Queens continued their build up to the new season with a journey into the unknown at Coleraine in Northern Ireland. We weren't really sure what to expect in standard from the Carnegie Premier League Club but indications suggested they would be a little behind us in both ability and preparation with this being their first pre-season game and Queens in their 4th. To be fair that proved to be pretty accurate. Still, it was a worthwhile exercise and an excellent trip. Our hosts could not have been any more welcoming and a good time was had by all, too good in some notable cases! I'm sure the club will look at coming back here at some point, and with a little more notice and a couple of games it could be a really pleasant break. Indeed, Gordon Hyslop and his colleagues will be bringing their young team back for the Milk Cup tournament in a couple of weeks time along with some of the biggest club names in football.
Back to the action though and Ian McCall named a strong side for the game with all bar Stephen Swift available to him. Queens had been severely delayed in arriving at the ground due to a road blockage locally caused by a tractor having caught fire. These things tend not to happen on the way to game the First Division! In fact the club only arrived just after 2:30pm and kick off was delayed 15 minutes as a result. It didn't seem to cause the players too many problems though as they dominated from the off. Only four minutes had passed when John Henry worked the home keeper with a low shot at the near post after Sean O'Connor had cut the ball back to him. In 8 minutes, Eric Paton's deep right sided corner went all the way to Paul Burns at the back of the penalty area and he lifted the ball back over David O'Hare in the home goal, only for the covering full back to head clear from the line. In 16 minutes Coleraine were forced to make a change due to a head knock and Graeme Philson replaced Kyle McVey and a minute later Sean O'Connor picked up a pass from Henry, turned inside and hit a shot from 20 yards against the base of the post with O'Hare beaten. Four minutes later woodwork again came to the rescue of the home side as Lauchlan's clever free kick move gave Henry the chance to curl a shot against the crossbar.
The home side showed their abilities for the first time though in 29 minutes when Stephen Carson had an effort at goal which deflected over Corr but was headed off the line by the attentive Murray Henderson. From the resulting corner Gordon Patten had another effort well blocked by Corr. Three minutes before the break Jim Lauchlan made an error when he trod on the ball letting Ciaran Ferry have a run at goal. The covering defender was Andy Aitken and he got over in time to block Ferry's effort but caught his studs in doing so, suffering what looked a nasty knee injury in the process. Kenny Crichton was taking no chances and immediately indicated a change was necessary. Jim Thomson came on as Aitken was stretchered away in considerable pain. However, he was able to walk away from the ground under his own steam at full time and will go for a scan this week to ascertain what, if any, damage their might be. We can only hope it to be minor. In the meantime, towards the end of the fully six minutes of first half injury time Eric Paton lashed an effort over the top from 15 yards out and O'Connor had another looping effort which failed to carry over O'Hare.
The second half began with changes galore as Coleraine put on three substitutes and Queens two. For Queens off went Barry John Corr and Willie Gibson and on came Colin Scott and John O'Neill, with Paton switching to left wing back and Burns to right wing back to accommodate O'Neill. The half was only two minutes old when O'Neill signalled his intent with a dipping shot that went narrowly wide of target. In 52 minutes a superb pass from Henry released O'Connor behind the defence and through on goal. However, he was unable to supply the cool finish and O'Hare blocked with his feet. A minute later though the deadlock was finally broken. Paul Burns from the right fed a perfect pass in for John O'Neill to hammer the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards. Eight minutes later and from a very similar position Sean O'Connor made it 2-0 after being passed in by O'Neill this time. O'Connor opted for a well placed shot in the bottom left corner rather than a blast to the roof of the net but the end result was the same.
With 64 minutes gone both teams made a further three changes. Queens took off Henry, O'Connor and Weir and sent on Derek Lyle, Michael Mullen and Andy Thomson. The game though went only a further minute before the aforementioned Andy Thomson added to the scoring. Again it was from almost the same spot on the pitch as he collected a Mullen pass and hammered the ball goalward. O'Hare got a block on the ball but couldn't prevent it spinning on behind him and into the net before the covering defender could get there. Two minutes later Queens completed the changes when Scott Robertson replaced Scott McKenzie and in 79 minutes the youngster thought he had added a fourth when he looped a header into the net only to have been, correctly, judged offside. A minute later Mullen should have added a fourth when he was sent clear and drew the keeper perfectly before shooting narrowly wide of the post. The final minute saw Andy Thomson miss another good headed chance from Burns cross before the teams shook hands headed for the changing rooms.
All in all then a relatively comfortable win which could easily have been by a lot more goals but an enjoyable trip. The next public outing for the squad will be at Penrith next Saturday.