Three defeats in a row then for Connolly's men, work to be done then to get the train back on track. The resources were well stretched today with virtually every fit first team player stripped for action, including Sean O'Connor back in the pool after his recent knee operation. There was an early morning drama for the squad when Joe McAlpine was taken ill with suspected appendicitis. That contributed to three changes to the team which faced St Mirren on Wednesday. Andy Aitken started in place of the stricken McAlpine, captain Steve Bowey returned in place of Willie Gibson and young Paul Burns was rested on the right with Derek Lyle getting a first start after his recent injury problems. On the bench, as well as the returning O'Connor were Derek Allan, Paul Talbot, Paul Burns and John Dodds. Trialist keeper Kris Robertson was again between the posts.
The game had gone just two minutes when an error by Bowey allowed Ross Tokely a shooting chance from the right corner of the box but Robertson saved easily enough. However just three minutes after that it was Queens who seized on a defensive error to grab the lead. Paton set Lyle free down the right but his low cross failed to find its target, instead being deflected to Stuart Golabek on his own goal-line. The left back attempted to clear the ball but found only Bowey waiting around the penalty spot. He struck for goal on the half-volley and the ball crept in at the right post. It wasn't entirely clear but, for my money, Gary Wood got the last touch on the ball to force it over the line.
After 11 minutes the lead should have been doubled by the same combination. Eric Paton made a fine run down the right side and put in a perfect cross for Gary Wood to nod down towards Bowey striding into the box. However, twelve yards out with only the keeper to beat "Bowser" lashed the ball over the bar. Queens were well on top now and on 21 minutes, from Robertson's long clearance, Wood nodded on and Alex Burke tried a snap-shot which was deflected past the post. Four minutes later, Burke set Bowey free on the left in a two against one situation. Despite the presence of Wood for support "Bowser" elected to go it alone and chipped Mark Brown from 18 yards. Unfortunately the ball just eluded the top corner of the goal and ICT continued to cling on. A moment or two later a fine ball forward left Barry Wilson with a decent chance from 20 yards but his meek effort was well wide of target. However, on 32 minutes, Paton nearly caught out Brown with a chip from the right touchline which landed on the roof of the net. Whether he was actually trying to do that is open to question!
Inverness were beginning to take a hold in the game though and on 33 minutes Steve Hislop's looping header from a deep cross drifted across the face of goal though Brian Reid was in attendance to ensure it didn't go in. Five minutes later Eric Paton cleared a goalbound effort away from goal. Two minutes before the break Hislop stooped to head goalward from a right sided cross but his effort struck Reid on the hand. Referee Mr Conroy though was uninterested in penalty appeals. Queens had one final chance of the first period when Andy Aitken headed a right sided corner across the face of goal but not in.
The home side came out for the second period in much better form though and wasted no time in getting level. A number of dangerous crosses were scrambled away before one final right sided ball was missed by Reid leaving Paton and Steve Hislop to go for it. It wasn't entirely clear who got to the ball first but the ball flew into the bottom left corner from 8 yards and the big striker wheeled away to take the plaudits. As if that wasn't bad enough the hosts grabbed the lead five minutes later. This time Eric Paton was forced to head away from his line again to give away a corner. The ball looked harmless enough but Robertson came for it and missed it leaving Stuart McCaffery with a simple task to nod the ball over the line.
David Bingham picked up a booking for dissent a few minutes later and, from the free-kick he was complaining about, Brian Reid very nearly connected with a towering header to equalise. A corner was awarded but it was ICT who nearly scored as a result, breaking up the right before Golabek's shot from 20 yards was just about held by Robertson with Hislop bearing in for any loose ball. A minute or two later Jim Thomson picked up a yellow card for pulling back Barry Wilson down the left side. In the 70th minute Sean O'Connor made his eagerly awaited return replacing Gary Wood.
On 73 minutes arrived the golden chance Queens were looking for to equalise. Derek Lyle slipped away from his marker and a great pass saw him clean through on goal with just Brown to beat. However, the forward never looked confident and hurried a shot into the side netting when he needed to hit the target. We would soon regret that miss. Up the other end Robertson just about held another McCaffery header and Connolly made a second change bringing on Paul Talbot for Brian McColligan, allowing Bowey to move inside.
The points were wrapped up after 81 minutes when Barry Wilson made the bye-line down the right side and turned inside before sliding a ball back into the penalty box. Roy McBain managed to get a toe to the ball and deflect it into the path of Steve Hislop who buried it in the bottom right corner from 12 yards or so. If that was bad then things still were to get worse and the home side added a 4th goal five minutes later. This time Bingham slid a perfect ball through the defence for Barry Wilson to dink over Robertson and into the corner of the net. John Robertson used the final minute or two to make three changes, with Hislop, Bingham and Wilson all withdrawn to generous applause. There was still time for Keogh to go close to adding a 5th from about 35 yards but the game finished without further scoring.
A strange game this, and one which could well have been won for all we deserved to lose. We looked dangerous throughout the first half and, for all ICT had the majority of the possession, we could easily have been three up with a Bowey hat-trick by the interval. In the second period though the home side were much the better and took us apart comprehensively. Much better is required next week against an improving Brechin side who held Falkirk today.