Queens results just keep getting better and better it seems. I think we all thought this was a nightmare draw when it was received. On paper the most difficult of the unseeded sides, away, midweek, 500 mile round trip, all added up to a daunting task and a disappointing draw considering we had finally been seeded for a cup competition. However, to watch this performance tonight you would never have thought there was any doubt who was the favoured team. Queens were classy, clinical and thorough in comprehensively knocking out a County side who still lead the First Division at this point, albeit only a point ahead of us. In doing so we racked up a fifth successive win over the Highlanders in a twelve month spell.
There were no real surprises in the team selection with John Connolly sending out the same team which beat St Mirren at the weekend with young Paul Burns continuing to deputise for the injured Derek Lyle (nice to see Del up with the squad to offer his support tonight and ever smiling). Brian McColligan took the vacant seat on the bench. The home side were without David Hannah but otherwise at full strength.
The game had a fairly slow start and Queens actually opened the scoring from the first attack of any note after only 7 minutes. It started with a right sided corner from Paul Talbot being hit to the edge of the six yard box where Colin Stewart punched clear under pressure. The ball landed in front of Joe McAlpine 25 yards out and he struck powerfully for goal on the half-volley. His effort may have been flying in anyway, or it may have been covered by Stewart, it was difficult to tell. Either way it didn't matter because Alex Burke popped up to divert the ball in from about six yards out before racing away to celebrate. McAlpine took a knock in making his shot but was able to continue after treatment.
Seven minutes later Burke nearly doubled his tally, diving to head a ball from Burns into the side netting from about ten yards out and a minute after that Burke again was heading for goal from a Talbot cross from the left. This time the header narrowly missed the right post again. County's first half chance arrived after 17 minutes when Hugh Robertson's deep cross from the left side was volleyed wide from 6 yards out by Steven McGarry. Queens were soon back in the ascendancy though. In 28 minutes Joe McAlpine cut out a dangerous looking ball into his own penalty area before passing forward to Eric Paton. Paton's long ball forward set Sean O'Connor galloping free but his shot from the edge of the penalty area was well blocked by a sliding tackle from the one home defender in sight.
It really was all Queens though and in 40 minutes the lead was doubled. Again it started with Joe McAlpine mopping up in his own penalty area before passing the ball on to David Bagan. Bagan hit a fine cross-field ball forward towards Alex Burke which caught out the home defence. "Burkey" controlled neatly and beat a defender twice before running on and beating Colin Stewart with a low shot which went in off the left post from just inside the penalty box. A minute later Paton headed Talbot's cross just over the bar and just before half time Bowey won possession in midfield before setting Sean O'Connor up for a shot from the right corner of the box which flew narrowly over the bar as well.
Alex Smith made two half-time changes in a bid to turn the game with Jim Hamilton and Graham Bayne replacing Sean Higgins and Steven McGarry. They might have got right back into it in the first minute too but Colin Scott came racing from his goal to make a great save from Steven Mackay. A couple of minutes later Scott produced a flying save to tip a long range Hugh Robertson shot round his post too. However, Queens immediately bounced back to make it 3-0 after 50 minutes and it was a first ever goal for young Paul Burns. The ball found its way to him wide on the right and he made for the edge of the penalty area before hitting what was clearly intended to be a cross only to see it take a heavy deflection off an unfortunate County player and loop up and over Colin Stewart before dropping into the net!
That finally knocked the stuffing out of County and just before the hour mark three might have become four when O'Connor headed Bagan's cross narrowly wide. Two minutes later Smith threw on his final sub, replacing defender Jordan Tait with the more attacking Stephen O'Donnell. He almost made an immediate impact as, two minutes later, his cross from the right side was glanced towards goal by Jim Hamilton and Colin Scott just about managed to smother the ball on the goal-line. John Connolly's immediate response was to freshen up his front line, introducing Gary Wood in place of the tiring Alex Burke.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Sean O'Connor worked himself clear of the home defence yet again but could only shoot into the arms of Stewart from the edge of the penalty area. A couple of minutes later Brian McColligan replaced David Bagan. Immediately after that Colin Scott was very sharp to bail Jim Thomson out of trouble when he was short with a back pass. Scott raced from his goal to block bravely at a striker's feet, seeming to take a kick for his troubles.
With seven minutes remaining Andy Aitken replaced Paul Talbot in left midfield but there was little further action and the sponsors announced Sean O'Connor to be their Man of the Match.