An extremely disappointing end to Queens recent good run of form at Brockville today. The League leaders showed all their ability and handed out a comprehensive drubbing. However, just to get the excuses started early, this was probably well short of a first choice Queens eleven. Already shorn of Robbie Neilson through suspension, Steve Bowey and Sean O'Connor missed out Bowey through his ankle injury and O'Connor with a bout of flu. Into the starting line up came John O'Neill, Joe McAlpine and Derek Lyle with Brian McLaughlin switching over to the right and playing the right wing back role in a 3-5-2 formation. Falkirk too had to make changes though with Alan Ferguson pulling out before kick off to be replaced by Darren Hill in addition to the likes of Andy Lawrie, Kevin James and Steve Tosh being missing.
The match started positively for Queens with little hint of what was to come. Just over a minute into the game we missed an absolute sitter of a chance to take the lead (and remember Falkirk have only lost three home goals all season). Jim Thomson played a great ball over the top which was collected on the right side by Weatherson who had beaten his defender. He played the ball early across the face of goal to Derek Lyle who met it six yards out with only the young goalkeeper between him and goal but somehow Lyle contrived to poke the ball into the side netting when it was easier to score. Six minutes later and Queens missed another decent chance. This time McAlpine hit an early ball forward and found Lyle and Weatherson in a two against one situation. The defender managed to squeeze the ball back to Hill but his clearance was poor and went straight to Paton midway inside the Falkirk half. He played the ball back in early and, while the Falkirk defence stood still claiming Weatherson was offside (he was but not interfering with play) Lyle ran through on goal again. This time he shot early from the edge of the penalty box and his shot went wide of the left post when he should possibly have taken the ball in a bit before shooting. A minute later Falkirk showed as an attacking threat for the first time when McPherson had a shot from the edge of the box following a right sided throw which took a deflection but didn't really trouble Goram greatly.
To be honest the home side never even looked like they might score in the first twenty minutes so it was with no little surprise that they did score the first time they seriously threatened to do so. Collin Samuel made a burst to the touchline down the right before pulling the ball back into the penalty area. Somehow the ball missed everyone, including about three Queens defenders, before arriving at the feet of McQuilken on the left edge of the box. His shot was initially blocked by Paton, Coyle then had a run toward goal blocked off by Crawford before the ball was fired along the six yard line, missed by Thomson and finally bundled in by Lee Miller though he didn't connect properly with his effort and Goram almost blocked it.
In the 24th minute Queens earned a free kick midway inside the Falkirk half which Paton lifted into the box for Lyle to flick on. The ball was half cleared but fell to Joe McAlpine to strike from the edge of the box. His effort was well hit but not far enough away from Hill to cause him too much trouble. Immediately the home side doubled their advantage from another beautifully constructed but fortunately finished move. McQuilken broke up the left side this time and put in a great cross which was again missed by everybody in the middle and met at the back of the penalty area another home player who shot for goal. Goram managed to block with his legs but the ball sliced into the air and dropped on the left edge of the six yard box where all John Henry should have had to do was knock it into the empty net. Somehow though, perhaps distracted by the efforts of Aitken and Goram to put in a block, he sliced the ball right back where it had come from and in off the base of the post.
Five minutes later Lee Miller had a decent effort from the edge of the box well covered by "The Goalie". In the 33rd minute Peter Weatherson earned a free kick about ten yards outside the penalty area following a defensive trip. It was back-heeled to Andy Aitken to shoot and deflected into the path of McLaughlin on his own inside the box. He drove the ball into the six yard box again where Lyle went for the ball on the near post only to see his effort clearly deflected wide by a defender. For reasons best known to himself though Mr Dallas awarded a goal kick. Two minutes later Hill narrowly beat Lyle to the ball outside his box after another ball over the top of the home defence. A minute after that though and the match was finished as a contest as the home side added a third goal. This was all about Collin Samuel again as he outpaced Aitken down the right side and crossed low into the box for Owen Coyle to tuck the ball home just inside the near post in exactly the manner Lyle should have done in the first minute.
The second half was only a minute old when McPherson beat two men on the right before shooting from an acute angle though only six yards out but Goram was able to parry the ball out for a corner. The ball was never really properly cleared out from the resulting corner though and the initial clearance to halfway was lifted back into the box and fell for Lee Miller. He was challenged by Crawford but managed to pass the ball on to Collin Samuel who cut inside before shooting into the bottom right corner.
Five minutes later John Connolly decided it was time to tighten things up a bit and brought Paddy Atkinson on in place of O'Neill. Atkinson dropped into a right back slot with Weatherson dropping into midfield making a virtual 4-5-1 for the remainder of the game. Two minutes later Weatherson hit a snap shot on the volley a yard or two wide of goal after a poor clearance from the home defence. The next home goal was barely delayed much though and it arrived in the 55th minute. This time it was the goal of the game started by Henry in the middle of the park. He fed the ball forward to Coyle who picked out Miller in space on the right side. His low cross was slid in perfectly for Collin Samuel again to hammer into the net from about six yards out.
Three minutes later and Samuel almost had a hat trick but his athletic effort from the left side of the penalty area was well saved by Goram. Immediately at the other end Weatherson charged down a Hill clearance from a short back pass but the ball deflected wide for a throw rather than goalward. In the 62nd minute Falkirk, obviously feeling the game was well won, replaced John Hughes, who has been carrying an injury, with young Stuart Cringean. In 68 minutes, five almost became six from a free kick on the left side of the park following a McLaughlin foul. The cross was met powerfully by Steven Rennie but his header smacked against the angle of the crossbar and left post and rebounded to safety. A minute later Miller should have scored with a powerful header from six yards following more great work down the right by Samuel but he headed it straight at Goram. Again up the other end, the substitute Cringean did well to block an effort from Lyle well inside his own box.
In the 72nd minute McColligan had a shot deflected wide after decent work up the left side by McAlpine and Lyle. From the resulting corner though, Rennie and Aitken clashed heads and, though Andy was able to continue after treatment, Rennie was immediately replaced by Ian MacSween, a young forward. That meant a reshuffle and Lee Miller went into the back four for the rest of the match. In the same minute, Alan Gray replaced Joe McAlpine and McLaughlin reverted back to the left side with Gray going into the right midfield slot. In the 77th minute Goram had to move smartly to tip another goalbound header over the top following a right sided free kick though it may well have been a Queens defensive head that flicked it on. In the 80th minute Derek Lyle picked up the game's only booking after showing dissent following the award of a free kick against him as he tried to prevent Miller shielding the ball out for a goal kick. In the 81st minute both sides made their final change of the game with Rodgers replacing Coyle for Falkirk and Paul Shields making his final appearance before returning to Celtic replacing Derek Lyle for Queens. With two minutes remaining more good work down the right side from that man Samuel led to Mark Kerr having a decent shot from the edge of the box well saved again by Goram. As the game moved into injury time, Henry burst into the six yard box again but again Goram managed to kick the ball away. Despite the presence of both physios on the park for a while following the head injury and six second half substitutions, Hugh Dallas, perhaps as a relief to us, played virtually no additional time and blew the final whistle before anything else could happen.
Let's not beat about the bush here, on the day we were well beaten by the far better team. We should have been at least one and possibly two goals up before Falkirk got started and their first goal was way against the run of play. We were also without three of our better players but so were Falkirk. Without really wanting to belittle the efforts of the rest of the home side, for me the big difference between the two sides on the day was Collin Samuel. He scored two, made another two and basically terrorised us with his pace all day. We must now regroup to face Ayr on New Year's Day, hopefully with Bowey and O'Connor back in the line up.
Photo's - David Gow