A hard fought point at Shielfield Park this afternoon. It was a point gained, more than two points dropped but, with Arbroath winning again at Stranraer, it may not be enough to sustain any lingering hopes of a promotion challenge.
It was all change again in the team. Scott returned for the unavailable Mathieson in goal and King was fit after illness to replace Dennis Boyle wide left. In addition a "Trialist" right back came in for Angel, with Pickering pushing forward into the wide right role. However, not everything changes and, to the incredulity of the Queens support, Alan Gemmill was the referee for the third successive game!
To be honest, the first half was a great disappointment in footballing terms. Neither side really managed to string much fluent football together. All there was to show for the first half hour's play was a spectacular diving header by Warren Hawke from a King cross which didn't even go out for a corner and a dipping shot by Berwick's Marc Anthony from around 20 yards which went over though Scott probably had it covered anyway. After 30 minutes, Berwick were forced to make a change when Duthie limped off to be replaced by Smith. Four minutes later, Queens had the first decent effort of the day. Des McKeown broke up an attack and fed Warren Hawke in space just over the halfway line. Warren ran forward twenty yards unchallenged and shot from just outside the penalty area, low and hard, but just missed the right post. Within a minute, ex-Queens player Paul Ronald headed a decent chance over following a left wing cross.
The opener was delayed only a further six minutes though and it was a comedy of errors from Queens defensively. A long ball was punted out of Berwick's defence and Ronnie McQuilter seemed to be about to head it clear but either mistimed his jump or received a shout to duck under it. The ball bounced once and was partly cleared by Andy Aitken but he found himself dragged way out of position trying to actually win possession. Berwick were able to get some space down the left side and put in a low cross-field ball but it seemed to be far too close to Scott. However, the 'keeper allowed the ball to slip through his fingers and run through to the back post where Paul Ronald, having completely lost Des McKeown, had the easiest of tasks to knock it home from about two feet out. A complete disaster of a goal to lose!
The second half was much brighter though, to be fair, most of the good play came from the "Wee Rangers". Queens were not without the odd chance though and, in the 55th minute, Hawke did well to win the ball at the corner flag and feed Pickering. "Picky" ran along the goal-line before cutting the ball back to Jon O'Neill, whose shot on the turn went over the top.
Berwick doubled their lead on the hour mark and it was another strange goal. An attack seemed to have petered out as the ball bounced close to the Queens goal-line. However, a Berwick player managed to reach the ball and spun quickly to lift it back into the box. Andy Aitken had tracked the run but had raised his arm in the air, presumably claiming that the ball had crossed the line, only to see the attempted cross strike it from point blank range. Mr Gemmill had no hesitation in awarding the penalty kick to much protests from the Queens players. Stuart King took his protest too far and got himself booked as well. Certainly there was no intent on Aitken's part but as Andy Gray always says on Sky, "If you raise your arms up, you're asking for trouble", and assuming that the ball hadn't already gone out, it was probably the right decision. In any event, once the protests had been dealt with, Marc Anthony had little difficulty in despatching the kick beyond Scott and into the net. Little over a minute later and Berwick might have had a third goal when another Aitken error left a forward through on goal. He chipped Scott but saw the effort land on the roof of the net. A further minute later and Stuart King found himself with a good chance inside the Berwick box but blasted over the top.
McQuilter became the second Queens player to be booked for a foul and then John Connolly made his only substitution of the game when Alan Hogg came on for Pickering. This meant a positional re-shuffle with Hawke dropping back into midfield.
Three minutes later Queens got themselves back into the match with yet another bizarre goal. We broke forward following a Berwick free kick and Peter Weatherson received the ball on the right. He fed it on to Hogg inside the box and the young substitute managed to square it across the six yard box where it was hacked clear. The resulting corner was easily cleared but was played back out to Jon O'Neill wide on the right and he crossed it over the keeper to the back post. Innes Ritchie, under little pressure, tried to turn it behind for another corner but succeeded only in heading the ball against his own post. The rebound fell kindly for Peter Weatherson to lash home his sixteenth goal of the season from two yards out.
Midfield action on Sunday - Photo courtesy of David Gow
It was still Berwick in control of the game though and they missed at least three further gilt edged chances to kill off the game. In the 76th minute, Scott was left one-on-one with Paul Ronald but the striker shot high and Scott was able to hold the ball above his head. The best chance of all came in the 81st minute when a fine move left a striker clear on goal with again only Scott to beat. He slid the ball under the advancing 'keeper but wide of the right post as the home fans celebrated what they thought was a winning goal. Finally, after O'Neill had a free kick from 25 yards palmed out by McCulloch in the Rangers goal, Marc Anthony found himself in space about ten yards out in the 83rd minute but saw his shot narrowly miss the far post with Scott beaten.
However, Berwick couldn't find the goal that would settle the match and, as so often happens in these situations, they were hit with a sucker punch. As the clock ticked on to 86 minutes, a great flick through by Alan Hogg left Jon O'Neill all alone and running in on goal. Just as he did in the last minute at Stenhousemuir recently, he kept his head and lifted the ball over the advancing McCulloch for a much celebrated equaliser.
If this result did little for our promotion hopes, it did even less for Berwick's and it's looking more and more like Arbroath for second spot. However, where there's life there's hope and the squad once more displayed the grit and determination to grind our a result when all is not going well that might well be needed in the coming weeks.
Thanks to Ewan Lithgow for today's report