Changes make the difference as Raith get back to winning ways

Substitute Dario Zanatta fires the opener past Queen's goalkeeper Michael White. Pic: Walter Neilson, Fife Photo Agency.
Substitute Dario Zanatta fires the opener past Queen's goalkeeper Michael White. Pic: Walter Neilson, Fife Photo Agency.

Raith Rovers 2 Queen's Park 0

A return to winning ways was all Raith Rovers required from the visit of bottom of the table Queen's Park.

The performance was nothing to shout about - Rovers were as cold as the weather for the first hour and only warmed up following the introduction of Dario Zanatta from the bench - but the result was all that mattered after a difficult week, and the players dug deep to grind it out.

For a defence that conceded eight times in the last three games, the clean sheet was also a welcome bonus, particularly for the confidence of youngsters Jamie Watson and Dave McKay, although the visitors offered very little in attack.

Injuries have hampered Raith in recent weeks so the return of top scorer and chief creator Lewis Vaughan was a welcome boost, although Iain Davidson was only fit enough for a place on the bench. Bobby Barr, Kevin McHattie and Kyle Benedictus all remain sidelined.

Three defeats in seven days had taken its toll on team morale and that was apparent throughout a first half where Raith had plenty possession, but did nothing with it.

With too many backwards passes, or ineffective long balls, they looked incapable of breaking down a team they had put five past at Hampden earlier in the campaign.

The best, and only, attempt on goal in the first half came on 41 minutes as Vaughan went close with a 25-yard free-kick that clipped the top of the netting on its way over the crossbar.

Queen's were making things difficult - they were well organised and fought for everything - but Rovers had to up their game after the break, and they did, albeit after a key tactical change shortly before the hour mark.

John Herron is undoubtedly a good footballer, but he has struggled to make an impact in recent games, and the midfielder was withdrawn for on-loan Hearts forward Zanatta, a player who has shown previously that he can have an influence from the bench.

The second, and equally important change saw Vaughan shifted from the wing into the middle of the park. He has had a very productive season so far out wide, but this game was crying out for some creativity from midfield, and the youngster provided it.

The opener arrived just six minutes after the changes as Vaughan collected the ball in the middle of the Queen's half, and played a perfect ball into the path of Zanatta, who side-stepped the last defender and sent a razor sharp angled finish across the goalkeeper and inside the far post.

It was a pivotal moment, possibly in the entire campaign, as a weight visibly lifted from the home players, while the cheers of the home fans allowed all the pent-up frustration of recent results to evaporate into the freezing cold Stark's Park air.

All that led to Raith doubling their lead within two minutes as Vaughan again made a penetrating run from midfield, setting up Zanatta who saw his shot parried by Michael White only to leave Greig Spence with the simple task of nodding the rebound over the line.

From then on the result was never in doubt and only a wonder save from White prevented Liam Buchanan from adding a third when he turned his near post shot past the post from point-blank range.

Raith will need to improve for the challenges ahead, but with a weakened team, and on the back of three defeats, this was the first steps towards getting back on track.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Watson, Herron (Zanatta 57), Murray, Spence (Berry 88), Robertson, Buchanan (Osei 88), Vaughan, Matthews, McKay. Not used: Lennox, Court, Stevenson, Davidson.

Queen's Park: White, McVey, Summers, Magee, Cummins, Fotheringham (Brady 71), Duff (Donnelly 79), Leitch, McLennan (Mortimer 61), Galt, Burns. Not used: Muir, Docherty, Iredale, Whelan.

Referee: Mike Roncone

Attendance: 1260.