GOALS in either half were enough to ensure Queens, who are now seven games unbeaten, rounded off an impressive performance with the three points their endeavours warranted to move back into the top three as they continued to be the most likely of the pack to upset the big three’s apple cart. Although, in truth, they were allowed a near free ride from a Raith team who were limply second best from the first whistle.
Queens, knowing the carrot of regaining third after Hibs’ win was dangling tantalisingly ahead of them, started way better than Rovers, who went in one rung below the hosts. Mark Durnan saw his early half-chance pushed away by David McGurn, with the Rovers keeper following this up with another save minutes later, this time from Gavin Reilly.
Despite the teams’ closeness in terms of league standings, there was a massive gulf throughout an opening half dominated by the hosts, and it was richly deserved when John Baird fizzed home a low drive from 25 yards midway through the half. It was a great strike by the little striker against his former club but the Rovers rearguard were guilty of backing off so much they were practically in Gretna.
Raith could point to the artificial playing surface at Palmerston in search of a scapegoat to explain away their efforts, but this would be neither fair on a home team who popped the ball about to good effect or a suitable explanation for such a woeful showing from the Kirkcaldy men. Queens could have won by a far more convincing margin had they taken their chances, with Baird denied a second only by a brilliant late intervention from Scott Thomson. Mark Durnan headed the resulting corner wide when under no pressure and Derek Lyle later headed into the keeper’s arms in acres of space.
For all Queens’ possession Raith nearly picked their pockets on the hour when only the woodwork denied substitute Mark Stewart. Normal service was swiftly restored with McGurn making a spectacular double-barrel save to deny Reilly then Iain Russell as Queens brushed off this isolated scare to swiftly regain supremacy.
Stewart’s chance showed the home team they needed a second goal to put the matter to bed and it duly arrived a quarter of an hour from the end. Lyle, who was lively when introduced from the bench, whipped over a low centre into the path of Reilly who – with the visiting defence again standing watching – sealed the points with a controlled finish off the underside of the bar from six yards and sent Queens into a double-header against Hearts and Rangers with confidence high.