For the first time in eight years Queen of the South sit proudly at the top of their league, two points separate the Doonhamers from Stranraer, Alloa and Clydebank respectively. This follows a hard fought encounter at Palmerston which saw previous league leaders Stranraer defeated by the only goal of the game from non other than top scorer John O'Neill.
The team line up saw two changes from last week and both enforced, Peter Weatherson was sitting on the sidelines serving the first of his two match suspension and taking his place was former Cowdenbeath striker Murray McDowell, the front man signed early on Saturday morning on a months loan from Partick Thistle. The second change had to be made during the warm up when Colin Scott dislocated his finger, into the starting line up went Jamie Campbell and onto the bench went 16 year old youth 'keeper Stuart Robertson.
The match started out quietly, Queens almost being too respectful of their opponents and sitting back when really a more positive approach was called for. Stranraer made the most of their opponents relaxed approach and made a number of chances in the first twenty five minutes without really threatening the home goal.
Queens then appeared to wake up and Gordon Connelly sent the ball across onto Warren Hawke's head, Warren played the ball onto Murray McDowell and the striker turned and shot only to see his effort go wide of the 'keepers near post. Joe McAlpine was first to test the 'keeper as he sent in a header from a John O'Neill cross that was plucked out of the air by McGeown.
On thirty one minutes, John O'Neill cleverly chipped the ball over the defence for the on-rushing Murray McDowell to almost get a touch on but McGeowan was quickly out and first to the ball. Gordon Connelly then attempted to curl the ball into the net, his shot was deflected past and from the corner Jim Thomson produced an overhead kick that actually had to be saved this week.
A dramatic moment followed in forty minutes as Warren Hawke was taken down in the box as he ran on to a John O'Neill through ball, the ever reliable O'Neill stepped up to take the penalty but his effort was too high and hit the bar before bouncing back to safety. O'Neill's miss seemed to have a positive effect on him as he immediately upped the tempo and came close to scoring from free play only moments later. The last action of the half was a John O'Neill free kick that was curled low around the wall and almost crept in with McGeown scrambling.
HALF TIME 0-0
John Connolly's half time team talk worked wonders, from the off Queens were on the offensive and within four minutes John O'Neill had made amends for his earlier penalty miss when he strode through and round a defender before firing past the Stranraer 'keeper to make the score 1-0.
John O'Neill turns away after scoring the winner
Stranraer then suffered another blow, but not one as hard as that suffered by Derek Allan at the hands of Ian Harty, the Stranraer front man letting his frustration get the better of him as he scythed Allan down and onto the running track in front of the main stand. Referee Mr Toner had absolutely no doubt and a straight red card was dished out.
Queens immediately took advantage of the numerical superiority and pressed forward with Hawke playing O'Neill in but a last minute saving tackle preventing the top scorer from adding to his seasons tally. Gordon Connolly was proving to be an effective route forward for Queens on a number of occasion, the former Carlisle midfielder feeding McDowell whose cross was just about held by the Stranraer 'keeper.
'Keeper McGeown just keeps a hold of the ball
Queens were taking the game to the Stair Park men and most of the pressure was down the right hand side involving Gray, Connelly and McDowell. Things continued in this vein for some time without any real clear cut chances being made, however Stranraer then re-organised and for the last twenty minutes Queens defence found themselves on their back foot.
It was not a comfortable ending, Finlayson again being the tormentor in chief, although unlike last season we now have players capable of matching his pace and he often had to switch wings in an attempt to find some space.
John Connolly used three tactical substitutes in the last ten minutes and the game was played out to its conclusion with no further scoring.
Late sub Paddy Atkinson keeps the ball safe
A tremendous victory for a side who are growing in confidence with every game and this time they delivered the goods when over three thousand locals turned out to witness the Doonhamers elevation to the top of the Bell's League Division Two, the largest league crowd at Palmerston for many a year, possibly back to April 1986 when over 5000 packed in to see Queens defeat Dunfermline 3-1.