|2006/07 Season Review
||A serialised account of our season by our man who has been at every match home and away - Ewan Lithgow
|Part Ten - April||7th July 2007|
April started with a round of midweek fixtures and Queens entertained an Accies side that was the only one we'd not beaten all season. Again it was far from a vintage performance but the team were in determined mood and not liable to give away their long unbeaten run without a battle. Brian Wake gave Accies a very early lead, capitalising on a Lauchlan error but Sean O'Connor's looping header soon levelled things up again. Queens had the better of the second half but couldn't force a winner, mainly thanks to Murdoch's excellent late save from an O'Neill header. Ross County beat Partick Thistle the same night and Airdrie drew with Gretna a day later so we moved to our highest spot of the season, climbing above Thistle into 7th on goal difference, although County had actually closed the gap to 9th back to four points.
Sean's header loops over Murdoch
With Thistle next at Firhill and well out of form the expectation was that we would all but secure first division status and drop the Glasgow side further into the mire with a victory. It didn't quite go to plan though. Having gone the vast majority of the season without a scoreless draw prior to the recent Clyde match we picked up another one three games later. It was a tentative showing from both teams but Queens had the better chances and John O'Neill was very unlucky to be denied by a wonder save for the second match in a row from providing a late winner. It was an 11th game unbeaten though and with County losing at Dundee it was also another vital point towards the safety mark. We stayed 7th, above Thistle on goal difference but five points clear of both Airdrie United and Ross County, the former having climbed off the bottom courtesy of a win over Clyde.
Three to go and a perfect opportunity to clinch safety in front of a home crowd against Livingston. For good measure victory would also have moved us above the Lothian club and into the giddy heights of 6th spot and it was all going so well at half time. Sean O'Connor's brave goal just before the interval had Queens in front and, with Airdrie and Ross County drawing with one another, had it all stayed like that the job would have been done. No such luck though. Steven Craig took advantage of some slack defending to hammer home an equaliser and we had to settle for a point. The bottom two did draw but Thistle found a surprise win over Dundee which meant they and Livingston were now formally safe. We slipped to 8th again, five points above the two bottom sides who by coincidence had to play Partick and Livingston the next weekend.
Eric makes sure with a determined challenge
We had a much trickier looking trip to Perth to face a St Johnstone side chasing down Gretna for the title. It was looking like it might very well go down to the wire.
Before the trip to Perth Ian McCall was named SFL First Division Manager of the Month for March and Jamie MacDonald picked up the SFL Young Player of the Month too. Such awards are usually bad omens and so it proved again. We made a bright start at McDiarmid and should have been a couple up early but young MacDonald fumbled a corner late in the opening half and Andy Lawrie nodded the home side in front. The second half was marked by a 19 man confrontation sparked off by Jason Scotland's kick out at Jamie Adams and which saw several punches being thrown. Incredibly though referee Brian Winter saw fit to dish out only five yellow cards in the incident and no reds which was a massive let off for Scotland in particular. St Johnstone took full advantage by going on to clinch a 3-0 victory with a Simon Mensing header and a third from Willie McLaren. The last 20 minutes for both sides was all about waiting to hear results elsewhere though and when they eventually arrived it was celebration time regardless for the Doonhamer hordes in their fancy dress. The 12 game unbeaten run may have gone up in smoke but Airdrie and County both only managing to draw their games meant we were safe with a fixture to spare. Four points clear of both sides, the "Great Escape Mark 2" had been achieved.
Brilliant fancy dress as always
If anyone thought the big news of the week was another campaign of survival they were to be wrong. Almost completely out of the blue in midweek the story broke that manager Ian McCall was to leave at the end of the season. Details remain at this point sketchy as to whether he jumped or was pushed but in a public statement issued by the manager and sanctioned by the Board it was claimed that McCall wanted to gamble on a larger budget for next season with a view to a title challenge and the board refused to sanction it. The sub-text would suggest McCall preferred to leave with a view to trying his luck elsewhere rather than undertake another campaign with survival the only realistic aim. Perhaps in due course things will become clearer. At this point that's all there is to say about it. Love him or loath him, McCall was a figure always sure to command the centre of attention. Life was rarely if ever dull with him at the helm. It was confirmed at the same time that Gordon Chisholm, whose appointment as assistant was only ever intended to be temporary, would also be going.
The McCall story rather over-shadowed the final league game, which though now rendered unimportant to Queens, was crucially important to opponents Airdrie United, ahead of Ross County by only two goals going into the final match. One would be in the playoffs, and one relegated directly, which would it be? McCall had been allowed to remain in charge for the final game and had suggested pre-match that he would not be making any radical changes having been embarrassed when doing so backfired on him a year earlier. However, when the team lined up it did so in the 3-5-2 formation ditched before Xmas and with midfielder Neil Scally at sweeper and top scorer Stephen Dobbie in a withdrawn role. Andy Aitken made his first start of the season whilst surprisingly Stevie Tosh, who had appeared to be struggling for most of the last two months started anyway. It wasn't really the best of service to give to Ross County, nor to the many Queens fans who awaited a victory for cash returns on pre-season betting coupons.
A game too far for McCall
To no-one's great surprise then, the team with the greater need for the points ended up getting them. Such is the way so often in games at the back end of a football season and quite possibly it would have happened regardless of what team had been sent out. In front of a massive 1,000 fans from Airdrie the visitors struck twice in the first half through Stuart Taylor and our old adversary Ian Harty to put the match more or less beyond doubt. Midway through the second period Paul Lovering's deflected free kick confirmed the result and for good measure Jim Lauchlan, only on as a half time substitute, was sent off for an elbow on Gary Twigg. With Jim Thomson already suspended for the start of next season that will mean beginning the season with neither of the present first choice pairing at the back available. For good measure, John O'Neill had already been ruled out of the start of next season by his last minute booking at Perth the previous week and bookings on the final day for Steve Tosh and Jamie Adams will rule them out also, though of course it's far from certain that Adams will be with us then anyway.