Queen of the South 3 Raith Rovers 1
Raith Rovers fell to a third straight defeat following a second half collapse at Queen of the South yesterday.
The teams cancelled each other out in a goalless first half, but the hosts took charge after the break, tearing into a 3-0 lead with talisman striker Stephen Dobbie grabbing a double before substitute Dean Brotherston scored with his first touch.
Raith's consolation came in form of an 89th minute header from defender Jean-Yves M'vto - his first goal for the club - but the day belonged to Queens, who moved to the top of the Championship after Hibs' surprise defeat at home to Ayr.
Rovers boss Gary Locke said afterwards: "The difference between the two teams was Dobbie - he's got that bit of quality and he showed why he's played at the highest level.
"For long spells in the game there was nothing in it, but the second half, especially the last half an hour, was disappointing.
"There's things we can work on in training because we can't afford to lose cheap goals. We can do better."
Locke's team selection paid respect to the hosts' impressive form as, for the first time since taking over as Raith boss, he started with only one striker.
However, the service to Declan McManus for the second week running was largely non-existent, leading to a frustrating afternoon for the on-loan Fleetwood forward, and largely untroubled one for the Queens defence.
There was a huge blow for Raith in the build-up to the match with skipper Jason Thomson ruled out after picking up a knee knock in training on Friday, and midfielder Ross Matthews took his place as an auxiliary right back.
Rovers have only won twice in the 13 league games Thomson has missed in the past two seasons. Every team needs their captain but Rovers do seem over-reliant on theirs.
Locke opted for a midfield five with pace in the wide areas in the form of Bobby Barr and Scott Roberts, handed his first start since joining on loan from Rangers, however, the pair did not have as much impact in the final third as the manager would have hoped for.
Iain Davidson was tasked with protecting the back four, with Jordan Thompson and, in particular, Ross Callachan providing support to McManus, although neither of them were able to get close enough to the front man to help him out.
While the tactics worked to frustrate Queens, who were stifled in the first half, Raith lacked a threat themselves, resulting in a borefest of a game, bereft of goalmouth action.
That was until the Raith players started to drift from the game plan after the break, leaving themselves exposed at the back, and Dobbie in particular took full advantage.
The former Swansea and Blackpool striker showed the quality that took him to the English Premiership with two top class finishes and several tormenting runs.
Before the break, Rovers managed to keep him, and the rest of the Queens forwards, quiet throughout a dull opening 45.
The first half's best, and only real chance came from a Raith set piece as Barr was clattered on the edge of the box, but after Thompson placed the ball, McManus hit the free-kick, then offered an apology to the young midfielder as he lofted a poor effort over the bar.
For a match between the second and third placed teams in the league, the first half had been very disappointing.
In such a tight game, the opening goal was always going to be crucial and Queens got it as they caught Raith on the break seven minutes after the interval.
There seemed a lack of awareness in the Rovers ranks as they allowed themselves to become outnumbered at the back, with Jamie Hamill speeding down the right before crossing to the unmarked Dobbie, who coolly slotted the ball underneath Connor Brennan.
In the aftermath of conceding the opener, Rovers' assistant manager Darren Jackson narrowly avoided being sent to stand for the second time this season. He was spoken to by referee Gavin Duncan, who let him off with a final warning.
Locke made a double change on 58 minutes as Ibrox loanees Thompson and Roberts were replaced by Lewis Vaughan and Mark Stewart in a clear statement of attacking intent.
One striker had become three but the team failed to adapt to the change in system and Queens gained a stronger foothold in the match.
On 63 minutes, Derek Lyle sent a looping header crashing against the stanchion but the second goal arrived just a minute later as Raith went to sleep from a throw-in, allowing danger man Dobbie to drift into space at the edge of the area and he cracked an unstoppable 20-yard effort past Brennan via the inside of the post.
It was a long way back for Raith now, particularly as ex-keeper Scott Robinson in the Queens goal had almost nothing to do up until now.
Rudi Skacel arrived on the scene but while Dobbie has hit nine goals in eight appearances, Raith are still waiting on their big-name summer signing to make an impact.
The Czech has only started one game, the 3-2 defeat in Forfar, and apart from an assist in Ayr in the opening league game, his substitute appearances have yet to set the heather alight.
Rovers went to three at the back, but the more they tried to push forward, the more likely they looked to concede a third - and that's exactly what happened in the 79th minute.
A cross from the right was hammered towards goal on the volley by Dale Hilson and although Brennan made an excellent save, the rebound fell straight to sub Brotherston, who had enough time to stumble over the ball, before regaining his composure to slot home.
Rovers were well beaten but they managed to bag a consolation goal in the 89th minute when M'voto met Vaughan's corner with a powerful header, which took a deflection off a Queens defender and just crossed the line before it was cleared.
There was still time left for Queen's to create another chance as Dobbie raced through unchallenged only to curl his effort against the base of the post, denying him a hat-trick.
Such was Dobbie's influence on the game, it might not be an exaggeration to suggest that his quality was the difference between the sides.
Raith are also struggling with injuries to experienced players, however, rather than look for excuses, the Kirkcaldy men have to concede that this second half performance was simply not good enough.
To challenge for the top four in the Championship this season, they will need to get back to the standards set in the opening four games of the league campaign.
Queen of the South: Robinson, Hamill, Marshall, Dowie, Brownlie, Anderson (Dykes 74), Millar, Lyle (Brotherston 78), Hilson (Rigg 85), Dobbie, Jacobs. Not used: Atkinson, Higgins, Pickard, Moxon.
Raith Rovers: Brennan, McHattie, Callachan, M'voto, Benedictus, B.Barr, Matthews (Skacel 69), Davidson, Roberts (Vaughan 58), McManus, Thompson (Stewart 58). Not used: Cuthbert, Johnston, Coustrain.
Referee: Gavin Duncan