Queens recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time this season as a first half strike from Ian McShane was enough to secure a hard fought victory against Raith Rovers at Palmerston this afternoon. The win moved Queens up to 6th place in the Championship table, and although they had to spend a considerable time defending their lead, especially in the 2nd period, they managed to hang on to claim the points.
Manager, Jim McIntyre, made one change to the team that performed so well in last week`s victory over Alloa, with Ian McShane coming in for sickness victim Paul Burns, whilst on-loan Motherwell striker, Bob McHugh, began his Queens career with a place on the bench. Visitors Raith whose 1-0 win at Palmerston back in September put an end to Queens` long unbeaten home record, started the day five points ahead of Queens, and they arrived in Dumfries with a pretty decent record at Palmerston. However, although the Kirkcaldy side had won both games between the teams so far this season, their current run of just one win from six games, and failing to score in their last three,would have been a major concern to Rovers boss Grant Murray.
It was the home side who got the third meeting between the teams this season under way, and as was the case against Alloa last time out, Queens began in a 4-4-2 formation, and less than a minute into the contest, Cardle`s mistake gifted Queens their first corner of the game. Chris Mitchell`s deep delivery was only just cleared as Mark Durnan came within inches of connecting with the cross at the back post. The visitors response was to launch a counter attack of their own, and after the ball fell to him just outside the penalty area, Fox saw his shot fly well wide of the target. There were some half- hearted claims for a penalty for Queens 9 minutes in when Mitchell`s cross to the far post saw Gavin Reilly being prevented from jumping for the ball by a Raith defender, but in fairness most of the appeals came from the fans and not the players.
The best chance of the opening spell fell to the visitors, as a good move involving Booth and Elliot on the left ended with full-back Booth shooting into the side netting from a tight angle, and for the Raith fans at the other end of the ground who thought their side had scored, his effort proved to be frustrating. Minutes later, Queens had their first opportunity of the game following a free-kick. Iain Russell was brought down 25- yards from goal, and after Paton`s well hit shot could only be parried by Raith `keeper Laidlaw, Russell reacted first but with the goal gaping, Queens` leading scorer could only smash the ball wide of the net. Fortunately for Russell, the offside flag had been raised, and so his blushes were spared. The home side were starting to see more of the ball at this stage, and after Russell intercepted a misplaced pass in midfield, Queens attacked again. Russell found Derek Lyle in space on the right and after getting to the bye-line the striker pulled the ball back into the path of the supporting Paton, but the former Aberdeen player who had scored in successive home games, was wide of the mark this time as his effort flew past the near upright.
Callachan hits the upright
The spell of pressure that Queens had put together was rewarded after 25 minutes when they opened the scoring with a well worked goal. Chris Mitchell`s ball into the box found Lyle, and his cushioned lay-off fell nicely into the path of the on-rushing Ian McShane, who finished well with a low shot that flew in between `keeper and post. The goal came from what was certainly Queens best move of the game, and the young midfielder showed good awareness to get himself into the right position. However, going behind seemed to inspire the visitors, and it was the men from Kirkcaldy who seized the initiative. Striker Calum Elliot was the victim of a clumsy challenge by Mark Durnan, the tackle earning the defender the game`s first caution. From the resulting free-kick Cardle`s delivery was headed clear by Kevin Holt but the ball sat up nicely for Callachan and his ferocious effort from fully 30-yards out smashed against the far post with Zander Clark motionless. It was a huge let off for Queens, and minutes later Callachan once again tried his luck from distance, this time though although his technique was good, his shot was far too high and caused no problem. With Raith well and truly on top at this point, they had another chance to get themselves back into the game 6 minutes before the break. Poor play in midfield saw Raith gain possession midway inside the Queens half, and as Anderson broke free down the right, Clark did well to block his attempt and Durnan recovered well to tidy things up.Queens created a half chance of their own just before the break, Paton`s long ball over the top found Reilly, but slightly off balance, the striker was unable to get enough power behind his shot, and Laidlaw was able to make a comfortable save.
McShane wheels away after scoring
Keeper Laidlaw has to pick the ball out of the net as McShane celebrates in the background
HALF-TIME QUEENS 1-0 RAITH
The second half began with Queens winning an early free-kick after a foul on Derek Lyle on the left touchline. Michael Paton was again on set-piece duty and his in-swinging delivery although hit into an inviting area, was easily claimed by Laidlaw. With Queens starting the half well, an almost identical position saw them go close to increasing the lead. Raith`s Fox was booked for a foul on Russell, and another Paton free-kick was cleared to the edge of the area as far as Stephen McKenna, and the midfielder was not too far away with a side-footed half volley that had Laidlaw beaten.
Queens launched a breakaway through Gavin Reilly who latched on to a long ball from Holt,and after getting past a defender he slipped the ball into Russell, but the striker dragged his shot wide of the far post from a good position. Once again Russell was in the thick of the action, and after collecting the ball from Paton, he was bundled to the ground by Callachan which earned the Raith man a caution. The free kick by Paton was cleared as far as Russell, but he was not able to keep his shot down and his attempt went well over the bar. Queens made their first change on 72 Minutes when Kevin Dzierzawski replaced goalscorer, Ian McShane, and from that point in the game, Queens began to sit back and defend a bit deeper than they had done, and this certainly encouraged the visitors to attack more. As the game moved into the last 20 minutes, Raith went very close to drawing level when a move down the right involving Cardle and Elliot ended with Cardle`s shot creeping inches past the post, and as they continued to press for the equaliser, they went even closer when Spence and Elliot combined well only to see Mitchell recover and clear the ball away before it crossed the line. As an attacking force Queens were non-existent, and they continued to be hemmed in, at times having all ten outfield players positioned deep inside their own half, and after switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation in an effort to `tighten` up, the final minutes of the game were a tense affair for most in the 1538 crowd.
With 4 minutes to go Lyle was replaced by Danny Carmichael, and as the prospect of back-to-back league wins loomed, the nerves and the tempers became frayed. Right on full-time Stephen McKenna was cautioned for a foul on Anderson, and minutes later there was even time for a full scale `rammy` after Russell threatened to break clear only to be crudely halted by a bad challenge from Donaldson. The resulting brawl was eventually calmed down by all the officials, with Chris Higgins following Donaldson into the book for his part in the incident. The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of happiness as well as relief amongst the Queens support, as two wins on the spin have lifted Queens to within two points of the play-off position. When the sides meet back in September it was Queens who were left feeling that they should have taken something from the game, today as the visitors made their way back to Fife, I am sure that they will be feeling similarly disappointed. Gavin Reilly was chosen as man-of-the-match for the second game in a row as once again his non-stop running and defending from the front were vital for Queens.
Donaldson puts in a typically `robust` challenge