Queens slumped to a 1-0 home defeat this afternoon in their Championship clash against Raith Rovers, and despite creating numerous chances to score, they were unable to convert any of them. The failure to find the net proved costly and it allowed the visitors to become the first team to leave Dumfries with all three points since Ross County did so on the last day of the 2011/12 season. After falling behind to a 17th minute goal from Grieg Spence, Queens had the better of the goal scoring opportunities, but were very wasteful when it came to finishing. The loss was compounded with 12 minutes remaining when defender, Mark Durnan, received a straight red card for kicking out at goalscorer Spence, as Queens ended their third successive league game without scoring.
Queens boss, Jim McIntyre, had virtually all of his squad to select from, including for the first time, new signing Kevin Dzierzawski, and only Paul Burns, who is still sidelined following an injury sustained in the League Cup win over St.Mirren, was absent. Although the manager made just one change to the team that shared the points against Alloa, with Iain Russell starting in place of Michael Paton, he did change positions and also the formation. Ryan McGuffie moved to right-back, and Chris Mitchell started wide right, with Russell partnering Derek Lyle upfront as Queens lined up in a 4-4-2 formation., with the new signing starting his Queens career on the bench. Unlike Queens,visitors Raith were in action last weekend when they entertained Falkirk in the Ramsdens Cup, with Gordon Smith`s late winner being enough to put Rovers through to their first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2003.
After the disappointing display against Alloa in their last game, Queens were eager to put the memory of that clash behind them, and they began the match brightly forcing Raith `keeper McGurn to be alert, firstly punching clear a Chris Mitchell free-kick, and then collecting a high cross from Ryan McGuffie. The home side continued to have the better of the opening period, and following neat play by Danny Carmichael, they won the game`s first corner, however the set-piece delivery from Mitchell being somewhat disappointing as his deep cross was over hit and evaded everyone in a blue shirt.
Mitchell challenges McGurn
Raith`s response was to launch a quick counter attack, and win their first corner of the game which was comfortably dealt with by the Queens defence. The first half chance fell to Queens after 16 minutes. Calum Antell`s long clearance was flicked on by Lyle into the path of Russell, and as the striker went towards goal his control let him down and he was unable to get his shot away. Just seconds after that chance, Queens fell behind. A long diagonal pass from Fox over the top of the Queens defence was well controlled by Anderson and his instant pass across the six-yard box was turned in by Spence from close range. Queens responded well to the set back, and went very close to grabbing an equaliser minutes later. After collecting a loose ball in midfield, Lyle released Carmichael down the left, and the striker made up the ground to be on the end of Carmichael`s excellent delivery, meeting the ball with a firm header that was pushed away by `keeper McGurn. Slowly but surely, the home side were having more of the possession, and on the 30 minute mark they created their best chance of the half. After a foul on Russell midway inside the Raith half, Mitchell`s delivery to the far post from the free-kick was headed back across goal by Lyle, where Mark Durnan powered a close range header towards the top corner only to see McGurn pull off an outstanding reflex save to keep his side ahead.
Lyle has a chance but the header was saved by McGurn
The away side were next to threaten when a quick break ended with a shot from distance by Cardle, spinning well wide of the far post. Moments later it was Queens turn to go close. After a spell of possession football that took them from left to right and back again, Derek Young found an opening just outside the penalty box, but he was unable to keep his shot down and the ball sailed over the bar. With the half approaching it`s conclusion, Queens went close once again. A neat exchange of passes down the left involving Young and Russell created a chance for Carmichael, and after cutting inside the winger`s effort almost found the top corner, but McGurn was able to tip the ball over comfortably.The resulting corner saw Queens go even closer to drawing level as Chris Higgins rose above the defence only to see his goal bound header cleared off the line. The closing minutes saw both sides go close to scoring, firstly a break by Raith should have seen Spence double his and his team`s tally, heading wide from Anderson`s precise cross, and then following another Mitchell corner, Durnan could only glance his header wide of the goal when well positioned 6-yards out.
So a frustrating half for Queens once again saw them go into the interval a goal behind, but at least they managed to create plenty of opportunities unlike in the previous home game against Alloa, and if they had been more fortunate in front of goal,they could well have been ahead at the break.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-1 RAITH ROVERS
Neither side made any changes at the break, and with Queens attacking the Portland Drive end of the ground, the 2nd period got under way. Unfortunately, the expected urgency at the start of the half from the home support in the crowd of 1620, failed to materialise as it was the visitors who started the brighter. Forcing 3 corners in as many minutes, they had the Queens defence under pressure, and Spence went very close to scoring following a left wing cross as Raith were virtually camped inside the Queens half. Boss Jim McIntyre replaced Iain Russell with Gavin Reilly after 57 minutes, the substitution drawing a mixed response from the home support, and Reilly became the next Queens player to go close, his header from close range clearing the bar following Carmichael`s run and cross. As the home side began to grow into the half, they carved out yet another chance as Andy Dowie and Stephen McKenna linked well to set Lyle free. However, the striker elected to shoot from a narrow angle which was not really the best option, and McGurn saved easily.
The injection of pace possessed by Reilly was starting to worry Raith, and the substitute was involved in another half chance as Queens continued to attack the visitors. Reilly`s fine pass found Carmichael who in turn rolled the ball into the path of McKenna, and his shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide for another corner as Queens continued to search for the equaliser that their play deserved. Queens made their second change on 66 minutes as Derek Young was replaced by Kevin Dzierzawski who at last, made his competitive debut. In a rare break, Raith`s Elliot drove a shot well wide, but moments later, it was Queens going close yet again when Mitchell`s well placed free-kick was headed clear just ahead of Lyle. Michael Paton replaced Chris Mitchell for the final 20 minutes of the game, and shortly afterwards a stinging drive from McKenna was well held by McGurn, diving to his left to save. With Queens continuing to enjoy the bulk of the play but not being able to find a way past a solid Raith back line, on 78 minutes, the situation became even worse for the home side when they were reduced to 10-men. After tussling for the ball midway inside his own half, Mark Durnan aimed a kick at Elliot almost under the eyes of the referee, and the official immediately reached for the red card to end Durnan`s part in the game.
Carmichael moves forward
Queens almost replied in perfect style when a cross from McKenna-now playing at right back-found the head of Reilly, but the young striker could not find either the power or the direction to test the `keeper. New signing Kevin Dzierzawski showed a few nice touches, and picked out a couple of very good long range passes which bodes well for the future, although obviously, he certainly lacked a bit of match fitness. The visitors almost added a second goal at the end, when young substitute Lewis Vaughan created half a chance, but his effort was blocked by Dzierzawski and Antell between them, Ryan McGuffie was cautioned for a late challenge on Vaughan, as the visitors held on to claim the victory.
The result ended Queens long unbeaten home league record, and more worryingly, it is now 3 games without a goal, but at least chances are being created, and with a bit more composure and luck, Queens could and should have taken at least a point from the game. So it`s now on to Tuesday night and the cup tie against Rangers, should be a great occasion, with the cup holders taking on the cup favourites.