Queens made it back to back home league wins as their 13th league game at Palmerston this season proved to be lucky. The hosts held a two-goal advantage at the break, and although visitors, Raith reduced the deficit on the hour mark, Gary Naysmith`s side ran out worthy winners and in doing so, reduced the gap to 8 points over fourth placed Morton.
After last weekends narrow loss against Dundee United, there were recalls for all three players who were cup tied in that game, as John Rankin, Scott Mercer, and Joe Thomson took the places of Chris Higgins, Connor Murray, and Jamie Hamill who were all included in the match day squad.
With a swirling wind blowing all around Palmerston, Queens lined up in a change of formation electing to go with a 4-2-3-1 set up, with Rankin and Kyle Jacobs sitting, and Derek Lyle playing as the lone striker behind Stephen Dobbie, Joe Thomson, and Dom Thomas.
The game was only a few minutes old when Queens created their first half chance.Good play down the left involving Dobbie and Jordan Marshall allowed the full back to pick out an inviting cross and although Lyle got his head to the ball, his effort went straight into the hands of `keeper Brennan. The change of formation certainly gave a good balance to the Queens team, and with Rankin looking in fine form early on, and Dobbie starting the game in creative mood, the majority of the game was being played inside the Raith half, and after making a promising start it came as no surprise to see Queens open the scoring after just 7 minutes. With the ball bouncing in the area and some Raith defenders appealing for a foul the ball eventually broke to John Rankin just inside the penalty box on the angle and he wasted no time in thumping a tremendous drive past `keeper Brennan to give Queens the best possible start.
........and celebrates the goal
With the home side in control every attack provided further chances for Queens and on another day they might well have increased their lead long before they eventually did. There were chances for Joe Thomson whose mazy run almost bore fruit,and Jacobs wasn`t far away when well placed, and then Scott Mercer tried his luck from 20-yards out but his drive started wide and finished even wider of the far upright. Possibly the best opportunity came via a free kick.Dom Thomas was brought down by Barr yards outside the box in what was a central position, and although Dobbie`s effort got over the wall, it didn`t dip enough to trouble`keeper Brennan. Dobbie went close again minutes later when after combining well with Lyle his attempted curling effort was clawed away by the `keeper at the second attempt and as both Lyle and Thomson closed in on the loose ball, the Raith shot stopper did well to recover the situation. Following that incident Brennan required treatment which resulted in him not being able to move comfortably, but with the away side not having a substitute `keeper available, he had no option but to continue.
Brennan picks up an injury early on
As Queens continued in the ascendancy a second goal looked very likely and on 36 minutes it duly arrived. Having won yet another corner, Queens had to settle for a second after the first was blocked, and when the delivery from Thomas went deep to the back post Marshall`s header back into the box was seized upon by Derek Lyle and the striker was able to claim his 13th goal of the season from close range.
Lyle strikes number two...............
Queens were well in control at this point and the only negative of the half arrived after 42 minutes when Kyle Jacobs was cautioned for a foul on Stevenson. Although it was probably the correct decision - the challenge was a fraction late - Jacobs himself had been on the end of one or two bruising challenges, particularly from Davidson, and the booking seemed a little harsh on the Queens midfielder.
Little had been seen of the visitors as an attacking force in the opening period and as the half neared it`s conclusion a tame shot from Benedictus sailed across the face of goal after the visitors had been awarded a free-kick. Moments later the half time whistle sounded with the home support in the crowd of 1484 more than happy with what they had just seen.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 2-0 RAITH ROVERS.
The second half had quite a low key start and the only worthy piece of action saw Raith`s Thompson hit a shot that went well wide of the far post as a scrappy spell of play hailed the opening phase of the second period.
Queens first venture forward might have ended with a goal as a free-kick from Thomas from fully 40-yards out almost caught the `keeper out, but the speculative effort just skimmed the top of the bar and went behind, and Thomas - who had had a fairly quiet first half - went for goal again minutes later which Brennan saved comfortably. The next quick break from Queens started with Stephen Dobbie breaking down the left. He slipped the ball inside to Rankin who in turn worked the ball into the path of Thomas and when the on-loan Motherwell man looked to play in Lyle, he was unable to find the strength of pass needed and the chance had gone.
The home side were just starting to yield more of the possession to Raith, and as a result the away side began to enjoy more of the game but on 58 minutes it looked as though the game was sealed in favour of Queens when Dobbie seemed to have got his timing right to finish well from the edge of the box, but the far side assistant had his flag raised to signal for offside - a very tight decision and it could have gone either way. Had that goal been given I`m sure Queens would have enjoyed a comfortable final half an hour, but as it was just two minutes later, Raith found a way back into the contest almost from nowhere.Scott Mercer conceded a free-kick wide on the right and although Stevenson was unlucky to see his header crash off the bottom of the far post, when the ball was recycled it was met by a thumping header from centre-back M`Voto who gave Lee Robinson no chance from close range.
MVoto heads home
Of course the goal inspired Raith and as the game moved towards its finale, Queens began to set a bit deeper in an effort to hold on to the 3 points. Lyndon Dykes replaced Derek Lyle with 18 minutes to go and the substitute was involved in the move that finally ended with another drive from Thomas that went well wide. Thomas was in the action minutes later when he was the taker of another set-piece, unfortunately though his shot went straight into the wall. A free-kick at the other end almost proved costly for Queens when the first shot was blocked, a follow up effort from Stewart was spilled by Robinson but thankfully the Queens `keeper recovered to make the save, and Raith had an even better chance to level the game when substitute Ryan Hardie sent a close range header over the bar.
A second Queens change saw winger Thomas replaced by Danny Carmichael for the final 6 minutes and his first involvement in the game was to win a corner that almost brought a third Queens goal but Darren Brownlie`s unchallenged header went straight at the `keeper.
Craig Barr puts in an unorthodox challenge
To run the clock down Queens made their final change in stoppage time as young Ross Ferguson replaced Stephen Dobbie.
The man of the match award was given to John Rankin whose fine performance was topped off with his first Queens goal, and with Morton and Falkirk both dropping points, the chase for the play-off places is certainly within Queens sights.