This was a comprehensive and assured performance from a team which looks more and more like it knows it's destiny lies a division up and is determined to get there as soon as possible. The fixture had a real banana skin look about it and, despite their lowly position, Morton had already given us three hard games this season. However, they were brushed aside with a performance which never really fired on all cylinders but was more than good enough.
The good news was that goalkeeper Colin Scott passed a fitness test and was able to play though Andy Aitken was on goal kick taking duty all night. Four changes though were made to the team which was held by Berwick on Saturday past. Jon Crawford made his first appearance of 2002 at left back in place of the suspended Derek Anderson after Paddy Atkinson failed his fitness test. The entire centre midfield was switched with the fit again first choice of O'Neill and Bowey replacing Davidson and Connell. Finally, Sean O'Connor returned to the starting line up with Peter Weatherson taking his turn on the bench.
The game started slowly and it was eight minutes before anything of note occurred. However, the first real action saw Queens take the lead with a hint of controversy. A long ball was knocked over the top of the Morton defence and beyond the clearly offside Derek Lyle. Lyle, however, made no attempt to chase the ball and instead Sean O'Connor ran forward beyond the defence. To be honest it was touch an go whether O'Connor might also have been offside but the big man didn't wait to check and powered forward down the left side. Breaking into the penalty area, he fired a low drive underneath Craig Coyle and into the bottom right corner of the net to score his first Queens goal against his old side.
The big striker might have doubled his tally just before the half hour mark when his free header from a McAlpine corner flashed past the near post. A couple of minutes later, from a right sided cross, the headed clearance dropped perfectly for John O'Neill to volley narrowly wide from 25 yards. Our hosts were forced to make two substitutions before half time with Curran and Wright picking up injuries. In between times Missano had their best chance of the half when a poor Thomson header landed at his feet twelve yards out. His shot was deflected upward by Jim Thomson and tipped over the bar by the agile Colin Scott. In the 38th minute, more good work by O'Connor gave Lyle the opportunity to try an audacious chip from the edge of the box but his effort was wide of goal with Coyle scrambling. In the final minute of the half, first former Queens favourite Warren Hawke had a curling effort narrowly miss Scott's left post and then Lyle drove into the side netting from the edge of the penalty box.
By half time it was apparent that Alloa were winning comfortably at home to Stenhousemuir so it was important that we not give away our advantage and soon O'Connor was back in the fray, narrowly missing the target with another drive from the edge of the box. In the 53rd minute the lead was finally doubled. O'Connor powered down the right side and, having beaten his defender, pulled the ball back towards Bowey at the edge of the box. The midfielder's strike was charged down before it could go even a yard but only went as far as John O'Neill standing 25 yards out and he drove into the bottom left corner of the net leaving Coyle helpless.
Within a minute two should have been three when O'Connor and Lyle tore the home defence to shreds again, presenting Bowey with and opportunity to knock the ball into the empty net from inside the six yard box. However, somehow the midfielder managed to miss the target which must have been quite a feat! At the other end, in a rare Morton foray, a Canning shot was heading for the top corner before Colin Scott appeared to tip it over the bar. In the 56th minute Derek Lyle appeared to be fouled inside the penalty area but fell forward outside the box and the referee awarded a free kick right on the edge instead. Gordon Connelly struck the kick directly into the wall but the rebound came right back to him. Rather than try the same again, he played a delicate ball into the danger area which was missed by a defender leaving John O'Neill all the time in the world to knock home his second and Queens third from six yards out. This was the third time this season he's scored twice against Morton at Cappielow!
In 71 minutes came a moment of some concern for Queens when Missano seemed to elbow Gordon Connelly in the face challenging for a high ball he was never going to get. The Morton man was booked whilst Connelly was stretchered off the field and replaced by Allan Moore. Two minutes later, McAlpine picked up a booking for what seemed a perfectly good challenge on Dylan Kerr, the referee seeming to take action only in response to the reaction from the Morton players. With just over ten minutes remaining, Missano, who was perhaps fortunate not to see a straight red card for his earlier challenge on Connelly, saw one anyway for his second bookable offence, a hack at Bowey on the halfway line. Queens replaced McAlpine with Connell at this point, presumably as Joe was carrying a booking, and three minutes later, the substitute almost made it four when his back post volley from a tight angle was headed off the line. There was little further action and John Connolly replace O'Connor with Weatherson in the final minute, earning the ex-Morton man a well deserved solo round of applause for his performance.
So another fine performance from Queens. With Alloa winning as well, the lead remains at five points but there are now only four games to go and it will be hard for Terry Christie's side to pull back that gap if we can avoid defeat there on Saturday coming. We also moved to eleven points clear of Clydebank pending the outcome of their match with Berwick tomorrow night and if they fail to win that one it's going to be a very hard task to haul back that gap too.
An immaculately observed minutes silence in memory of the Queen Mother
Photograph by David Gow