An Alex Burke piece of quality finishing was just enough to take Queens back to the top of the league this afternoon in what was a closely fought match at Palmerston Park.
The side matched that which had came away with all three points from Kirkcaldy last week with no alterations to the sixteen other than Derek Lyle taking over on the bench from Derek Allan. The game didn't really get going for a long time with three physio interruptions as first Ludovic Roy in the Ayr goal had to be replaced following a Gary Wood challenge, former Queens 'Keeper John Hillcoat taking his place on five minutes, then lengthy spells of treatment to both Joe McAlpine and Eric Paton. In between the treatment Ayr could have scored as early as the second minute when some keystone cop defending led to a high ball bobbling about in front of the goal-line bound Colin Scott and two Ayr forwards facing him up, fortunately the ball deflected past the post and the flag was up for offside on the two.
The injury to Roy came in the fifth minute as Alex Burke beat his man on the right and crossed low and hard for Gary Wood who slid in as Roy came diving out, both clashed along with an Ayr defender but the worst off was Roy who had to leave the field.
Finally things began to click and the almost silent crowd began to make a little noise, Bagan fed the ball to Burke down the right, he played the ball to Wood who looked to have set up Steve Bowey for a tap in, the captain made good contact but somehow John Hillcoat managed to spring across to his right and block Bowsers shot.
At the other end the Ayr number 3, listed as a trialist was causing a few problems and almost sent the ball onto the toe of Stuart Keen as he fired in a low hard cross that Scott did well to collect. On the half-hour mark Jim Thomson found himself in the referee's book for what was a late challenge on Andrew Ferguson, this was to prove costly later in the match.
Queens were looking more positive as the half wore on and a quick break down the right saw Paul Burns break free into the box, he squared for either Wood or Bowey to tap in but neither could get to the ball, Burke managed to keep the ball in play at the far side of the box but all he could win was a corner from the deflected cross he attempted.
Just after the half-hour mark Gary Wood made a decent attempt at goal as he sent a looping header onto the roof of the net from an Eric Paton swung in cross.
Disaster almost struck though in the fortieth minute as Paul Burns was too elaborate in his play just inside his own half, he lost possession to Stewart Kean and Kean nearly made him pay dearly as he strode forward and struck a twenty-five yard effort that Colin Scott pushed away for a corner, from the corner Kean had another effort, this time from his head that just cleared the junction of the post and crossbar.
Brian McColligan was next up to try his luck as he was put clean through on Hillcoat from a Steve Bowey ball, McColligan did everything right but Hillcoat pulled off a tremendous save to deny Brian his second in three games.
With Queens pressing and about to take a corner the referee blew for half-time after allowing just three minutes of added time.
The words of John Connolly - "we must be sharper in front of goal" were still ringing in Alex Burke's ears as he collected the ball from Steve Bowey on the left hand edge of the box, a shuffle to the left and a strike with his right foot past Hillcoat was all that was needed to let the manager know that he had been listening - 1-0 to Queens.
A few minutes later and a turn and shot by Steve Bowey was spectacularly saved again by Hillcoat. Shortly after and Ayr could have scored as Brian Reid was beaten in the air for once and the ball fell to the feet of Scott Chaplain six-yards out but with Jim Thomson in close attendance, JT doing enough to make Chaplain shoot wide.
Ayr were becoming more dangerous as Queens seemed content to sit on the lead but with the management duo of Connolly and Scott looking to change things a change was forced upon them. Jim Thomson was again late in a challenge on Andrew Ferguson and again shown the yellow card, followed shortly by the red card, our first of the season. This meant the hasty reshuffle of Wood going into the back four and Queens playing with just Burke upfront for a few minutes until Andy Aitken could be put on to allow Wood back up front at the expense of Paul Burns on the right.
Goalscorer Alex Burke was given a rousing reception as he left the field with twelve minutes to play to be replaced by the fresh legs of Derek Lyle in a straight swap. Having been on for all of two minutes Del showed that he is now back to full match fitness with a leap and header that beat Hillcoat but not the bar, the ball was bouncing high when Bowser connected with the follow-up but it flew well over the bar.
There were chances at either end before the final whistle blew but the Dumfries defence held solid and the points remain at Palmerston.
It wasn't a pretty game and Queens have played much better this season in almost all games, however it was three points at the end of the day and we are back on top of the league.
Photos to follow - PC problems at present.