Queen’s Park 0 Raith Rovers 5

Momentum is a great thing in football, but if Queen’s wanted to build up a head of steam after their morale-boosting first league victory, they would need to be at their very best against league leaders Raith Rovers this afternoon.

Everybody in the Hampden camp got a huge lift by beating East Fife last weekend, but following that up with a home success was a huge ask with the title favourites coming to HQ in confident mood.

And the Kirkcaldy side have grounds for optimism having won four and drawn one of their opening five league fixtures. In fact, Rovers have won six on the bounce in league and cup … scoring 20 in the process with just two registered in the goals against ledger.

Fair to say that the Spiders were up against it, but Gus MacPherson’s men have often risen to the toughest of challenges before, so the hope was that we could burst another few fixed-odds coupons this afternoon.

There were a few surprises in the line-up, with a couple of personnel changes from the victory in Fife. Michael Bailey and David Green dropped down to the bench to make way for new signing Ciaran Summers, and Dominic Docherty. So the starting XI was: Willie Muir; a back four of Ross Millen, Adam Cummins, Jack Iredale and Summers;  Gregor Fotheringham and Docherty anchored the midfield, with David Galt, Anton Brady and Sean Burns charged with supporting Luke Donnelly.

Joining Green and Bailey on the subs’ bench were Thomas Orr, Chris Duff, Bryan Wharton, Scott Gibson and Conor McVey.

On a dreich, drizzly afternoon, the Hampden surface looked pristine as the visitors kicked off. It was important for Queen’s to start well – and for two minutes they looked fine. Then Raith got some room on the right, and as the ball came into the box the clearing header failed to do the business. It fell nicely for Buchanan who did do the business and with less than three minutes on the clock, Queen’s were behind.

That was bad – it got even worse very quickly. The home defence was split apart by one through ball and Vaughan found himself in on goal. Muir couldn’t get to him in time and the on-fire striker rolled the ball into the net to put the visitors two ahead with just six minutes on the clock.

This could be a long, painful afternoon.

Iredale produced a couple of nice touches as Queen’s tried to play themselves into the game after that shocking start, but Donnelly was looking distinctly isolated.

Thirteen minutes in and Queen’s had their first shot, but Brady’s effort was blocked and ricocheted away upfield.

Referee McKendrick soon produced the first yellow card of the afternoon after Cummins was a tad too robust with a sliding tackle on Barr.

Neat play by Burns on the left earned us our first corner, but Cummins headed the delivery over the top. There were now 20 minutes on the clock.

Galt won Queen’s a foul on the edge of the Raith box after some nifty footwork. Burns tried a low curler which was going close until it was deflected harmlessly away.

Galt again showed his intent with a left-footed drive, but it was always off target. As the halfway point came and went, Robertson tried to swap jerseys with Millen while the game was in progress. McKendrick saw nothing wrong with the “challenge”.

The Spiders were enjoying more possession now, but were not really threatening – unlike our opponents who looked menacing every time they went upfield.

The home fans were already none-too-chuffed with the whistler, and he further enraged them when he ruled out a strong penalty claim for a challenge on Burns in the Raith box.

Possession remained in favour of Queen’s as the clock ticked towards 35 minutes, and bar the nasty tale up on the scoreboard, things were looking better.

Another foul on our left gave Galt the chance to try his luck, but his effort was too close to keeper Smith to cause any problems.

Five minutes from the break, Burns swung in a dangerous free kick which was finally scrambled to safety by the visiting defence.

Right on the interval, Robertson swung in a cross which had to be taken by Muir … and thankfully was.

Half time:

Queen’s Park 0 Raith Rovers 2

Queen’s started the second period with plenty of the ball, but unlike our opponents in their whirlwind start, we couldn’t find the killer pass.

Five minutes in came the first change of the afternoon, former Spider Dario Zanatta replacing Greig Spence.

Free kicks and corners were proving our likeliest sources for a goal and a Galt delivery caused plenty concern in the visiting ranks before it was knocked behind for another one which produced no drama.

Gus made his first change after 54 minutes, replacing Docherty with Orr.

We had to hope the increased firepower upfront would give us more goal threat. Exactly the opposite happened. Zanatta waltzed along the byeline and clipped the ball into the net to make it 3-0. He’d been on the park four minutes.

It could have been Deja Vu a couple of minutes later as Buchanan was allowed to run at our defence and fire off a shot which bounced back off the post to safety.

Burns was fouled again as he led a counter and Galt’s delivery was inches away from the head of Donnelly.

As the hour passed, Orr produced a lovely run along the line to beat Thomson, but just as things got interesting, he blasted a shot high and wide.

Summers and Donnelly combined to win yet another corner which was hoiked to safety with Orr waiting. It was Donnelly’s last involvement as he was replaced after 68 minutes by Chris Duff.

A vicious free kick from Thomson was cleared over his own bar by Cummins at the expense of a corner. It came to nothing.

Davidson went into the book for hauling back Orr and the resultant free kick was knocked behind by Smith for a QP corner which almost produced a goal – but Fotheringham’s header just cleared the bar.

Bailey replaced Burns for the last 18 minutes.

An almighty stramash in the Queen’s box with 13 minutes left almost produced a fourth goal for Raith, but Millen blocked Zanatta right at the death and Heron headed the resulting corner wide.

It was four two minutes later as Buchanan’s shot was cleared only as far as Barr and he shot home. It was harsh on the Spiders, but showed why the Fifers find goalscoring so simple.

Matthews went close after another lightning break and then as everybody waited for the final whistle, Thomson drilled an unstoppable shot past Muir to make it 5-0. Thankfully McKendrick blew the whistle soon after.

It seems strange after such a heavy defeat to find plusses – but plusses there were for Queen’s. Summers looks like a useful addition and Iredale put in a power of work alongside Cummins, while wee Anton Brady gets even more committed with every game.

Raith are not top of the league for nothing, and on this form, it’s hard to see anybody stopping them. They’ve got the momentum, and all Queen’s can do is dust themselves down and try to pick themselves up again next week. Mind you, the fixture computer hasn’t been very kind to us as our next visitors are high-flying Ayr United.
Keep the Faith.