Well, another cup run comes to an end with a respectable exit by a narrow margin, away to an SPL team. And yet, if we're honest, this game showed exactly how far away from being able to compete at this level we really are. Hibernian are no better than an average SPL team who played not all that well tonight I suspect and yet comfortably beat a QoS team who, it has to be said, didn't do themselves justice at all. If we'd played the kind of football we played against Ayr, Clyde or second half against Inverness we could have reasonably expected to trouble Hibs. Instead it was a performance where we were really second best all over the park and should probably have lost by more than the margin would suggest.
For Queens it was the same starting eleven that faced ICT and Ross County in the previous two games but Gary Wood returned to the bench after illness, replacing Derek Allan there. For Hibs this was more or less a first choice line up, with only Scott Brown missing of their regular starters this season. The match got off to a slow start amid the farcical scenes of Queens fans flowing into the ground throughout the first half hour. There really can be no excuses for the problems at the away section where only two turnstiles were apparently open for the predicted low crowd. And yet Hibs were well warned of the likelihood of a decent support appearing. The stewards apparently said they were told to expect 200 or so away fans whilst in the event somewhere around the four figure mark showed up. The result of which was some Queens fans, at the ground in plenty of time, were still not actually inside when the deadlock was broken. That is a ridiculous situation and someone should have delayed the kick off when it became apparent that they were not going to be able to get everybody in on time!
Rant over and on to the action. as I said, the early play was lacking in any real excitement and the home side took the lead with the game's first attack of any note after just 11 minutes. Jim Thomson appeared to misjudge a through ball, allowing Derek Riordan, right on his shoulder to get past him and into a shooting position. Although JT recovered to put in a challenge, he succeeded only in knocking the ball into a better position for the young striker to fire the ball under Colin Scott and into the net. As if that wasn't bad enough, another 11 minutes later the lead was doubled by the same player and after a catalogue of defensive disasters for our normally solid centre half pairing. It came from a big clearance up the middle of the park. Brian Reid, caught out of position, tried to intercept the ball but succeeded only in diverting it way up into the air. Jim Thomson came away from his man (Riordan) to try to head the ball clear but didn't time his jump well and the ball again fell to a Hibs player. As Reid desperately tried to get back to mark Riordan the young striker was played away clear on goal. There was never much doubt after that as he easily outpaced Reid and buried the ball into the bottom left corner beyond Scott's dive.
The nightmare start continued two minutes later when only a bewildering decision by referee Mike McCurry denied the home side a penalty kick. More good work by Man of the Match Riordan sent Garry O'Connor clear on goal only to be pulled back by Jim Thomson. From where I was it looked a stonewall penalty kick and the Hibs players certainly agreed but Mr McCurry waved play on and the danger was cleared.
It was 34 minutes in before I even felt it necessary to write down anything attacking about Queens when, on a quick break from a Hibernian corner, Bowey so very nearly freed Burns and McAlpine to run clear behind the home defence but saw his attempted pass cut out by the last defender. Five minutes later Brian Reid made a fine back post clearance to deny Hibs again from a left sided free kick after Bowey had fouled Ian Murray. However, breaking clear Queens finally had their first shot of the evening up the other end when Bagan's effort from outside the box clipped a heel and spun wide of goal with Daniel Andersson wrong-footed. In injury time, an attempted pass through to Sean O'Connor got deflected nicely into his path and left him with a half chance but he snatched at it and sliced across the face of goal without troubling the Swedish goalkeeper.
The home side made a half time change with Alan Reid replacing Roland Edge at left back but the first chance of the second period came to Queens. Sean O'Connor collected a Burke flick and turned inside his man before shooting low for the bottom right corner. However, his effort didn't carry enough power and was easily dealt with by Andersson. Two minutes later and HIbs, back on the attack, failed narrowly to add to their tally when O'Connor's fizzed effort eluded the junction of bar and right upright from 20 yards., but only very narrowly. On 52 minutes Hibernian made their second change, bringing Steven Whittaker on in place of Grant Brebner who had been struggling with a knock sustained in the opening period.
Just after the hour mark, Stephen Glass had a shot from 25 yards on the rebound from a half cleared Riordan cross deflect wide off Brian Reid's heels and, a minute later, a decent spell of passing involving Burke, Bowey and McAlpine ended with the latter putting over a back post cross to Burns which the youngster tried to turn goalward again only to be denied by a defensive block. From the appeals in the crowd it may have been an arm that was used but given the range involved there could have been no intent surely and Mr McCurry rightly awarded only a corner. On the break from that corner Hibernian somehow found themselves with a three against one situation up front but Colin Scott rushed from his goal to deny O'Connor with his legs.
The second half began as quietly as the first period with almost 20 minutes elapsed before Bagan had a shot at goal rather easily dealt with by Andersson. Three minutes later, crazy defending from Queens saw first Bagan and then McAlpine play themselves into trouble in their own penalty area allowing Garry O'Connor a free sight at goal. However, Jim Thomson appeared with a sliding block to avert the danger. On 69 minutes O'Connor's diving header at the back post flashed just wide of target but he may have been offside, the assistant referee wasn't entirely clear with his signal!
With just over a quarter of an hour remaining Ian Murray somewhat controversially won possession with a sliding challenge in which he clearly handled the ball and sent Riordan free again. He shot from the left edge of the penalty box and could only watch in anguish as his effort narrowly eluded the far post.However, Queens weren't finished yet though and Burke headed over on the stretch a couple of minutes later.
With 8 minutes of the tie remaining John Connolly decided to throw a bit of caution to the wind and withdrew Joe McAlpine, replacing him with Gary Wood and going narrow in midfield. A series of corners to the home side followed before Queens finally cleared their lines under severe pressure. In 85 minutes, Stephen Glass picked up a ball from a corner kick on the edge of the penalty box and waltzed past at least four defenders before lashing over the bar from 8 or 9 yards.
With 3 minutes remaining, Hibs Colin Murdock picked up the game's first booking for a cynical and deliberate trip on Gary Wood. However, with just one minute remaining the balance of the game shifted considerably. Colin Scott hammered the ball upfield from a goal-kick which was completely misjudged by the home defence but not by Gary Wood. Wood outpaced his opponent, Murdock, and homed in on goal only to be tripped from behind by the same player. The result, though Mr McCurry was rather delayed in deciding, was a penalty kick and a red card for the guilty party (Murdich). Alex Burke duly took the penalty and despatched it into the bottom right corner past Andersson's dive.