A poor performance led to a result we could have no complaints about whatsoever. John O'Neill certainly will have enjoyed his afternoon much more than all of his former team-mates did! Big problems in team selection meant a seriously makeshift back four. Brian Reid was out with the hamstring injury he suffered against Raith last week whilst his central defensive partner Jim Thomson was struck down with gastroenteritis all week and failed to even travel with the squad. With Derek Allan still injured also that meant an untried pairing of Andy Aitken and Gary Wood, returning from injury himself, at the back. Joe McAlpine made his first start since his appendicitis attack in relief of Reid whilst David Bagan returned to the starting eleven in place of McColligan. Willie Gibson took up the spare spot on the bench. For St Mirren, rumours about John O'Neill missing the game through injury proved unfounded.........unfortunately.
Only two minutes had passed when Simon Lappin cut in from the left and struck a right footed shot from 20 yards which was spilled by Dodds but the keeper just clutched the loose ball before Gillies could seize on it. Back in December Ricky Gillies scored at Palmerston when his crossed free kick floated directly in over Kris Robertson's head. On eight minutes here he nearly managed the feat twice! First his left sided corner seemed destined for the net before it was flicked over by the head of Sean O'Connor. With the second effort he went even closer, this time it was blocked on the line, I thought by Gary Wood, before being scrambled away.
Queens took 12 minutes to even see the home penalty area. Sean O'Connor beat his opponent down the right and powered into the box before trying to pick out Burke with a cross which was deflected wide. From the resulting corner St Mirren had a great chance when they sprung clear in a four against two situation but O'Neill's attempted cross-field pass was awful and ran straight through to Dodds to hoots of derision from the away support. A minute later a wonderful pass by Burke set both Bowey and O'Connor clear behind the home defence but they seemed to get in one another's way and, though Bowey did slide the ball under the advancing Woods it went a good four or five yards wide. On seventeen minutes Queens missed a gilt-edged chance. A shocking defensive howler presented possession to O'Connor who laid back to Bagan. His pass found Alex Burke in acres of space running into the home penalty box and he chose to hit early rather than attempt to round Woods. Unfortunately his curling effort struck the outside of the left upright and deflected wide of goal.
The deadlock was broken just on the half hour mark. It all began with a poor kicked clearance from Dodds into the middle of the park. O'Neill turned down the opportunity to hit directly at goal from halfway and instead spread the ball wide right. When the cross came back in the overlapping full-back McGroarty controlled the ball inside the box before beating Dodds with a shot which struck Andy Aitken on the back as he tried to get back to his line and deflected over the crossbar. The lucky escape lasted only seconds though as from the resulting corner John O'Neill met with a powerful header past Dodds from 6 yards. Having taken some stick from the Queens fans through the opening period it was no surprise to see him shrug off the congratulations of his team-mates in order to run to the away support giving the time honoured "I can't hear you now" gesture. Mr Conroy didn't share the joke though and duly booked him for incitement.
A minute later Bowey was fortunate not to see yellow for a bad fouled on McGowne in midfield which resulted in the former Kilmarnock defender leaving the field to be replaced by Kirk Broadfoot. The remainder of the half was played out without any further incident of note though.
Any real chance of Queens getting anything out of this game disappeared within 5 minutes of the re-start as the home side added a further two goals. The lead was doubled on 47 minutes when Brian McGinty took possession on the right side and, as the defence backed off and gave him space, he strode forward and hammered a marvellous swerving shot past Dodds from 20 yards in off the same upright which denied Burke earlier.
Three minutes later and Eric Paton seemed to have forgotten John O'Neill was no longer a team-mate as he slid in a perfect pass to put the midfielder clear on Dodds. It was a shocking back pass but O'Neill made things look easy as he took the ball past Dodds and knocked into the empty net from an acute angle.
On 56 minutes though Queens pulled one goal back. It all started with a throw on halfway on the left. Alex Burke collected O'Connor's nod on before sweeping a magnificent cross-field ball to Paul Burns on the right. Burns looked like he might have strode on and hit for goal but instead he crossed in to the box for David Bagan standing unmarked at the penalty spot to sweep into the bottom left corner of the net. Connolly immediately replaced McMullan with McColligan.
On 62 minutes St Mirren almost restored their three goal lead from a left sided corner. It was headed clear as far as the edge of the box before Simon Lappin half-volleyed it back at goal. His effort struck the base of the right post and was hacked away though I couldn't quite tell if Dodds was beaten or helped it onto the post. Queens immediate response was to put Stephen Payne on in place of Paul Burns. Four minutes later the subs were complete when Jaconelli replaced Alex Burke. St Mirren were still pushing forward though and on 69 minutes Hugh Murray's stabbed shot at goal narrowly missed the target again.
In the 76th minute McAlpine's attempted cross from halfway spun towards the top corner of the goal but Woods comfortably got back in time to prevent an embarrassing goal. Two minutes later McAlpine's far better cross presented Jaconelli with a good headed chance from 6 yards out but he headed over. The final ten minutes were played out with little incident at either end and, though Mr Conroy's whistle certainly came at least a minute early, we couldn't claim it made any difference to the result. St Mirren were well worth their win on the day.
After Clyde's wonderful come-back this afternoon to beat Falkirk they will come to Palmerston next week full of confidence and we will have to play better than this to halt that particular juggernaut. Anything less than three points and we can almost certainly forget about any title challenge this season.