it and perhaps should have won but said it was an excellent workout, with both teams trying to play football their way.
“I thought we had the best of the first half and the better opportunities,” he said. “We should probably have been further ahead than just one. They were a threat – they were well organised and well set up, Tactically, they were good.”
Rovers had been patient and broken Queen’s Park down but not taken enough opportunities in the first half, said the boss. “In the second half, they came out much sharper than us,” he added. “We were very passive, not aggressive enough, and we allowed them to get the ball into the box.
“Then it was a matter of a bit of character and a bit of personality coming out.”
Raith’s dominance of possession in the first half included the first on-target attempt after three minutes. Dario Zanatta collected a lay-off from Dylan Tait and played an excellent crossfield ball to AIdan Connolly on the right.
He transferred it to Reghan Tumilty but the latter's angled, low shot was easily held by William Muir, who made several fine saves during the game.
On 16 minutes came a fine chance for the Spiders when a through ball to the left flank was crossed by Louis Longridge and a fine header by Will Baynham, who evaded several Raith defenders, flew only inches over.
Raith eventually broke the deadlock on 27 minutes after forcing three corner kicks in succession. Lewis Vaughan flighted the ball over and a shot, possibly by Tait, was beaten out by Muir. Brad Spencer tried a low shot through a packed penalty area and Aidan Connolly got the final touch.
Lee Kilday of Queen's was shown the game’s only yellow card by referee Duncan Wiliams on 39 minutes for pulling back James Keatings to his way to goal.
The Spiders had applied some pressure during the opening minutes of the second half and it bore fruit when a cross by Doyle from the right was met by Longridge, who equalised with a fine downward hearder.
Within four minutes, the Glasgow side were in front. Again, a cross from the right by Doyle was headed home, this time by Baynham, but from a tighter angle and the ball looped lazily past MacDonald and glanced off the post on its way in.
Keatings made way for Poplatnik after 67 minutes and, by the 71st, Rovers were level. Vaughan wriggled deftly through a Queen’s challenge on the right and his cross was helped on by a team mate to Poplatnik, who reacted quickly and dropped down to head home from close in. Stuart Morrison was guarding the goal line but the Slovakian’s effort was good enough to elude him.
Raith Rovers – MacDonald, Tumilty, Berra, Benedictus, Connolly, Keatings (Poplatnik 67), Vaughan (Coulson 75), Zanatta (Mitchell 75), Spencer (trialist B 45), Tait (Arnott 86), trialist A. Subs (not used) Thomson (GK), trialist C, Mahady, Bow.
Queen’s Park – Muir, Doyle, Kilday (Biggar 65), Morrison, Robson, Lyon (Gillespie 45), Davidson, Longridge, Moore (Gillies 86), Brown, Baynham. Subs (not used) Ferrie (GK).
Referee – Duncan Williams.