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St.JOHNSTONE 4 : 1 QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
9th August 2003
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A disappointing but not entirely unexpected defeat for Queens in today's opening League fixture at favourite's St Johnstone. John Connolly made three changes to the team which lost at Stranraer last weekend. Derek Allan replaced tonsillitis victim Jim Thomson whilst Willie Gibson and new signing Gary Wood started in place of Alex Burke and Sandy Hodge. That meant Derek Lyle shifting back out to the right side of midfield role he occupied for much of last season and Joe McAlpine reverting to full back. Hodge and Burke were on the bench along with McColligan, Atkinson and Scott. St Johnstone fielded a side close to full strength though without Paul Lovering and wee Brian McLaughlin both not fit.
Thanks to horrendous traffic snarl ups on both the M74 and the A80, the match was delayed ten minutes to give the fans time to reach the ground, and the Queens team who only arrived at 2:15 time for a proper warm up. It took almost ten minutes for anything of significance to occur but when it did the home side should have grabbed the lead. Joe McAlpine gave away a silly free kick near his own penalty area and from the resulting cross, Ian Maxwell's header was palmed against his own post by Dodds and Andy Aitken had to hack the loose ball off the line for a corner. From the corner kick Paatelainen this time headed against the bar and Maxwell's headed rebound was cleared off the line by Derek Lyle. After that escape Queens went up the other end and tested Cuthbert for the first time when Bowey hit a shot from 25 yards which took a big deflection but the young keeper had time to adjust his position and cover the shot.
It was mainly St Johnstone in the opening stages though and after 12 minutes, Paul Bernard's cross from the left was headed down by Paatelainen towards Keigan Parker but Dodds made a brave stop at the striker's feet. He then promptly kicked his clearance straight into the back of one of his own defenders but we eventually scrambled the ball away again. In a rare Queens move forward though Sean O'Connor beat young Cuthbert to a well placed through ball out wide and knocked the ball back across the face of the goal but a defender was able to clear before Lyle could reach it.
The opening goal arrived in 18 minutes and a controversial one it was. Paul Bernard threw in another deep cross from the left that Dodds seemed to be collecting. However, the big Finn came barging into him and knocked the ball loose allowing Donnelly to sweep it across the face of goal for Martyn Fotheringham to knock into the empty net from 4 yards. It looked a stonewall free kick against Paatelainen but the referee, Mr Conroy, who was well placed thought otherwise and allowed the goal to stand.
Four minutes later the lead was doubled. Paatelainen flicked on a long ball forward which Andy Aitken had covered but seemed to stumble and allowed Keigan Parker to run past him and clean through on goal. The young forward coolly picked his spot in the bottom right corner from 12 yards out as Dodds advanced to meet him.
Just before the half hour mark Darren Dods got another free header at goal from a right sided corner but this time straight at John Dodds who saved easily whilst a few minutes later Robertson's right sided free kick was headed over the top by Maxwell again suspiciously free in the penalty area. However, within a minute Eric Paton's remarkably similar free kick at the other end was headed over by an unchallenged Sean O'Connor from six yards out. Just before the break Joe McAlpine struck a direct free kick just over the bar from about 25 yards out.
The second half started very slowly with St Johnstone seemingly content to sit on their lead and Queens incapable of breaking them down. It burst to life however in the 58th minute when, out of nothing, Keigan Parker doubled his tally and added their third goal. He gained possession just inside our half on the right side and turned Joe McAlpine inside and out on a run to the penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the top right corner of the net via the underside of the bar from about 10 yards out.
However, Queens finally found a foothold in the game four minutes later. It was a goal created by Derek Lyle who anticipated a crossfield ball on halfway, seized possession and ran at the home defence much like Parker had before him. He was finally dispossessed on the edge of the penalty area but the ball broke free for Gary Wood to prod Steve Bowey clear and "Bowser" opened his account for the season with a sublime chip from 18 yards into the top left corner. Cuthbert managed to get a hand to it but couldn't keep it out.
There followed a period of play when Queens finally took the game to their more fancied opponents and, for a time, it looked like we might pull another goal back but the home side weathered the storm and gradually re-asserted control. During this time Mark Baxter replaced first goalscorer Fotheringham who had taken a slight knock.
With ten minutes remaining Queens made a first change with Alex Burke replacing debutant Gary Wood up front and a minute later young Eddie Malone replaced two goal hero Parker for the home side. With four minutes remaining St Johnstone finished off the scoring from Simon Donnelly's left sided corner. O'Connor lost Maxwell in the box again and the big defender angled a header back across the face of goal from the back post area to where the waiting substitute Eddie Malone only had to nod the ball in to the net at the other post. Before the end of the game Paatelainen headed narrowly over the bar from another deep cross and the home side made a final change with Ryan Stevenson replacing Simon Donnelly.
There's no question this is a disappointing defeat though by no means disgraced. St Johnstone are a good side and will surely challenge for the title this season but the manner of at least three of the goals we lost was disappointing. We can't afford to be giving goals away and expect to repeat last season's success levels. However, with both Ayr United and Brechin City suffering heavy defeats also, we are not bottom. It's important to get some points in next week's home clash with Ross County though.