Ever had one of those can go wrong, will go wrong kind of days? John Connolly has. Tonight was it! At the end of the day, there's no denying that the 5-2 scoreline flatters Queens much more than Arbroath but this was such a weakened Queens line up that it didn't come as too much of a surprise.
Just getting a team on the park was the first problem this evening. Already without Paddy Atkinson through the injury he picked up on Saturday, the team was shorn of Jon Sunderland, who was unable to travel through illness, and Stuart King, who took ill during the pre-match meal and was left in Perth. In came Steven Pickering at right back, Dennis Boyle at left midfield and Mark Angel in an unfamiliar right wing role. Phil Nixon returned to the bench and Geoff Paterson was named as a sub for the first time this season. Colin Scott was also fit enough to take a place on the subs bench.
Yet it all started so brightly for the visitors. Queens took the lead with the first attack of the match, and what a goal it was. The previous game at Gayfield was abandoned due to various weather conditions but on that day Jim Mercer scored a wind assisted beauty for Arbroath. Mark Angel hit one just as good tonight. Finding himself in possession of the ball about 25 yards out and with the defence giving him time, he turned inside and hit with his favoured left foot. The shot blistered past Hinchcliffe and went in at the top left corner, off the underside of the bar.
Queens made all the early running and might have added to their lead several times in the opening 25 minutes. In the 12th minute, Warren Hawke had a free header from around ten yards out following a long free kick but placed it too close to Hinchcliffe. Three minutes later, another free kick into the box eventually dropped for Peter Weatherson but the striker's prodded effort just evaded the right post. On 22 minutes we did get the ball in the net again. A cross from the right side, possibly by Angel again but it was difficult to tell, found it's way directly into the net as Peter Weatherson distracted the goalkeeper trying to get on the end of it. The ball wasn't touched by either player but Weatherson had been offside when he went for it so the effort was ruled out.
About this time though, Arbroath began to exert control on the game, despite still playing against the strong wind at this point, and young Heenan on the right wing was tearing Dennis Boyle and Des McKeown apart. The "Red Lichties" first decent effort came in the 27th minute when Mallan beat two Queens defenders before drilling the ball across the six yard box. Aitken just managed to get to the ball first and stabbed it past his own post for a corner. From the corner, a header towards goal was cleared off the line by, of all people, Peter Weatherson. An equaliser was coming, it was just a matter of time, and, when it did come, it was very nearly even better than Angel's effort. Needless to say, the former Queens duo of Rowe and Mallan were involved. In the 42nd minute, the former co-manager picked up a bouncing ball about 25 yards out and hit it on the half volley. His magnificent strike beat the flying David Mathieson but struck the underside of the bar, bounced down on to the line and back out. However, Stevie Mallan was the first to react and arrived to nod the loose ball into the empty net. Right on half time, Mathieson had to react smartly to tip an Aitken back header round the post.
John Connolly made his first substitution during the interval but it entailed multiple changes. Dennis Boyle had been ripped apart by Heenan in the first half and was replaced with Phil Nixon to strengthen the defensive midfield. To accommodate Phil in centre midfield, Jon O'Neill moved up front with Warren Hawke, Weatherson moved out to right midfield and Angel switched to Boyle's left sided role. Still with me?
The hope that the changes would solidify the defence was lost within three minutes of the restart when Arbroath took the lead. Andy Aitken took a throw from Pickering wide on the right, just inside the half, but first miss-controlled it and then slipped and fell when trying to recover. Stevie Mallan seized upon the loose ball and ran towards goal with only McQuilter to beat. He chose to shoot early but Mathieson parried the ball. However, the save rebounded out to the in-rushing Paul Brownlie and the manager's son knocked it into the empty net.
Arbroath went on to completely dominate the second half and, from an early stage, it was just a question of how many they would win by. In the 53rd minute Heenan was left with half the park to run into after a punt from the left back area. Des McKeown managed to get back and block his shot but McKinnon followed up and volleyed the rebound from 25 yards out onto the top of the crossbar and over. Three minutes later and Queens had to reshuffle again when Steven Pickering was left concussed following a head knock. He was taken to hospital in Dundee and on came Martin Hughes, with Nixon moving to right back.
Things calmed down for a while after that but Arbroath doubled their lead in the 65th minute. A high ball into the box was only half cleared and was lifted back in. The "Lichties" found themselves with an extra man at the back post and a headed knock down dropped perfectly for the unmarked Colin McKinnon to prod into the net at the bottom right corner.
Connolly's final change was to send Alan Hogg on in place of Angel in the 68th minute but it didn't change the flow of the game. Two minutes later and it was 4 - 1. A punt from halfway found Phil Nixon struggling to reach the ball about the penalty spot area. He stretched his neck out but only succeeded in bulleting a header past Mathieson into the top right corner of the goal for a spectacular O.G. Within a minute Mathieson was again called upon to tip a McKinnon header wide. A fifth goal wasn't delayed too long though and it came in the 79th minute. A left sided cross saw McQuilter and Brownlie challenge for the ball in the air, six yards out. One of them flicked it on and it hit Des McKeown, coming in behind, in the midriff. The ball bounced back off Des straight to Paul Brownlie again and the striker had an easy task to score his second of the game.
After this, Arbroath settled for what they had and the game drifted towards a conclusion. There was controversy in the last minute however when Queens pulled a goal back. It was another debut goal for the club, this time for Alan Hogg, but he clearly controlled the ball with his hand in blocking a clearance before finding himself all alone twelve yards out. Incredibly, referee Gemmell, the same referee as Saturday's match with Forfar, waved play on and Hogg took advantage by netting easily in the left corner.
So 5-2 it finished and, as I said above, over the piece that's a scoreline that flatters Queens more than Arbroath. However, we were down to the bare bones of a team tonight and still might have led by three goals early on. We are by no means out of the mix yet, possibly in both directions and the next two games, both against Berwick will tell us a lot about which end of the table we are likely to finish up in this season.
Queens had four players booked tonight. Angel, Hughes and McKeown for late tackles and Jon O'Neill for kicking the ball away after a foul was awarded against Aitken.
Thanks to Ewan Lithgow for providing this report.