Queens returned down the road from their crucial match at Brechin with a point to show for their efforts and a hard fought one at that. Whilst far from ideal it's most certainly a far better point for us than for Brechin who remain anchored to the foot of the table, three points adrift and still winless. Iain Scott certainly sent out an adventurous side in 4-4-2 with Lyle and O'Neill both in midfield roles. McNiven also started at the expense of Robertson and Gibson. With Lyle and Chris Carr back in the squad then there was no place in the sixteen for either Stephen Payne or Dimitri Pronovych.
The game started with a bang with Lyle picking up a booking in the first minute for a bad tackle on Gary Bollan, a booking about which he could have no complaint. When the game settled down it was Queens who made the early running and in eight minutes McLaughlin robbed Hamilton and played in McNiven who squared to a suspiciously offside looking John O'Neill. Unfortunately the ball was just behind him and his effort spun high and wide of the left post from about eight yards. Five minutes later and Bowey stretched to poke a Lyle pass through for McLaughlin behind the back four of the home side. Wee 'Eddie' chose to hit early from about 18 yards and Craig Nelson pulled off a decent save to parry over the top. From the resulting corner Derek Lyle rose to head past Nelson but Steven Hamilton headed off the line. The rebound was headed back at goal by Jim Thomson and clutched against the bar by Craig Nelson.
It took 23 minutes for Brechin to show as an attacking force when a corner caused some chaos in the Queens defence and, when Derek Lyle missed a back post header, Kevin Byers fired a shot across goal from a tight angle. Queens were back two minutes later though when Bowey slid Paul Burns into the penalty area as Gary Bollan slipped. Burnsy pulled a great ball back across the six yard box but David Whyte hacked away from the line under challenge from McNiven. Sadly though, almost completely against the run of play it was the home side who took the lead in 29 minutes. Kevin Byers was the man who found himself with more space than he should have 25 yards from goal and struck a fine drive which deflected off Stuart Hill and beyond Colin Scott's dive.
That was the signal for Brechin to dominate the next period of the game. On 34 minutes Steven Hampshire took a pass from Grant Johnstone and cut into the right side of the penalty area before hitting low to the bottom right corner and forcing a decent save out of Colin Scott. A minute later Derek Lyle lost possession and Darren Smith ran up the left side before shooting over the top from a tight angle. On 38 minutes Kevin Byers escaped up the right side and his cross was headed wide by Gerry Britton. In the final minute of the half Steven Hampshire burst into the box and beat Colin Scott from six yards only to strike the left goalpost. Eric Paton was first to the loose ball to turn it away for a corner. The danger wasn't over though and from the resulting corner Scott Walker headed goalward and Derek Lyle was on hand to head off the line.
The first action of the second period arrived in 51 minutes when McNiven broke up the right side and cut back for McLaughlin to have a swing at the ball but although it bobbled all the way to the line before Nelson picked up it was never in danger of going in. Two minutes later and it was Brechin on the attack with Byers wriggling space outside the box to fire goalward only for Colin Scott to hold over his head. The equaliser arrived a minute later though. Derek Lyle broke free down the right side and hung a deep cross up to the back post beyond Craig Nelson and, as McNiven tried to get on the end of it, was looped over his own keeper by Steven Hamilton.
Just before the hour mark Steve Bowey became the second Queens player to pick up a booking for a late challenge on Craig Winter. Four minutes later Kevin Byers was booked for Brechin for kicking the ball away after a soft foul was given against Gerry Britton. On 62 minutes Hamilton played a fine ball down the line allowing Hampshire to break away down the right side and square the ball back to Gerry Britton six yards from goal. It looked a certain goal but the finish was powder puff and Colin Scott picked it up at his feet. Two minutes later it was Darren Smith breaking forward to fire over the top from 20 yards and Brechin made a change replacing Britton with Paul Ritchie. On 68 minutes Paul Ritchie outmuscled Jim Thomson and Kevin Byers broke free again to lob well over the bar and Iain Scott decided to make his first and only change, replacing Steve Bowey with Willie Gibson. A minute later Kevin Byers, a clear man of the match, rounded both Thomson and Hill on another run only for Colin Scott to save bravely at his feet. Scott clattered into Jim Thomson in making the save and the big man needed a minute's treatment before continuing. Whilst he was being dealt with by the magic hands of Kenny Crichton Brechin made another change, replacing Darren Smith with Charlie King.
On 73 minutes though Derek Lyle hung in another high cross which O'Neill almost latched onto. The ball was headed clear but Tommy English struck goalward only to see his shot hit Brian McLaughlin and deflect well wide. Brechin wasted no time in springing back on the attack and the ever dangerous Byers hit another shot from 20 yards that Colin Scott dived to his right to turn wide. With quarter of an hour to go the final home change was made with Stuart Callaghan replacing Grant Johnstone. With three minutes remaining Paul Burns won possession outside the box from a half cleared corner and slid Brian McLaughlin into the penalty box. With players calling for the ball in the middle though McLaughlin opted for a near post shot and hit the side netting. As the game moved into injury time Tommy English stood a fine cross up from the left side and found a looping back post header from Derek Lyle that so nearly dropped in only to land on the roof of the net. That was the last action of the match though and both teams were left frustrated by the draw having put so much into the game.
With Stranraer losing to St Mirren it's not a bad point, keeping Brechin three points behind and closing the gap on Stranraer. However, St Mirren away will be a hugely difficult task this weekend. The suspended Gary Wood will at least be available for that one too.