Another disappointing narrow defeat today at Love Street, the ground on which we celebrated a glorious Challenge Cup Semi Final victory just three weeks ago. Much has been made of Queens long injury list and we were today without the services of Andy Goram, Derek Allan, Paddy Atkinson, Derek Anderson, Alan Gray, Barry Donald and Sean O'Connor. Never the less, with the exception of Robbie Henderson starting at left back in place of the Atkinson/Anderson combination, this was the same team which won that epic 5-3 game with Jon Crawford restored to his more usual centre back position alongside Aitken and McAlpine and Weatherson back in wide midfield roles. Derek Lyle returned to partner Shields up front and there was a long awaited return to the squad on the bench for club captain Jim Thomson. With Goram injured, young Stuart Robertson resumed last season's customary replacement keeper role.
The game never carried the end to end excitement of the Challenge Cup semi but still featured some decent play at times. Goal chances were much more at a premium than they were that night though. The match started in slow fashion with little of note happening in the first five minutes. If anything the home side seemed to have settled the better and had more of the position so it was slightly against the run of play when Queens took the lead with their first attack of any note. The goal was really all about Paul Shields and John O'Neill running at defenders. Shields collected a lay off from Derek Lyle just inside the "Buddies" half and made straight for the goal, passing to O'Neill as he neared the box. O'Neill beat a defender but trod on the ball as he seemed to have an opening. The loose ball broke back to Shields though and the on-loan Celtic man ran across the edge of the penalty box from right to left before shooting back across the face of the goalkeeper into the bottom right corner of the net from fifteen yards out.
Five minutes later the lead was very nearly doubled. Joe McAlpine's right sided corner was headed on at the near post by a St Mirren head and Derek Lyle narrowly failed to connect with a diving header at the back post with the goal empty. In the fifteenth minute, John O'Neill picked up an early and slightly harsh booking from referee Hugh Dallas. He and Ricky Gillies both challenged for a loose ball with raised feet. They were probably as guilty as each other but it was Gillies who nicked the ball first so O'Neill was adjudged to have committed the foul. In the 19th minute though it was St Mirren who equalised again almost out of nothing and a goal of real quality it was. A dangerous long ball forward was headed clear out of defence by Jon Crawford. However, from the resultant throw in the ball came to Martin Cameron with back to goal in the corner of the penalty box. He swivelled and struck a superb half volley into the far corner of the net past a helpless Colin Scott.
Queens almost struck back immediately from another corner headed across the face of goal but Roy just managed to fingertip the ball away before a Queens head could get to the ball. The next chance of any note came in the 37th minute when Joe McAlpine dispossessed his opponent and broke up the left before crossing low towards Shields at the near post. The ball seemed to deflect past the post off a defender but Mr Dallas awarded a goal kick. 30 seconds later though Queens really dodged a bullet when Gillies got behind the defence and seemed to be running clear. A foul challenge from behind by Jon Crawford halted the midfielder's progress on the edge of the box though and probably only the presence of Henderson running alongside saved the defender from receiving a red card; instead yellow sufficed. The resulting free kick was deflected over the bar by Derek Lyle. In the 41st minute, Paul Shields struck an opportunist shot from 25 yards which Roy covered but could only parry out and John O'Neill was just first to the rebound but, under challenge, the top scorer's clip back towards goal drifted wide.
The second half saw Queens take more control of the game. The half was just four minutes old when Peter Weatherson picked the ball up in midfield and ran up the right before cutting inside and shooting into the side netting from 20 yards with Roy scrambling across his goal. Five minutes later, the same player forced a save from Roy with a low drive from 25 yards. In the 64th minute, St Mirren netted again when Yardley poked a pass through the defence to Cameron again and he shot home under Scott but the offside flag was already up. It was a tight decision but, for my money, the right one. Four minutes later, Robbie Henderson picked up our third booking for a fairly cynical trip on Hugh Murray who had already beaten McAlpine and Lyle on a run up the right. In 69 minutes Queens again broke away through McAlpine and a few passes later John O'Neill tried his luck from 25 yards out. The shot was charged down by a defender but straight to Shields who tried a volley but didn't connect properly and Roy was able to make a comfortable save.
On 73 minutes, John Connolly made his first change with Jim Thomson replacing Henderson in the back line. Jon Crawford moved over to the left side of defence to accommodate the captain. A minute later Scott made a decent parry from a long range shot by Ian Ross. A minute after that, a long ball forward from big Richard Robb saw Martin Cameron in behind the back four again but Aitken arrived with a great recovery challenge to avert the danger. Straight away Queens made a second change with Brian McLaughlin replacing Derek Lyle up front.
The 79th minute saw Queens come very close to re-capturing the lead. Joe McAlpine's left sided corner was met perfectly with a towering Jim Thomson header down towards the bottom right corner. Roy had no chance to get there but unfortunately the defender at the post did and he hooked the ball clear. Bowey's shot on the rebound was comfortably wide of target. At this point it seems that Queens were getting more and more control in the game so it was extremely disappointing that, with five minutes left, it was the home side who grabbed the winner, and with a freak goal at that. St Mirren won a corner on the right which was taken by Hugh Murray. His dangerous cross was allowed to drift right into the goal mouth without anybody getting a head to the ball and ended up in front of Peter Weatherson standing virtually on the goal line. "Pedro" tried to volley the ball clear but succeeded only in volleying the ball into the top corner of his own net. A disastrous consequence but, to be fair, the ball was probably going straight into the net if hadn't tried to clear it. In the final minute, Robbie Neilson tried a chip from the edge of the box which landed on the roof of the net and immediately we replaced Jon Crawford with Eric Paton but I don't think the midfielder even touched the ball before the final whistle went.
So another weekend goes by with no points but it shouldn't be all doom and gloom. We more than matched St Mirren again today and were hard done to by the winner. At the very least we were worth a point. The other sides at the wrong end of the table, Clyde, Arbroath and Alloa, all lost as well so we haven't lost any ground on them and the next two matches are huge games for us. With a big crowd expected next week as the Cup Final tickets go on sale, we could do with a performance to match.
Photo - David Gow