Queens moved to the top of the Scottish Championship table this afternoon after their 3-1 victory and Hibs` home defeat left the Palmerston men as the front runners. However that situation did not look very likely at half-time as Queens struggled to find any rhythm against a well organised Raith side, but following the interval, and after yet more simply stunning finishing from Stephen Dobbie, Queens got the goals and claimed another 3 points.
Gavin Skelton named an unchanged line-up for the third game running as Queens playing in their preferred 4-4-2 formation, looked to extend their winning sequence to 7 in a row.
The game began with the visitors attacking the Portland Drive end of the ground on a day that was pretty near perfect for football, and the early signs were good as both teams began the game by trying to move the ball around with neat, precise passing. The first half chance of the contest came following good work in midfield by Kyle Jacobs as he battled to win possession before finding Grant Anderson wide on the right. In turn Anderson found Stephen Dobbie and the in form striker went for goal but pulled his shot wide of the near upright. Queens won their first corner of the match minutes later and again it was Jacobs and Anderson who were involved in the build up play, this time Anderson`s cross was blocked away to win the set piece. Jamie Hamill`s delivery was met by Darren Brownlie at the far post and his knock back almost picked out Anderson but the ball was just cleared by the covering Raith defence.
Although the visitors were having plenty of possession in their own half, they lacked penetration when going forward and on more than one occasion good build up play was often let down by the final, incisive pass. Queens next attack also came through the play of Jacobs and Anderson. Jacobs tenacious challenge saw the ball fall nicely for Anderson and the former Raith player`s cross was punched clear by `keeper Brennan but only out to Jacobs who dragged an effort wide from 18-yards out.
Raith won themselves a corner on 17 minutes and when Hamill`s headed clearance flew straight to Thompson, his decision to hit the ball first time was the wrong choice as his effort was well off target. The visitors had a decent 10 minute spell during which they probably should have done better from a free-kick, but McManus failed to test Lee Robinson from a good position just a couple of yards outside the penalty area, and then the same player saw his close range header from a Matthews cross comfortably saved by Robinson.
The final minutes of the half produced a flurry of bookings,a number of free kicks, and very little in the way of flowing football as both teams struggled to have any meaningful possession. Raith`s Callachan was the first to be booked for what was a needless challenge on Lee Robinson, and he was swiftly followed into referee Duncan`s notebook by Barr who was late on Jordan Marshall, and just moments before half-time, Dale Hilson`s frustration saw him become the third player to see Yellow. In between that Stephen Dobbie tried an ambitious attempt from a 35-yard free-kick, and Derek Lyle came very close to latching on to a header back by M`Voto,but the half drew to a close with neither side being able to find the breakthrough and the half ended scoreless.
Lyle at full stretch
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-0 RAITH ROVERS
Queens began the second period, and after a moment of mis-fortune almost saw them take the lead. A long high hopeful punt up the park from Mark Millar looked sure to be a routine catch for `keeper Brennan, but under pressure from the challenge of Hilson, the `keeper initially made a good catch but on landing he spilled the ball but was just able to grab hold of it before it rolled over the goal line. However, seven minutes later the `keeper was powerless to prevent Queens from taking the lead. The best passing move of the game opened Raith up as Queens scored from a perfectly executed counter-attack. Anderson and Hamill combined to great effect down the right and Hamill`s perfectly placed cross fell nicely into the path of the onrushing Stephen Dobbie who swept the ball past Brennan without breaking his stride. It was a goal of stunning simplicity, first time passes, correct weight on the final cross, and finished in style by a player at the top of his game.
Dobbie strikes his first
The breakthrough certainly boosted Queens and they began to slowly take charge of the game, and once again Dobbie was playing a leading role. Queens next attack saw him and Lyle link well and when Lyle`s cross was met by Hilson, his header might have found the net but was deflected clear for a corner.
Grant Anderson was certainly keen to impress against his former club, although Kevin McHattie wasn`t so keen to see him do well as he sent him sprawling to the ground in what was a rather strong challenge, which was rightly punished with a yellow card, and minutes later after good work in midfield by Millar and Jacobs, Anderson was on the receiving end again this time Benedictus was the culprit and he too was cautioned.Derek Lyle went close to adding to his 103 goals for Queens when his header from a Hamill cross hit the post as Queens looked for a second goal.
Benedictus sends Anderson flying
There have been a few spectacular goals scored at Palmerston over the years and there is no doubt that the second of Queens` three today will go down as being one of them. With 68 minutes gone Stephen Dobbie smashed in an unstoppable volley that was nestling in the back of the net before `keeper Brennan had moved - an incredible effort of power and accuracy to take Dobbie`s total to 9 goals so far this season.
Dobbie blasts home his second
That goal gave Queens the breathing room they had been searching for and as the game moved into it`s final quarter, the hosts had several more chances to increase their lead. Dobbie went close with a low shot from distance that forced the `keeper to save, and a cross from Anderson almost found the head of Hilson as Queens assumed full control. Anderson was replaced by the fit again Lyndon Dykes and shortly afterwards Dean Brotherston replaced Derek Lyle, and the two substitutes were heavily involved in the third Queens goal that arrived on 80 minutes. Hilson and Dykes combined well and when Dykes was able to get his cross into the box, Hilson was denied a goal by a superb diving save from Brennan, but the `keeper was all out of luck when the ball fell into the path of Dean Brotherston 4-yards out who initially scuffed his shot, but got a second chance as the ball broke back to him and this time he poked the ball home.Queens final change came with 3 minutes left when Dale Hilson made way for Steven Rigg.
What would have made the day perfect was a hat-trick for Stephen Dobbie and he went close to grabbing a third twice in the final minutes of the game. Firstly he skipped past two Raith defenders leaving them standing and then watched as his curled attempt was blocked, and then after getting in behind the defence he saw his shot beat `keeper Brennan but crash against the far post. There was to be a fourth goal in the game and it came almost on the final whistle when M`Voto rose unchallenged to score a consolation for the visitors.
Brotherston scores the third
Brotherston turns to the fans to celebrate
The full time whistle was greeted by an even louder cheer than normal as news filtered through that Queens had climbed to the top of the table thanks to a surprising home defeat for Hibs, and with the prospect of upcoming games against Rangers and then Hibs, the majority of the 1864 crowd left feeling very pleased and confident that their favourites are in pretty decent shape.
Stephen Dobbie was named as man-of-the-match, although it must have been very close between him and Kyle Jacobs - boundless energy all over the park from the former Livingston man today.