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S1 - 70
S2 - 75
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First division survival was formally and mathematically assured on a warm sunny day in Inverness, though not in the manner any of us would particularly have liked. Defeat for Alloa at home to Clyde means that they cannot now catch us despite our going down by the only goal at Inverness. The last time we visited Caley we saw a match which had everything you could possibly wish for in a game of football; Penalties, sendings off, goals galore, the lot. This one had none of that. It the look and feel of typical end of season fare between two teams with little or nothing to play for in League terms. Caley did enough to win it, and deserved to on the balance of play, but it was poor fare overall.

The starting eleven showed just one change from the side which comprehensively dumped Ross County a fortnight ago with John O'Neill still feeling the hamstring tweak which caused him to be subbed that day and Sean O'Connor getting the start as a result. Ben Dawson also dropped out of the sixteen with Renicks and Derek Anderson returning to the bench. Barry Robson missed out through suspension for the home side who were otherwise at full strength.

It was a very slow opening on a warm day and it was fully eleven minutes in before the first chance of any note at all arrived for either side. It was Queens who had the chance though and really should have taken the lead. Bowey won possession on halfway and fed Lyle in plenty of space down the right. It looked like he would advance up the wing but he spotted Weatherson breaking into the box in front of his marker and swung in a perfect early cross right into "Nelly's" path. The first touch was great and saw him facing Mark Brown one on one twelve yards out but the second unfortunately "shinned" the bouncing ball straight into the grateful arms of the 'keeper. We wouldn't have a better chance all day unfortunately.

After their slow start the home side began to exert some dominance and, out of nothing, they should have taken the lead just after the quarter hour mark. A fairly aimless ball was floated behind the Queens defence but held up on the bounce allowing Ross Tokely to beat Scott out to the ball on the edge of the box. He knocked it past the goalkeeper but quite wide on the right. Catching the ball before it ran out of play he then turned it goalward and ran away celebrating the goal, never seeing Derek Allan arriving in the nick of time to hack the ball off the line before it could cross which was all very amusing really! Five minutes later Allan again popped up with a vital interception near the penalty spot which surely prevented Paul Ritchie from opening the scoring. On 24 minutes Scott again had to be very sharp to beat Ritchie to another through ball on the edge of his penalty area, saving bravely at the forward's feet. It was all ICT at this point and three minutes later Paddy Atkinson's misplaced header was seized upon by Ritchie again and he outpaced Aitken before shooting from just inside the penalty box but again Scott made a good save, parrying wide for a corner.

First Half Defence

A minute later Lyle picked up a loose ball on the right and easily beat McCaffrey before shooting powerfully from the edge of the box. Brown could only parry the effort but no-one else was close enough to take advantage of the rebound.

After that spurt of activity the game died away again and seemed to be heading for a scoreless first half when the home side took the lead again out of nothing. It came from a simple right sided corner floated to the edge of the six yard box and headed past Scott by Ross Tokely.

The second half never even lived up to the fairly low quality of the first to be honest. The first note I made came when Caley made the first substitution of the game in 53 minutes, Keogh replacing Hislop. The first chance of note arrived just after the hour when Bowey inexplicably tried to head a ball back to Colin Scott from the centre circle and was way short of pace, succeeding only in playing Richie Hart through on goal. Colin Scott redeemed his blushes though by saving brilliantly at the midfielder's feet. A few minutes later Lyle made the bye-line at the other end and crossed for O'Connor to head at the near post. His header seemed to deflect wide of goal but Mr Freeland awarded a goal kick much to the bemusement of the Queens players. Caley immediately made their second change with the injured Roy McBain being replaced with Russell Duncan.

In the 68th minute Hart showed good control before turning and shooting in the box but Scott was again equal to it and made the save. Two minutes later Ritchie turned Aitken on the left side of the penalty area and worked himself another shooting chance but this time lashed several yards over the top. At this point John Connolly made his first change replacing Paddy Atkinson with Brian McLaughlin, with Joe McAlpine dropping into the left back position. In 71 minutes Steve Bowey seized on a loose ball just outside the penalty area and elected to shoot rather than play McLaughlin in down the side, forcing a good tip over the top from Brown. Four minutes later came change number two with Eric Paton replacing Peter Weatherson as O'Connor's partner up front. On 82 minutes the home side made their final change with Charlie Christie replacing the completely anonymous (on the day anyway) Dennis Wyness. A minute later Keogh nearly wrapped up the points shooting narrowly past the foot of the right post from the edge of the box after picking up a loose ball.

In the very final minute Queens had one final chance to snatch a draw when Joe McAlpine's hoisted ball into the box was headed on for Bowey to meet with a diving header which he just couldn't get on target. Instead, with Brown floundering, the ball agonisingly missed the right post by a foot or so.

Bowsers effort clears the post
As I said above, this wasn't much of a game. Caley edged it and certainly deserved to do so on the balance of chances though neither team played very well. Most of Caley's opportunities came from our errors rather than anything particularly clever and they certainly looked to miss Robson's creativity badly especially with McBain and Wyness ineffective also. It's a performance that Queens will look back on with any particular pride but neither were we in any way outclassed by the home side who beat Celtic by the same score a fortnight earlier. With nothing really left to play for you wonder if we might see more of the same for the remaining five games though the Alloa and County ones are far from meaningless games and we may well formally relegate Arbroath with a win there next weekend. It's far from impossible that we may have a role to play in the Championship shake up also with our final game being at St Johnstone.

Ewan Lithgow

Photographs - David Gow

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