I think if you'd asked any Queens fan going into the ground at McDiarmid Park today what they were looking for most, if not all, would have settled for a point before kick off. And that's what we got so in that sense it's not a bad result especially considering our opponents were playing Premier League games last season and were certainly quicker and probably fitter than our team. However, we have to be extremely disappointed to have only ended up with the one point in the circumstances.
There were a couple of changes to the team which drew with Alloa last weekend for our first ever visit to McDiarmid Park, a reflection of how long it is since Queens were at the same level as St Johnstone. John Crawford swapped the number three jersey with Derek Anderson for the fourth successive week whilst Brian McColligan was restored to the midfield starting line up with Weatherson moving forward and Lyle dropping to the bench. Lyle joined the returning Joe McAlpine and Alan Gray on the subs bench along with John O'Neill and Colin Scott. St Johnstone fielded a strong side with only one enforced change to the team which beat Clyde last week.
Queens started very well and went straight at their more illustrious opponents from the off. After just five minutes we had the first close effort of the game when O'Connor was just beaten to the ball by Alan Main on the ground about six yards out but the ball rebounded off the keeper's shins and fell for Robbie Neilson at the edge of the penalty area. Neilson tried to chip the ball back into the net but Darren Dods had got back on to his line and was able to hook the ball away from danger. Three minutes later, a pass by Jim Thomson which was intended for Neilson breaking up the right was deflected into the path of Eric Paton in midfield and the ex-Clydebank man strode forward and hit a shot just over the top from fully thirty yards out with Main looking a little anxious. With 12 minutes gone Queens grabbed the lead their early play had deserved. It started when Grant Murray prevented the ball going out for a Queens throw in on the left by back-heeling it back into play and leaving Brian McLaughlin with a free run down the left side. The wee man caught the defence off guard by crossing low and early to the penalty spot area where Eric Paton arrived to sweep the ball first time into the bottom left corner before Main could react.
Four minutes later and St Johnstone showed as an attacking force for the first time and really should have equalised. It came from a right sided corner which dropped right in front of Chris Hay just three or four yards out in front of goal. His scuffed effort was blocked by Goram's legs and came back to him for another go but this time McLaughlin cleared the ball off the line. In the 23rd minute the home side spurned another clear opportunity to equalise when Steve Bowey was miles short with a back header and Tommy Lovenkrands outpaced everybody to go clear on Goram. However, the Dane is not noted for his finishing and that showed as he lifted the ball over Goram as he dived to meet him but a yard wide of the left post too. Queens bounced back though and after 26 minutes O'Connor committed defenders with a positive run towards goal before the ball spun away to Weatherson who struck powerfully from 25 yards but Main was able to smother easily enough. A minute after that Paton caught St Johnstone in possession again and O'Connor was able to play Bowey in on the edge of the box but his mis-hit shot was also easily dealt with by Main. About the half hour mark Sean O'Connor went off for lengthy treatment on an ankle knock but was able to continue. The last significant action of the half saw St Johnstone's Murray and Hay get in each other's way as they tried to get on the end of a dangerous corner and the chance was lost.
St Johnstone again came agonisingly close to an equaliser in the opening minute of the second half when Thomson fell over trying to effect a relatively simple clearance. As a result Hartley was able to throw in a decent cross from the touchline and under no pressure at all Chris Hay met it with an excellent header at the penalty spot which Goram could only watch as it struck the left post and bounced across the face of goal before being hacked away. Ten minutes into the half O'Connor finally succumbed to his ankle knock and was replaced by Derek Lyle. Two minutes later Eric Paton almost scored the goal of this, and any other, season. The ball dropped to him a yard or two inside the St Johnstone half and close to the right touchline but, seeing Alan Main well off his line, he volleyed it first time for goal from about 60 yards away. The ball was bang on target for the top right corner but unfortunately didn't carry enough pace and Main was able to rush back and catch the ball a yard from his line. Just before the hour mark, another St Johnstone corner was half cleared but sweetly struck back in from the edge of the box by Lovenkrands forcing Goram into a tremendous full length fist away and the rebound was again scrambled clear. Immediately Billy Stark made his first change bringing on Keigan Parker for Manny Panther. Five minutes later and Ryan McCann replaced Darren Dods as the home side gambled on a more positive line up.
In the 68th minute some tremendous defending by Aitken at the near post prevented Parker from equalising and four minutes later came what should have been the defining moment of the game. Another St Johnstone attack was snuffed out initially but the ball broke for Hartley who seemed to have a clear shot from about 15 yards only for a last ditch block from Robbie Neilson to stop him and Jim Thomson completed the clearance. The ball fell for Derek Lyle out on the right touchline and he swept the ball in field to the breaking Bowey. Bowey played a ball out wide left for McLaughlin who was in acres of space and again the winger was the creator as he played a perfect ball back into the penalty area from out wide and that man Steve Bowey met it with a shot across Main and into the bottom right corner of the net. A perfect breakaway goal, it should have killed our opponents off.
For the remainder of the game until the final few minutes the heart seemed to go out of the home side and they played like a beaten team going through the motions. In 76 minutes Eric Paton just failed to find the far corner of goal with an effort from the edge of the penalty area following a short corner. A minute later Weatherson and Lyle found themselves two on two and Peter drew both men before playing Lyle in but his first touch was poor which meant he had to hurry the shot from just inside the box and it went wide of goal. A further minute later Weatherson again sent Lyle bearing down on goal and this time the front man struck powerfully for the right side of goal only for his effort to be deflected narrowly past goal.
And that should have been that. Very little happened from then until the match moved into injury time with the home side looking like they'd accepted their fate and Queens in complete control. However, in the 90th minute St Johnstone pulled a goal back from a right sided corner. Queens had been trying to get O'Neill on for Weatherson before it but Peter ended up having to dash back into the box before it was taken. Jim Thomson headed it clear initially but tried to get on the end of his own header and was just beaten to the ball as it was helped back into the box. It dropped in space behind everyone clearing out and left the two St Johnstone substitutes running in on goal with only McLaughlin and Aitken for company. It was Ryan McCann who got his boot to the ball first and hammered the ball home off the underside of the crossbar. That should have been a consolation only as Queens finally did make the substitution and got O'Neill on but St Johnstone had found renewed vigour. Two minutes into injury time the ball fell kindly for the home side again in a midfield melee and they were able to sent Hay clear down the right. He put a tremendous cross into the near post area and Mark Reilly met it with a full blooded header from six yards which was past Goram before he even saw it for an equaliser which had never looked likely the longer the game went on. Reilly injured himself scoring and was immediately replaced with Paddy Connolly but the home side had rescued a draw from almost certain defeat.
It's hard not to reflect on this game as two points dropped after such a sterling performance over the first 90 minutes, especially when the home side gave every impression after our second goal that they had given up the fight. However, it shouldn't be forgotten that a draw is not a bad result at McDiarmid and extends our current sequence to two defeats in twelve games. The home side also missed three sitters whilst there was still only one goal in it and on the balance of play at least deserved their point. We have to try to take the positives from the game, not the negatives, and move on to play Clyde next weekend. They were responsible for one of those two defeats we've had since late September and are themselves on a great run. We are comfortably proving we are able to compete at this level and nobody considers us a pushover. That in itself is a fine achievement considering where we've come from.