Superb display by stopper Jamie MacDonald helps Raith Rovers leave Dumfries with a share of the points

Queen of the South 1, Raith Rovers 1

Saturday, 6th November 2021, 5:27 pm
Brad Spencer of Raith Rovers evades Queen of the South scorer Max Johnston as Ethan Ross, right, watches on (picture by Dave Johnston)

A brilliant performance from goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald ensured Raith Rovers stretched their unbeaten sequence to nine in all competitions after a fortunate escape against Queen of the South.

The Dumfries side, beaten 4-0 last week by Kilmarnock, were in command for long periods and created numerous chances – but MacDonald was a match for all of them, with the sole exception of Max Johnston's counter early in the second half.

But Raith came back and made their hosts rue those missed efforts, as well as punishing some slack defending, with the equaliser by Aidan Connolly.

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Rovers had a fortunate escape after only two minutes when 17-year-old Johnston spotted Ruari Paton in the box and delivered a superb cross from the right which the Irishman headed towards goal from close range, but Jamie MacDonald scooped away.

In six minutes, there was a similar let-off when Johnston picked up a slack kickout from MacDonald in the strong wind and crossed from the right once again for Innes Cameron to attempt a header from six yards, evading Tom Lang – but MacDonald was there again.

Paul McKay had a chance from another cross, following Christophe Berra’s mistaken attempt at a clearance, but his shot flailed wide. Cameron had another header on target on 12 minutes from a Liddle corner but MacDonald once more made a superb save.

On 14 minutes, Paton missed an arguably even better chance when he met a cross from Cameron on the right, with MacDonald leaving a gaping hole towards the target. But Paton dragged his shot back across the face of the goal, towards the stopper, and wide.

Rovers were extremely lucky to still be on level terms and, while they'd shown nothing so far, the inevitable question was posed – would those missed opportunities prove costly for the Doonhamers?

Frankie Musonda sent over a fine cross from the left towards Ethon Varian but Josh Debayo was there on time to thwart the Raith man.

Rovers tested the home defence properly for the first time after 24 minutes when Connolly threaded a lob from the centre circle through to Ethan Ross, who ran on between Wullie Gibson and Paul McKay before pulling the trigger but 'keeper Sol Brynn was out quickly to block.

Varian was cautioned after 33 minutes for a foul on Debayo.

Queens started to get behind the Rovers’ defence a bit more towards half time as echoes of their earlier threat began to resurface.

There was another fine chance for Raith, however, in stoppage time, when Ethan Ross collected a throw in from Tumilty and crossed into the box but there was no one there to make a goal attempt.

Three minutes into the second half, Queens did what they couldn't manage in the first – took the lead.

Lee Connelly sent a crossfield pass over to Paton, who laid it off superbly to Max Johnston, and the teenager gave MacDonald little chance as he netted his first professional goal.

Connelly fired over after good work from Nditi and Brynn made a brilliant close-range save at the other end from Dario Zanatta as the action warmed up.

Johnston found Connelly for Queen's with an astonishing long-range pass but Cameron fired his cross over from close in. Cameron was then booked for protesting that referee Kevin Clancy didn't award a corner kick.

The Queens man was physically held back a few minutes later by Tom Lang, who was yellow-carded.

MacDonald saved Rovers again on 68 minutes when an interception allowed Paton to pass through to Connelly, whose effort was blocked but the ‘keeper saved at point-blank range from Ben Liddle.

Ross Matthews replaced Dylan Tait for Rovers after 69 minutes.

Sloppy rearguard work by Queens enabled Rovers to equalise after 72 minutes. Berra fired a long ball upfield which was nodded down by Varian to Aidan Connolly, who was in plenty of space to shoot past Brynn.

A double substitution followed on 75 minutes, with Matej Poplatnik taking over from Ethan Ross for Raith and Harry Cochrane deputising for Queens' scorer Max Johnston. Three minutes later, Queens replaced Connelly with Ally Roy.

Soon afterwards, Zanatta floated a free kick from the right over to where Berra was lurking but the former Scotland international headed just wide.

Calvin McGrory was taken off in favour of Alex Cooper by the home side on 82 minutes.

A stirring end to the game saw MacDonald stop the ball on his goal line after it had skimmed off Lang among a crowd of red and blue shirts, while Musonda crucially headed a dangerous Queens cross clear and Nditi fired a late effort narrowly over the Raith bar.

Queen of the South: Bryan, McKay, Paton, Connelly (Roy 78), Debayo, Liddle, McGrory (Cooper 82), Cameron, Nditi, Johnston (Cochrane 75), Gibson. Subs (not used) – Rae, Todd, East, Soares-Junior.

Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Tumilty, Musonda, Berra, Conolly, Zanatta, Lang, Spencer, Tait (Matthews 69), Varian, Ross (Poplatnik 75). Subs (not used) – Thomson, Riley-Snow, Arnott, Young.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.