Well, what a day. And what a performance, a world away from the defeats at Stranraer and Perth, this was even better stuff from Queens who held the defending champions to a frustrating draw on their own (temporary) patch and could very easily have won the game. A whole new experience for me also, phoned by West Sound ten minutes before kick off and asked to step in as match reporter when their planned reporter was unable to make the game. Talk about in at the deep end!
Back to the game though and to nobody's great surprise John Connolly fielded the same eleven that earned three points against Ross County last weekend, meaning that David Bagan had shaken off his ankle injury and Steve Bowey his virus. The subs bench was identical too. This is a very different Falkirk side to the one which dominated last season, having lost the likes of Lee Miller, Owen Coyle, Collin Samuel, Jamie McQuilken and Mark Kerr. They were also missing the likes of Kevin James, Scott McKenzie and Alan Ferguson through injury but could still boast the inclusion of Trinidadian pair Russell Latapy and Brent Rahim, former Nottingham Forest "pineapple head" Jason Lee and the inspirational player-manager John Hughes. Also appearing for Falkirk today was one time Queens youth player Colin McMenamin, on loan from Livingston.
It was the home side who settled into the game first and could easily have led in the opening ten minutes. Not even one minute had passed when Jason Lee headed narrowly over after beating Reid in the air to a left wing cross. A couple of minutes later Latapy tested Dodds for the first time with a shot from the edge of the penalty area which the keeper dealt with easily enough. The best chance of all fell to the overlapping Craig McPherson in seven minutes. He burst into the box on the left side and shot across the face of goal from about ten yards out when it seemed he had to score.
The remainder of the opening period was pretty dull fare really. Queens were unable to make any real impact going forward whilst at the back, Messrs Allan, Thomson, Reid and McAlpine were putting in a sterling performance. Queens even had a half decent penalty appeal turned down when Bowey appeared to be shoved off the ball during a rare foray forward. The best chance of the half though arrived in the 24th minute when Latapy seized possession on the left side and beat two or three players before playing a one-two with Jason Lee which sent him clean through on goal. Dodds though was equal to the task, coming to meet him at the six yard box and getting a fingertip to the ball sending it looping over the crossbar for a tremendous save.
The second half was a different story with Queens giving as good as they got throughout. There was no hint of that straight away though as a poor pass by Bagan was intercepted by Latapy. The little midfielder ran at Thomson and Reid, committing both of them before firing just wide with his left foot from about ten yards out. In 49 minutes though, Queens earned their first corner following determined work from Lyle and Wood. Gibson took it and pulled the ball back for Paton to rifle just over the bar from the edge of the box. John Hughes injured himself in the move which led to the corner though and was forced to come off for Eddie May two minutes later. Falkirk never quite had the same impetus after that change, though two minutes later a quite magnificent challenge on the edge of the six yard box from Jim Thomson denied Jason Lee a goal.
On 57 minutes, Bowey seized upon a loose ball and fed it forward to Lyle. From halfway Lyle instantly spread the ball across goal to Willie Gibson scampering down the left side. As Lyle, Wood and Bowey all made for the back post area, Gibson had the confidence to take on two opponents, before curling an effort inches wide of the far post from the left corner of the penalty area. Immediately afterward the home side replaced the toiling "Pineapple Head" with Andy Rodgers. Two minutes later Gibson again teased the home defence before sliding the ball across the edge of the penalty area to set up Gary Wood with a fine chance. However, rather than blast the ball, the new signing attempting to place it past Hill and the keeper was able to grasp the ball safely.
Falkirk weren't finished by any means though and a minute later Latapy went down acrobatically on the edge of the box under a challenge from Reid. From the duly awarded free kick Latapy's low effort was kicked away from the line by Derek Allan, though to be fair Dodds probably had it covered anyway. On 64 minutes Davie Nicholls headed over the top from a corner given a free header 6 yards out.
With 20 minutes remaining Connolly made his first and only change with Sean O'Connor replacing Eric Paton which meant Derek Lyle switching to the wide right midfield role. The move almost paid instant dividends when Gibson again ran at the defence before squaring the ball towards Derek Lyle. Although the ball was just behind him the striker managed to turn and hook it towards the top left corner only to see Darren Hill produce a wonder save to tip the ball over the bar. The resulting corner was cleared but the home side couldn't hold possession and somehow a suspiciously offside looking Sean O'Connor found himself clean through on goal with only Hill to beat. The keeper was equal to the task though, smothering the ball at the big man's feet at the edge of the box as Sean tried to take it round him. Three minutes later Nicholls picked up the game's only booking for a trip from behind on Bowey as he tried to burst forward through the defence.
On 78 minutes Latapy jinked through midfield again and shot low to the bottom right corner from 20 yards but Dodds was again able to save comfortably enough. A minute later McPherson's cross from the left was fired right along the line before Brian Reid hacked it clear at the back post. With just six minutes remaining Dodds made a fabulous save from McMenamin as the youngster was fed into space in the box by another great ball from Latapy. From the rebound another cross in by McPherson was headed against the woodwork and wide of goal. The final real chance of the game fell to Queens though and what a great chance it was to win the game. Gibson took possession down the left side and beat an opponent before feeding the ball on to O'Connor. Big Sean went through no less than three challenges before looking up to see the unmarked Steve Bowey just waiting to roll the ball into the empty net at the back post six yards out.. Unfortunately Sean's attempted pass was intercepted by the only remaining defender and the chance was gone.
In injury time Latapy had a great run across the penalty area but sterling defence stopped him getting a shot in. Eventually he had to turn back and lay the ball off to the edge of the box. The shot came in and there was a big shout for a penalty as it struck a Queens player and bounced away. The loose ball arrived at the left side of the box and Derek Allan lunged into another challenge resulting in another big penalty appeal. Again the referee Mr Mitchell waved play on and, as Allan remained on the ground with cramp, a left sided McPherson cross was headed off the line from under the bar by Jim Thomson. A succession of corners later though the final whistle went with the game still scoreless.
This was a tremendous performance from Queens, particularly second half when they might easily have produced a shock win. A similar performance at Ayr next week would surely produce three points.