Not surprisingly following the last two matches, manager John Connolly sent out an unchanged team determined to put an end to Stranraer's "bogey team" status. However, the match was less than sixty seconds old when our old nemesis, Ian Harty, somehow found himself alone in front of goal, six yards out. Colin Scott produced a tremendous save to deny the striker.
It was Queens though who exerted the early authority and they took the lead from their first serious attack. An extremely loose pass-back from the halfway line gave away a corner kick from the Queens right. Paddy Atkinson took it and his in-swinging cross seemed to be flapped back into his own net by Stranraer's goalkeeper, Mark McGeown. The goal was awarded and the stadium announcer credited it to Paddy. However, John O'Neill clearly felt he had got a touch to the ball on it's way in and indicated so to the referee. The official seemed to agree so don't be surprised if the goal is ultimately credited to the currently free scoring midfielder.
Eleven minutes in and Jim Thomson stood on the ball on the edge of his own box, allowing George Shaw a free run in on goal. However, fortunately for us, he took the chance early and lashed it over the crossbar. In the 23rd minute, Queens so nearly doubled their advantage. Craig Feroz managed to send O'Neill clear and the midfielder lifted the ball over McGeown from the edge of the box but the covering Dougie Johnstone was able to get back and clear off the line. It was to be a turning moment in the game.
Two minutes later and Shaw went down in the Queens box under challenge from John Crawford. Though the former Arbroath defender complained bitterly about the decision, a penalty was awarded and, needless to say, it was Ian Harty who sent Scott the wrong way to equalise. Within a minute, Stranraer should have taken the lead when a left sided corner somehow found Kevin Gaughan all alone in front of goal but the defender missed his strike and the grateful Colin Scott gathered in the ball.
John O'Neill tries to make some space.
The goal was delayed only by ten minutes or so though. When it came it was a marvellous solo effort from George Shaw. The striker beat at least four challenges, including Jim Thomson twice, before rounding Colin Scott and giving his side the lead. It was a tremendous effort from Shaw but the defence really should have done better. The remainder of the half was notable only for two of the home side's defenders, Fraser Wright and Derek Wingate, picking up bookings.
Stranraer made a half time change, bringing former Queens man Mark Weir on in place of Kevin Finlayson. Five minutes into the half a Stranraer free kick found its way to Wingate in front of goal but he was denied by a brave dive at his feet by Scott. Almost immediately, Ian Harty found himself with a chance at the edge of the box but chipped just over the bar.
There followed a spell of four bookings in four minutes which changed the course of the match again. First Billy McDonald was booked for his third foul of the afternoon and then Craig Feroz became the first visitor in the book for a retaliatory challenge on Stephen Aitken. Paddy Atkinson became our second booking just after that for a foul at the halfway line. Finally, McDonald saw red for his second booking following a blatant and stupid body check on Gordon Connelly. From the resulting free kick Joe McAlpine just failed to get a proper connection on his back post shot.
Just after the hour mark Paddy Atkinson worked a superb 1-2 opening and seemed set to equalise but somehow McGeown got something on the ball and saved the day. On 68 minutes Craig Feroz had a great turn and shot which was well saved again by McGeown. It was pretty much one way traffic now and in the 75th minute Peter Weatherson worked himself an opening on the left side of the box but shot over the top. The goal just had to come and come it did. It was that man John O'Neill again on the mark, meeting Paddy Atkinson's 77th minute corner kick with a well placed header.
The final minute saw both sides nearly score a winning goal. First Mark Weir was given space on the left to put in a cross which was caught by the high wind and so nearly beat Colin Scott at his back post. Then Craig Feroz gained possession out on the left touchline and evaded three or four challenges before striking over from the edge of the penalty area.
In summary, this was a game that both teams will feel they had enough chances to win. In the end a draw was probably fair enough and, if nothing else, we certainly won't be dropping all twelve points to our neighbours this season.
Thanks to Iain Bell for the action shots.