The pre-season got underway this afternoon with a comfortable victory at Gala for a strong looking Queens side. Gone was the mass experimentation of last season's friendlies and instead, at least in starting terms, an experienced side, pretty close to the promotion team, took the field.
It was a whirlwind start as Queens grabbed the lead after just two minutes. McColligan started it all off, taking possession in midfield and playing a short ball to Lyle. Lyle passed the ball on to McAlpine wide on the left and he hit a low hard cross into the box which was stepped over by both Weatherson and Lyle, leaving John O'Neill with plenty of time to bury the ball behind the keeper from about eight yards out. Three minutes later and the same player almost doubled his tally, running from the halfway line towards the home penalty area but just being beaten to the ball on the edge of the box by the opposing goalkeeper who had a fine game today.
Queens seemed intent on killing the match off early and in ten minutes Peter Weatherson should have done better after working himself a one on one with the goalkeeper, only to shoot early and wide left. However, barely a further minute had passed when the same player did double the lead. This time it was trialist Ross Currie, playing at right back, who started the move, running into midfield before playing Weatherson clear in on goal again. This time Peter made no mistake, placing his shot behind the 'keeper from just inside the box.
Queens continued to exert dominance and it was a surprise that it took until the 20th minute for a third goal to come. This time it came from a left sided corner kick taken by Eric Paton. His cross was glanced away from goal by a defender but fell to the unmarked Derek Allan just inside the penalty box and middle of goal. He had plenty of time to control the ball before striking high into the net for his first goal in Queens colours. Seven minutes later, McAlpine's corner from the other side led to the home 'keeper reacting brilliantly to tip over a header from Lyle. Three should certainly have become four in the 29th minute though. Great work from Weatherson set O'Neill up with a simple side foot towards goal. However, with the goalkeeper completely out of position, John found the only defender on the line who was able to block and then complete the clearance before either O'Neill or Weatherson could force the ball home. Two minutes after that, Weatherson again left the home defence standing and chipped the 'keeper from the edge of the box only to see his effort bounce back into play off the crossbar. In the 35th minute Derek Lyle miscontrolled a cross into a defenders path and the hapless Gala player could only watch as his attempted clearance narrowly missed his own post with the 'keeper again stranded. Just before half time Lyle broke through on goal but again found the home 'keeper in stunning form as he blocked wide for a corner. From the corner Lyle again might have scored but couldn't get enough power in his effort.
By half time, the biggest surprise was that Queens weren't leading by much more than the three goals. Colin Scott hadn't been called upon at all. John Connolly obviously felt it was time to do a little more experimentation. On came three trialists, Chris McConville, Tony Hopper and David Colvin in place of Brian McColligan, John O'Neill and Joe McAlpine. With the engine room of the team completely changed, it was no surprise that Queens utter dominance of the game was reduced a fair bit. Never the less, within two minutes of the restart the lead could have been five. First Weatherson's shot from six yards out on the left was turned wide by the goalkeeper and then Lyle's effort from the right edge of the box was also turned wide impressively.
The lead should definitely have become four just after the hour mark. Jon Crawford burst forward and played Lyle into the penalty box. The former Thistle man was upended and the referee had little hesitation in awarding a penalty kick. With John O'Neill already off the park there was some good humoured debate between Weatherson and Lyle about who would take the kick but Lyle had the ball in his hands and wasn't for giving it up. However his weak effort to the right corner of the net was saved by the goalkeeper with his feet. Maybe Peter should have taken it after all!
In the 66th minute Colin Scott was called into action for the first time, diving to his right to save from a curling free kick. Ten minutes later, a long ball forward saw one of the Gala striker's jump at Colin Scott and hit him in the chest with a fist as the keeper caught the ball. Scott was clearly not best pleased and reacted angrily to the Gala player but, it being a friendly, things were calmed down by the referee without the need for any cards to be shown. Almost immediately afterward, Connolly used his final substitute with young Sean Ferrie replacing Derek Lyle.
With two minutes remaining the lead was finally extended to four goals. Eric Paton made a forceful run into the box from the right and his low cross was deflected into the path of substitute David Colvin who turned and placed the ball in the right corner of the net beyond the goalkeeper's outstretched hand.
In the end, this was an extremely comfortable win for Queens and could easily have been at least double the final winning margin. This sets us up nicely for the defence of the Scottish Brewers Cup at Annan next weekend.