This was a very up and down performance from Queens. We played all the football for the first fifty minutes and really should have led by two or three goals but then conceded one against the run of play. Having done so, we reverted to the form of the last couple of games and ended up clinging on for a point against a side rooted to the bottom of the league and formally relegated by their failure to get that second goal today.
To nobody's great surprise John Connolly made four changes to the starting line-up from last week's debacle. Out went Ronnie McQuilter, Dean Muir and Martin Hughes, all set for departure according to yesterday's "Standard", together with the injured Paddy Atkinson. In their place were Graham Connell and Peter Weatherson, returning from suspension, Steven Pickering and Geoff Paterson. Geoff became the fortieth player to take the field for Queens this season! The defence lined up as a back three with Des McKeown and Phil Nixon on either side of Andy Aitken. Pickering and Paterson were deployed as wing backs. Warren Hawke had a midfield role and John O'Neill partnered Weatherson up front.
It was a quiet opening and the only early half chance fell to us in the sixth minute when Weatherson managed to break down the right side and cross towards O'Neill at the near post but John failed to contact the ball and the chance was gone. In the 18th minute, Weatherson again found space at the touchline and pulled the ball back for Jon Sunderland, who blazed the ball across the face of goal with no-one to put it in.
The opening goal arrived after 24 minutes from a right sided corner which was swung into the middle and headed on by a Stirling defender. The ball dropped to Peter Weatherson standing on the edge of the box. If there has been a sweeter volley struck all season I haven't seen it and "Nelly's" effort blistered into the net for his 19th goal of the season. The celebration routine deserves a mention and it saw Peter perform his usual elephant routine as he ran back to halfway before engaging in a quite bizarre dance with Andy Aitken!
Within a minute Stirling almost grabbed an undeserved equaliser when they made it to the bye-line on the right and crossed low. The ball cannoned off Pickering's shin but against Campbell's legs and was cleared. The remainder of the half continued to be controlled by Queens but the only two half chances of note fell to Albion on the break. First, hesitation by Campbell in not coming out to collect a ball allowed Williams a chance but the keeper redeemed himself with a good block and then, a John Millar volley was well stopped by Campbell after a defensive header fell to him.
The second half began with little change as Queens continued to press and only two minutes had passed when Jon Sunderland was set up by O'Neill but his curling shot was easily saved by Chris Reid.
The 51st minute was the defining minute of the game and showed just how quickly things can change in football. John O'Neill beat the offside trap down the right and looked up to see Weatherson and Hawke, both unmarked, waiting for a cross. The cross was duly delivered but Peter completely missed the ball trying to head into the empty net. Never-the-less, the ball dropped beyond him to Hawke, who had time to control it before lifting it over the on-rushing Reid. However, the shot failed to beat Graeme Donald who had managed to get back to his own line. Donald appeared to block the effort with his arm but referee, John Rowbotham, who was standing a lot nearer than me, waved play on and the ball was hooked clear. Straight from the clearance Stirling broke up the right side and crossed though it was too deep. However, the ball was retrieved by McCallion (I think!) before it ran out of play and crossed back in to the danger area. Craig Feroz launched himself at the ball and met it with a full-blooded and unstoppable header into the top left corner for the equaliser.
Back came Queens though and, just three minutes later, Connell lifted a ball into the box perfectly for O'Neill to hit on the half-volley. O'Neill's shot seemed destined for the top corner but Reid produced a great save to tip the ball away for a corner.
Just before the hour mark, Mark Angel replaced Geoff Paterson who had begun to look tired and the game became very tight, with chances at a premium. Indeed, for the next 20 minutes, the only occurrence to get the fans on their feet was a quite awful challenge on Craig Feroz by Andy Aitken on the left touchline which saw "Aikers" become the only player booked in the whole match.
However, Stirling knew that they had to win the match to stand any chance of avoiding relegation and, not surprisingly, began to commit more players forward in the latter stages of the game, indeed centre back Graeme Donald played as an extra centre forward for the final ten minutes. In the 80th minute, Stirling came so close to getting the winner they desperately needed. A corner from the left was partially cleared but headed back into the penalty area by Ian McAuley. The ball was met by the head of an Albion player about six yards out and turned against the post before Campbell could pick it up.
With six minutes remaining, Walklate came on to replace Jon Sunderland and, within a minute, came a strange incident. A "Binos" player went down injured on the edge of our penalty box as the ball was cleared upfield. The ball arrived at the Albion goalkeeper's feet but Reid sliced the ball horribly, straight to Peter Weatherson, in trying to kick it out of play. To be fair to Peter, he probably was unaware of the injured player in the other half and he bore down on goal. Perhaps fortunately therefore, when he came to shoot, his contact was not good and Reid was able to gather easily. The keeper then kicked the ball into touch only to look up the field and see that his injured colleague had by now picked himself up and was running back to his own half! However, in the spirit of the intention, we threw the ball back to Reid when play restarted.
The drama wasn't quite finished yet though and Campbell and Nixon managed to leave a ball for each other, allowing another chance to a Stirling forward. Campbell was able to block the effort and Pickering completed the clearance seizing on the loose ball. A minute later and Pickering was making things happen at the other end with a fine mazy run which saw him beat four players before squaring towards O'Neill (I think!). The cross seemed to strike him on the shin and bobble over Reid but was cleared off the line. Back to our end and Campbell came out to collect a punt forward but didn't get there leaving a chance from the edge of the box. The shot beat Jamie but not Phil Nixon who blocked it three or four yards out and again it was Pickering first to the loose ball and clearing.
The final minute saw both goalscorers replaced at the same time as Alan Hogg came on for Weatherson and Feroz was replaced by our former striker Lee Bailey. With Graeme Love already on the field, that made two ex-Doonhamers in their side. However, despite a few minutes of injury time, there were no further close calls and the match ended with the spoils shared. It was a result which suited nobody (except perhaps Forfar and Queens Park), condemning the "Binos" to Division Three football next season.
The final two games of the season are entirely meaningless for us though, with today's result from Hampden, very meaningful to both of our opponents. We will still have a big say in who goes down alongside Stirling.
Thanks to Ewan Lithgow for today's report and to David Gow for the match photographs.