Queens achieved, in all honesty, a pretty comfortable win on their first ever visit to Peterhead's Balmoor Stadium. In common with last year's policy, the manager showed he has every intention of using his whole squad in these Challenge Cup ties by making no less than six changes to the side which beat Clyde on Saturday. Colin Scott replaced "The Goalie", Jon Crawford stood in for Derek Allan, Brian McColligan and John O'Neill replaced Steve Bowey and Eric Paton, Derek Lyle started up front in place of Sean O'Connor and Brian McLaughlin was in for Paddy Atkinson meaning Alan Gray dropped back to full back. Apart from the absent Atkinson, all the other rested players took up places on the substitutes bench. In the opposition side was Gordon Burns who managed about a couple of minutes at Alloa for us last season after signing from Ayr United and in the crowd as interested spectators were Jamie McAllister and Jim Leighton (who had a reunion with his old international team-mate Andy Goram on the park before the game).
It was the home side who made the livelier start and Colin Scott had to push out a dangerous corner under his bar after just two minutes. At the other end within a minute Queens had appeals for a penalty dismissed when Brian McLaughlin's right sided cross appeared to be bundled clear with an arm by centre half Mark Simpson. Queens began to exert some consistent pressure and John O'Neill was twice inches away from meeting dangerous balls into the box from Weatherson and Lyle over the next ten minutes or so. In the 15th minute, Lyle glanced a header wide of the left post following a corner kick and three minutes later McLaughlin's deep cross eluded everybody to reach Joe McAlpine at the back post area and his volley flashed across the face of goal but wide of the post.
In the 23rd minute, Weatherson broke free from Kevin Tindal and, despite a kick at him from the defender, was able to run in on goal but he placed his shot beyond Paul Mathers in the home goal and beyond the far post too. Tindal picked up a booking for the kick. Five minutes later, McAlpine's long ball forward set both strikers running clear beyond the defence. Derek Lyle cut inside from the left with the ball and fired a shot towards the bottom right corner only to see Mathers make a fine diving parry and the rebound eluded O'Neill again. Mathers again came to the rescue of his team in the 33rd minute. A long ball out of defence by Crawford was seized upon by Weatherson who set up McColligan just inside the box. However, the former Clydebank players shot at goal was accurate but lacked any real power and Mathers saved again high to his left. Just before half time Peterhead finally showed up front again with a shot from Keith Robertson causing Scott to dive across his goal though the ball did finish well wide of the right post.
The home side came much more into the game in the second half but it was still Queens making the dangerous chances. Just three minutes in, Alan Gray broke up the right and put in a great cross which Mathers couldn't reach but McAlpine failed to bundle in at the back post. However, in 51 minutes, from a long free kick, Kevin Bain sent in a high looping header which Scott was just able to reach back-peddling before it could cross the goal line. Two minutes later came the save of the game. Joe McAlpine made a skilful run up the left side, breaking into the penalty area and leaving three opponents tackling thin air before sliding a cross in towards Derek Lyle. Lyle side-footed the ball goalwards from about six yards but somehow Mathers parried the ball down with his body and it bounced up off the turf and over the crossbar. In 56 minutes, Mathers was again called into action to save McLaughlin's drive from the edge of the box.
For all Queens chances though there was always the danger that the home team would score on the break and they so nearly did so in 58 minutes. Iain Stewart found himself in space just inside the Queens penalty area on the right side and shot powerfully only to be denied by an excellent diving parry from Scott. Fortunately, the rebound fell for Crawford to hook clear. The home side made a couple of changes within the next ten minutes but again it was Queens who should have taken the lead with a gilt edged chance. This time McLaughlin won possession in midfield and slid a ball through the defence, sending O'Neill clear. "Trigger" sent Mathers the wrong way alright but placed his shot just outside the foot of the right post and into the side netting. In the 72nd minute Peterhead again had a good chance when a striker found himself clear of the defence in the penalty area with no offside given but his control let him down and Scott was able to gather the ball.
Queens finally grabbed the lead they richly deserved a minute later and what a goal it was. I thought it would be a while before I saw a better goal from a Queens player then Eric Paton's against Clyde; In fact it was just three days. Queens won a left sided corner and, with everyone else relaxing, Joe McAlpine responded to John O'Neill's shout to take a quick but inch perfect kick to the back right of the penalty area. O'Neill met the ball as sweetly as he possibly could and volleyed the ball past the stunned Mathers into the right side of the net from about 15 yards before running to celebrate with the Queens bench.
At the other end in 77 minutes, Jon Crawford stretched to cut out a cross and very nearly deflected it past Scott but the goalkeeper was able to reach back and stop the ball on its way in to goal. A minute later the contest was over. A huge headed clearance from the Queens left back area cleared the whole Peterhead defence. Derek Lyle was offside but made no attempt to play the ball as he ran away from goal which left Peter Weatherson clear on goal with only O'Neill for company. Turning down the chance to square the ball, "Nelly" drew the 'keeper, slipped past him and knocked the ball into the empty net to double the advantage.
In the 80th minute Colin Scott did well to rush from his line and save at the feet of Iain Stewart and two minutes later, Alan Gray challenged Stuart Mackay just inside his own box. Mackay finished up in a heap but got up only to see referee Kevin Toner waving a yellow card at him for diving. It was never a penalty kick in a month of Sundays but, to be fair, I'm not convinced that the striker was trying to dive rather than just fell over. Before play could restart, O'Connor replaced Weatherson up front. In the 84th minute, two goals should have become three. Queens were awarded a free kick on the left side of the penalty area about 25 yards out following a challenge which left both Lyle and O'Connor grounded. O'Neill tried to place it over the wall but it was flicked on by a defender over his goalkeeper and against the bar. Lyle dived at the loose ball but only succeeded in heading the ball away from goal where it was met and volleyed across the face of goal by McAlpine. With two minutes remaining O'Neill set up O'Connor with a chance but Sean's shot was blocked by a defensive leg before it could reach goal and in the final minute Mathers made another decent save from McLaughlin's shot towards the top left corner.
In the end, a well merited win though we made hard work of actually clinching it. We now await the draw to see where we will play in the second round next Tuesday. With Saturday's trip to Dingwall to follow this one, we could do with a home tie or at least a relatively close away one.