Queen’s Park 0 Raith Rovers 3
For the second week in succession it was cup duty for the Spiders … this time of the Scottish variety.
After slipping out of the Irn-Bru Cup last Friday to two late goals from the Nomads, it was another tough test for Mark Roberts’ men, with high-flying Raith Rovers the visitors.
To say Queen’s have a poor record against the Fifers would be a bit like saying there have been a few hurdles in the Brexit process. We’ve lost 12 league games in a row to the men from Kirkcaldy, and a League Cup tie as well.
In fact, you’ve got to go back almost exactly 13 years to December 2005 for the last time we tasted victory against Raith … but that was a Scottish Cup tie here at Hampden, so maybe there were some grounds for optimism.
The other plusses were that Queen’s have been playing some nice stuff in recent weeks and look to have a bit of a goal threat. And before the Nomads game we’d won five and drawn one of our last six.
But that didn’t impress the Bookies who had the Fife side as odds-on favourites, with Queen’s a generous 4-1 to record a surprise victory.
Given the way the Spiders have been going, it was no surprise to see the Hampden Gaffer field an unchanged starting XI, with Dean Kindlan for Smart Osadolor on the bench the only change in the squad.
It was a dreich afternoon as kick-off approached, but the pitch looked in super nick despite the pounding it took in the rain on Tuesday night.
Queen’s had the first opportunity after 90 seconds when McLean was decked on the right. Summers whipped in a beauty that was finally scrambled behind for a corner. The short one was neatly worked, but Jamie McKernon’s ball in was well claimed by keeper Thomson. (Or at least your scribe thinks it was McKernon who crossed, in the gathering gloom it was difficult to tell with no floodlights on.
After four minutes Jordan Hart had to be quick off his line to thwart a Raith break … and then the lights came on.
Wedderburn got pulled up twice within a minute for fouls on Kurtis Roberts and Kieran Moore without any card … and then McLean went in the book for his first foul – a trip on Flanagan.
In the 10th minute, Gerry McLauchlan had to rise quickly to nod a dangerous cross behind for a corner which produced a spot of ping-pong before going behind for a goal kick.
Seconds later the Spiders were so close to taking the lead as Moore robbed Davidson and fed Euan East. His cross was deflected onto the bar before going over for a corner.
That was cleared and Raith promptly ran up the park and opened the scoring. Armstrong sprinted clear on the right and his cross was touched home at the near post by the prolific Nesbit. It was as simple as it was painful to watch.
Despite being behind, Queen’s were very much in the game and East carved out an opening for himself, but the final shot lacked power.
It should have been level after 21 minutes when Summers fired over a teasing cross that found the head of Lewis Hawke, but he couldn’t keep the effort down and a real chance was lost. Would we pay a heavy price for that?
We did – within 90 seconds – when another break down the right saw Armstrong’s cross touched home by Buchanan. It was cruel, but we’ve seen it before.
It could have been worse moments later as another dangerous cross from the right was headed back across our goal and this time it was the woodwork to our rescue.
Referee Wilson wasn’t winning many friends in the home support and showed his inconsistency after 28 minutes. East skinned Gillespie yet again and the full back tried to haul the youngster’s jersey off his back. Wilson played the advantage – fair enough – but when play broke up he refused to go back and book the offender.
To rub salt in the now open wounds, he yellow carded McLauchlan for pointing out to the whistler the error of his ways.
As we entered the final 10 minutes of the half, the visitors continued to show their impressive power on the break – and Queen’s continued to look lively if not lethal.
Summers and East had crosses blocked after being set up by the energetic McKernon, before Roberts tried his luck without success.
Queen’s Park 0 Raith Rovers 2
Neither side made a change at the break, and the opening exchanges were very similar to the first period, with Queen’s doing the probing … but not quite finding a way through.
Roberts and Summers combined nicely after 48 minutes before East’s volleyed cross was hacked to safety by Murray.
The Spiders earned the first corner of the half after 51 minutes and Benedictus had to be at his best to get between Moore and Dom McLaren to get in the clearing header.
The Spiders had an incredible escape seconds later as Raith broke on the left and the ball in ran right across the face of our goal before being hoofed to safety.
But the third goal was only briefly delayed and after 57 minutes, Flanagan skipped between a couple of challenges and rolled the ball beyond the helpless Hart.
It was now in danger of becoming a sore one as Raith scented blood. Nesbit could have scored on the hour, but lofted his effort high over the top after being neatly played in.
To their credit, Queen’s tried to keep going and Grant was unlucky to see a cross ricochet to safety off the heel of Davidson.
The afternoon was summed up on 66 minutes when McLean found himself in space and unleashed a howitzer that beat Thomson all ends up, but rattled the bar and bounced to safety.
That was the sign for Mark to make his first change – replacing Moore and Roberts with Adam Martin and Gregor Fotheringham. Neither of the players who made way had cause to rebuke themselves, but with this game now well gone, it was an opportunity for Adam and Gregor to get some playing time under their belts.
Queen’s had McLaren to thank for keeping the score at three when he kneed an effort from Armstrong off the line.
Wilson again earned the wrath of the home support when Gillespie was skinned – this time by Martin – and this time the full back tried to click his heels. He missed – and again Wilson chose to ignore the attempt.
Moments later, Gillespie was hooked – perhaps even his manager suspected a card would eventually come his way.
Lewis Magee came on for McLauchlan, perhaps with Tuesday’s game against Cowdenbeath in mind.
Former Spider Chris Duggan replaced Nesbit with 10 minutes remaining and the sub’s first touch saw him skin McLaren to win a foul in a dangerous place. Armstrong’s shot was on target, but found Hart perfectly placed to make a routine stop.
Five minutes from time, Fotheringham battled brilliantly to win the ball and release McLean, but there was nobody in the middle to get on the end of his teasing cross.
Milne replaced Buchanan with three minutes left.
Wilson ignored loud appeals for a penalty from Queen’s when Martin went down in the box. It was the last incident of a disappointing afternoon as the final whistle sounded soon after.
So Queen’s go out of a cup for the second game in succession, but it’s a very different feeling this time. Raith deserved the victory and made full use of the potent attacking threat they pose.
Queen’s for their part, worked right to the end and continued trying to play football. They won’t face many better attacks than they were up against today … and despite the scoreline, they made their League 1 opponents work for the right to be in the draw for the next round.
It’s Round 2 of the Hampden v Fife battle on Tuesday night when we head for Central Park to face Cowdenbeath. The return to league action would be a good time to get back to winning ways.
Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park:Jordan Hart, James Grant, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Dominic McLaren, Euan East, Kurtis Roberts, Lewis Hawke, Kieran Moore, Scott McLean. Subs: Gregor Fotheringham, Josh Peters, Dean Kindlan, Billy Mortimer, Lewis Magee, Adam Martin, Kieran McDougall (SK).