It has been fifteen long seasons but finally today at around 4:50pm the news from Cappielow came through that confirmed the promotion of Queen of the South to the Bell's Scottish League First Division for season 2002/03, the defeat of Forfar by Clydebank meaning that Queens could not be caught by the Loons and the crows celebrated in style as the Queens players went across to the crowd to acknowledge their cheers. The crowd of over 3000 today were tremendous throughout with all parts of the ground giving vocal assistance to the cause, even the old stand. However the moment was not caught on camera by this reporter as in all the pre-match excitement a film for the camera was forgotten, so any of you out there that took some digital pictures please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can include them in the report, it would be very much appreciated.
To the game itself, and with a fit-again Paddy Atkinson, who this week managed one correct prediction out of three that he made on his Teamtalk 252 slot this morning, better than last week!, taking up the right back position again, Alan Gray found himself on the right side of midfield where he has been very effective in recent weeks. Surprisingly Steve Bowey had to be content with a seat on the bench as Graham Connell was selected for the midfield holding role next to John O'Neill and Peter Weatherson this week also got the nod ahead of Sean O'Connor. The managers intent was clear though as there was not one defensively minded player on the bench today other than 'keeper Dawson, as George O'Boyle and Allan Moore made up the substitutes.
The first half of the match was an evenly contested affair and Accies contributed well to the match to make it an entertaining spectacle. Queens though looked nervous and almost shot themselves in the foot in twelve minutes as Aitken, Atkinson and Thomson managed to get themselves into trouble, the result being a pass-back to Colin Scott that the 'keeper was lucky to kick away and just miss an inrushing Accie.
The Accies seemed to have identified Queens main attacking routes and every time either McAlpine or Gray obtained possession a couple of Hamiton defenders were soon on hand to stifle the way forward, the result being a lot of head-tennis as Queens opted for a more direct route down the middle and over the defence, it was from a move like this in the twenty-fifth minute that our best chance of the half came from as Derek Lyle beat the defence to a lobbed ball, the front-man zeroing in on goal from a tight angle and striking a shot that beat the 'keeper but unfortunately rebounded off the far post to safety.
Accies were immediately back up the other end though and looked to have scored when a glancing header went goalward from a free-kick on the right, Scott was well beaten but so too was the post as the ball flew just past it on the safe side.
What will probably be called a turning-point in the game by some but was more of a wake-up call for Queens came in the fortieth minute as Andy Aitken was adjudged to have held-off an Accies attacker as the two went for a loose ball in the box, it was certainly a soft award as neither had the ball and it did appear that shoulders were being used, however, Colin Scott was up for the task and produced a terrific full length diving save to his right hand side to send the Queens crowd wild as justice had been seen to be done.
Immediately Queens took heart from this and lifted the tempo of the game for the remaining minutes of the half without any further chances being made by either side.
Half time 0-0
After two aborted attempts to restart the match, both re-starts due to players impinging into the others area before the ball had moved, referee Frickleton eventually got the game underway again. Immediately Queens were on the attack and within a minute of the start Peter Weatherson watched as his thunderous twenty-five yard drive smashed off the Accies post with the 'keeper well beaten. A goal was looking likely as Queens had started playing fast moving and accurate passing football from the off, a free-kick was awarded on the left which Derek Anderson elected to take, he curled a ball deep to the back post where it was scrambled away for a corner, Joe McAlpine took the resulting corner, it too was partially cleared but was lobbed back into the box and as both Hamilton's Sean Sweeney and MacFarlane went for the ball it bounced off the back of Sweeney's neck and trundled into the net to give Queens the lead.
Queens were in full flow, John O'Neill was next up to try his luck as he sent a thirty yard effort just over the bar, then O'Neill produced some delicate footwork to get himself almost through the Accies defence, his shot being pushed away by MacFarlane as far as the head of Joe McAlpine, Joe's header though was again saved by MacFarlane as he dived across his goal to cut-out the ball. A second goal looked likely as Queens pinned back the Lanarkshire side and it came from Peter Weatherson in fifty five minutes from a free kick twenty five yards out, the ball was played into the path of Nellie and his sweetly struck shot was unstoppable as it hit the back of the net low to the 'keepers left.
Weatherson and Lyle were producing some lovely movement and only two minutes later Nellie set up Derek Lyle with a ball playing him into the heart of the box, the deadly marksman made no mistake as he drilled the ball into the net to seal the victory for the Doonhamers, 3-0 Queens.
Queens then appeared to settle on the lead and took the foot off the gas without really looking threatened, although Andy Aitken did manage to get his name in the book for what appeared to be a block on a run by an Accies forward that was correctly allowed to continue to it's natural conclusion by the referee before giving Aitken the yellow.
The last action of the match for John O'Neill was a clever curling effort set up by McAlpine and Lyle that just flew past the post, moments later Jonjo was replaced by midfield dynamo Steve 'Bowser' Bowey.
Peter Weatherson went down in a tackle on seventy five minutes that he was obviously having trouble recovering from, the referee however was not interested and refused attention for Nellie who was as far away from the dug-out as possible, 'Scotland's Number 1 Physio - Kenny Crichton' had to make a dash around to the other side of the pitch as Nellie almost crawled off to the side line, the result was that Peter was eventually stretchered off and replaced by Sean O'Connor, hardly feigning injury!
The game was almost complete when a mix up in the Dumfries defence allowed Moore to notch what was merely a consolation goal for the visitors. The final whistle went moments later and the Doonhamers and their support went into party mode as promotion was secured, now it's onto Forfar next week to clinch the Championship.
MATCH ACTION - CLICK ON PICTURE TO PLAY VIDEO CLIP
Nellie about to strike his goal from a free kick
After match celebration time
Many thanks to David Gow for the video clips