Queen of the South 1 Raith Rovers 1
It might not have been pretty on the eyes, but Raith Rovers did enough to climb back into the Championship top four tonight with a hard fought point away to Queen of the South.
Travel disruption caused by the ongoing Forth Road Bridge closure meant the Raith team bus took over four hours to get to Dumfries, arriving at the ground less than an hour before kick-off.
Rovers shrugged off the unsettling journey to stifle Queen’s in a workmanlike first half, sneaking a one-goal into the break thanks to an own goal howler from Queen’s goalkeeper Robbie Thomson.
However, the hosts levelled just three minutes into the second half through Iain Russell, and went on to dominate the rest of the match, leaving Raith boss Ray McKinnon thankful for the full-time whistle.
“I’m relieved to get a point in the end,” he said.
“For the first 35 minutes we were excellent and deserved to be one up, although we should’ve done better in certain areas of the park.
“But in the second half, for whatever reason, we gave the ball away cheaply constantly, and invited Queen of the South to attack us.
“Overall, I’m quite happy to come down and take a point.”
McKinnon made two changes to the side that defeated Elgin in the Scottish Cup a fortnight ago, handing Ross Callachan his first start since August while Lewis Toshney shook off a hamstring injury to return to right back place of David Bates.
Raith made an encouraging start but McKinnon was forced into an early change as Grant Anderson suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury with Craig Wighton taking his place.
Rovers pressed the game into the Queen’s half, threatening on a couple of occasions up until the final touch, before Queen’s ‘keeper Thomson gave them a helping hand in the 22nd minute.
Toshney sent a looping cross into the box and under some pressure from Kyle Benedictus and Mark Stewart - but not enough to warrant a foul - the goalie fumbled the cross towards his own goal.
The Queen’s defence scrambled to clear but not before the ball had crossed the line, well spotted by the assistant referee through the crowd of bodies, who awarded the goal.
Raith had enough control of the match to merit more first half chances but half-time arrived with the away side in the lead despite failing to register a shot on target.
Queen’s had been off the pace in the first half, but had threatened on a couple of occasions through striker Russell, who was in the right place to level affairs three minutes after the break.
The impressive Alex Harris was the creator with a driving run, nut-megging Benedictus as he rushed out before sweeping a low cross to the back post for Russell to side-foot home.
In the 20 minutes or so that followed, the Doonhamers laid siege to the Raith goal as the visitors tidy possession from the first half disappeared along with the foothold they had in the match.
Derek Lyle was inches away from converting a low cross, while Russell should’ve scored a second when he volleyed across goal and wide when found in space at the back post.
Raith at last made an impression on the second half on 66 minutes when Wighton collected a long throw from Rory McKeown with his back to goal but the shot on the turn lacked the power and precision to beat Thomson.
Rovers lost another player to injury - Bates replacing Toshney - before Scott Robertson made a vital interception, running back 50 yards to cut out a ball that would have put Queen’s through on goal.
Raith replaced Stewart with Jon Daly and the big striker almost made an immediate impact, latching onto Wighton’s volley to hit a powerful volley from an angle but it was straight at Thomson who parried to safety.
Queen’s second half momentum looked to have run of steam until the 85th minute when Kevin Cuthbert was called upon to make a big save to earn Rovers a point.
Lyle’s knock-on put sub Gary Oliver through on goal but the Raith ‘keeper was quick off his line, blocking the striker’s effort with his chest before Rovers managed to scramble clear.
Injuries, and a lack of quality in the final third are now becoming a real hindrance, so all in all this was a good point for Raith.
But to stay in the top four, it will have to be much better.
Queen of the South: Thomson, Dowie, Brownlie (Kidd 45), Higgins, Harris, Millar (Oliver 74), Hutton, Marshall, Jacobs, Russell, (Conroy 82), Lyle. Not used: Pickard, Atkinson, Smith, Coogans.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Toshney (Bates 68), Davidson, Benedictus, McKeown, Anderson (Wighton 20), McCord, Callachan, Robertson, Craigen, Stewart (Daly 74). Not used: Petrie, Megginson, Matthews, Law.
Referee: Craig Charleston