Queens turned in an efficient performance today against a very disappointing Stirling Albion team that must surely have been suffering a Scottish Cup hangover as rarely has a team from Stirling taken the field at Palmerston and turned in such a lacklustre performance. Queens should really have won by a greater margin but a combination of bad luck and poor finishing kept the scoreline well within Stirling's reach and again the Palmerston faithful were made to sweat for the last fifteen minutes or so as the Bino's chased an equaliser.
The game started off a scrappy affair with neither side on top, Queens though gradually took the initiative in conjunction with the sleet and snow getting worse. The combination of Connell and O'Neill in the heart of the park was the dominant force behind Queens today, almost all moves involved one or the other and they bossed the centre of the pitch all afternoon.
The first chance of note fell to a grounded Warren Hawke who managed to curl an effort just wide from a semi-prone position before being attended to for a minor injury. Shortly after, in the twentieth minute, Stuart King broke down the left and headed towards the goal, he skipped past two defenders only to see his shot deflected back out to the waiting Graham Connell, from 35 yards the influential midfielder drove a dipping effort into 'keeper Chris Reid's top right hand corner to make it 1-0 for the Doonhamers.
Stuart King was proving a handful for the Stirling defence as he twice had efforts just past the upright before Queen's netted again. On twenty eight minutes the conditions had deteriorated enough to make an orange ball essential and only three minutes later that orange ball was nestling in the Albion net This time it came from the right hand side when Jon Sunderland broke free and centred, the ball was flicked on by Jon O'Neill towards goal and Stirling Captain Kevin Gaughan could only manage to deflect the effort past his own 'keeper, not the best of weeks for the Binos stopper who last week saw red in the Scottish Cup defeat by Hibs.
Within minutes Queens almost benefited from another helpful deflection as a King effort just went past with the 'keeper at the other post. Queens were well on top for the rest of the half and should really have increased their lead a few time as Jon O'Neill twice broke free down the left and had efforts deflected wide, Graham Connel similarly saw another goal bound effort being cleared for a corner and Jon Sunderland attempted a half volley but only found the goalkeepers arms with the effort.
The second half saw no change to the Dumfries side although Stirling made one change. Queens though took up where they had left off and it was former Queens man Graham Love that almost made the score 3-0 as he either very skilfully or very luckily turned a Warren Hawke driven cross behind for a corner right at the post.
O'Neill and Connell decide strategy for a free kick
There was some excellent football being played from midfield forward and O'Neill and King demonstrated some quality one touch football that sent the former Bournemouth midfielder through on goal only to have the ball touched away from him as he prepared to cross.
Sixteen minutes into the half Des McKeown won a crunching tackle out on the left touchline, the ball came through to Stuart King who demonstrated some delightful skill in playing the ball on and skipping over what would have been a very nasty collision with a Binos defender, the Preston winger though escaped the challenge and headed off down the wing at pace although the final cross found no takers.
Stirling began to fight back a little, mainly due to their substitutes Stuart and later Wiliams, a move involving Stuart gave striker Templeman an opportunity to strike from close range but Colin Scott in the Queens goal was equal to it and saved the target mans effort at point blank range.
Queens then had a glorious chance to wrap up the match as Warren Hawke got onto the end of a short corner between Sunderland and Atkinson but could only watch in agony as his effort went just past, (See photo).
Warren Hawke heads wide
Three minutes later substitute Alex Williams, with his first touch of the ball brought the Binos back into it with a good angular strike from the edge of the Queens box. Queens were still piling on the pressure and next to sin was Jon Sunderland as he made a terrific run through the Stirling defence but instead of playing the ball to the unmarked Warren Hawke elected to shoot himself only to see his toe poke easily gathered by Reid. Then Peter Weatherson, who had a quiet match today, couldn't quite reach a Warren Hawke cross and his marker cleared for a corner, although the referee gave Peter the credit and awarded a bye kick, the final action of the game was a Warren Hawke effort after he was played through by Peter Weatherson but again he elected to shoot when a better option possibly was Jon O'Neill at the far post.
So a good solid performance by Queens who looked streets ahead of the opposition and who should really have capitalised more on their fourteen shots on goal compared to Stirling's four. A good start to a league programme which will be very testing over the next few weeks.