Raith Rovers hosting Queen of the South on a dreich Friday night in Kirkcaldy, with a sparse attendance an inevitability, never seemed the most attractive of fixtures.
Scorers: Stewart (59, 78), Nade (62); Queen of the South - Baird (7) Reilly (50) Lyle (74) Russell (90)
A strange one for BBC Alba to select for television coverage, certainly.
How foolish that assumption now seems.
The 1,552 paying fans – with a handful of hardy souls from Dumfries – and those tuning in to enjoy the action in the comfort of their own homes were treated to seven goals, a red card and a host of passable chances.
While the Gaelic commentary may have been unintelligible to most, the action spoke for itself as Rovers and Queens served
up a feast of football under the Friday night lights.
James Fowler – who might just be having second thoughts about this management lark given the stress he endured last night – saw his side claim a 4-3 win in the most dramatic fashion when they should have been out of sight by the hour.
They were holding a richly-deserved 2-0 lead and had already struck the woodwork twice by the 50-minute mark.
John Bairda, who is a hero round these parts after his extra-time goal against Rangers won the challenge Cup to end Rovers’ 20-year trophy drought, was first to strike, bundling home from close range after seven minutes when Ross Laidlaw fumbled a Danny Carmichael cross.
Baird and Gavin Reilly struck the bar and post respectively before they doubled the lead immediately after the interval.
Reilly eventually found his range, converting a perfect cutback from the excellent Carmichael from six yards. At this stage, it was a case of “how many?” for rampant Queens.
Then Rovers boss Grant Murray introduced Mark
Stewart to replace the ineffective Barrie McKay. It is the eternal question: does an inspired substitution indicate inspired management or an erroneous team selection to start with?
Either way, the striker scored with his first touch of the ball, bundling past Zander Clark after being teed up by the busy Martin Scott.
Rovers, now playing in a more orthodox 4-4-2, were a different side and restored parity within minutes. Christian Nade prodded over the line after Clark had parried a ferocious Ryan Conroy shot.
Unlike his celebration at Easter Road, Nade managed to keep his shirt on as he wheeled away in delight.
However, Kevin Holt’s ill-timed tackling was exposed, and the Queens left-back was sent off for a wild challenge on Jason Thomson.
Fowler was determined to prove that anything his old Kilmarnock team-mate Murray could do, he could do better. His own super substitution saw Derek Lyle climb from the bench – before rising highest to head ten-man Queens into the lead.
Stewart hit back three minutes later, but this was a match which deserved a story-book ending, and Iain Russell obliged.
The experienced striker latched on to a neat Lyle knockdown and, with the the clock ticking down, fizzed a deflected drive past Laidlaw to claim all three points.
Raith Rovers: Laidlaw, Thomson, Watson, Ellis, McKeown, Conroy, Fox, Moon (Stewart 58), McKay (Anderson 58), Scott, Nade (Vaughan 87). Subs not used: Callachan, McGurn, Matthews, Bates.
Queen of South: Clark, Kidd, Dowie, Higgins, Holt, Carmichael, Kerr (Dzierzawski 88), McShane, Russell, Baird (Fowler 73), Reilly (Lyle 71). Subs not used: Atkinson, Slattery,Hooper, Dean Smith.
Referee: A Muir.