It was back to the harsh realities of League football for Queens today and a trip to play the League leaders and favourites, Falkirk. Ian McCall's men have stormed clear at the top of the League and on this showing it's easy to see why. John Connolly kept a similar line up to the one which beat St Mirren in midweek, making just three changes to the starting eleven. Andy Goram, Derek Allan and Derek Anderson returned in place of Colin Scott, Paddy Atkinson and John Crawford. Peter Weatherson retained the unfamiliar midfield role of Tuesday night.
It was a slow start to the game all round as many Queens fans, delayed in heavy traffic, missed the kick off. They were still drifting in as half time approached. The action on the pitch too was a while in warming up and it took eight minutes for the first chance of any note to fall to Lee Miller but he lashed his shot over the top from 18 yards out. A minute later Owen Coyle just beat Aitken to a low Henry cross but his effort just missed the post with Goram scrambling across goal. Queens first chance came in the 11th minute when Shields sent Lyle clear of the defence but wide on the left. Allan Ferguson came to meet the striker and he was forced to turn inside before shooting against the keeper's chest. Unfortunately the rebound eluded all the supporting Queens players. The "Bairns" were soon back in the ascendancy though and in 16 minutes Goram made a great block to deny Lee Miller from eight yards out. A minute later Miller headed Craig McPherson's cross goalward but Goram just managed to get across his goal in time to make the catch. Seconds later a chipped pass found Coyle a yard beyond the defence and, despite looking suspiciously offside, the veteran striker was allowed to home in on goal only for Aitken to just get a foot on the ball and Goram completed the clearance.
Bowser back defending
Brief respite arrived in the eighteenth minute when Weatherson sent Shields on a run towards goal but the strikers shot was weak and easily dealt with by Ferguson. A minute later Falkirk really should have taken the lead when McPherson's cross from the left was met at the back post by the flying Andy Lawrie but his effort eluded both the left post and Miller who was following in. In 20 minutes route one football from the home side almost paid dividends when Miller's header from a goal kick sent Coyle clear again. This time he opted to take his shot early and chipped Goram from outside the box but his effort fell wide of the right post. Three minutes later Aitken had to block another Coyle snapshot but incredibly, despite all the home pressure, it was Queens who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute. Good work from Shields initially freed Lyle on the right but rather than bear in on goal himself, he checked back and floated a cross to the back post where Bowey had stolen in and the little midfielders header skimmed the crossbar on its way over the top with Ferguson beaten.
Perhaps it was the fright which stirred the home side to finally take the lead their dominance deserved but the opener arrived two minutes later. The defence again lost track of Coyle due to good movement and a ball was floated in to his feet on the left of the box. He managed to get his shot in, beating Goram, but it went across the face of goal to ANDY LAWRIE at the back post. The defender very nearly managed to miss the open goal, hitting back across goal at Goram but, although "The Goalie" managed to parry the ball away, the assistant referee ruled, probably quite rightly to be honest, that the ball had already crossed the line.
In 34 minutes the lively Coyle again broke clear and again missed the target with a chipped effort. Another rare Queens attack in 39 minutes saw Weatherson feed O'Neill who won one challenge before shooting toward goal but without enough power to trouble Ferguson. A minute later, from a left sided corner only partly cleared, Bowey's shot at goal was also gathered easily by the home keeper. Normal service was resumed though and 41 minutes the home side should really have doubled their lead. Lawrie made the byeline and pulled the ball back towards Coyle who mis-kicked with the goal gaping. Even then though the chance wasn't gone and McQuilken had a good opportunity from the edge of the box but he hit over the bar. Right on half time Robbie Neilson was booked for a sliding challenge on McQuilken which was dangerous but saw little actual contact. It was the defenders' third foul though and the card would come back to haunt him later.
The second half saw the home side carry on as they had left the first and, in 49 minutes, Lawrie's deep cross from the right was headed narrowly over his own bar by Neilson. In 53 minutes though, Queens should have equalised. A John O'Neill free kick from the right was missed by everybody but retrieved by Joe McAlpine who dribbled along the goal-line before pulling the ball back for Derek Allan to hit from six yards but the defender's shot was only half-hit and Ferguson managed to block. Three minutes later Queens had another decent chance when Shields did well to break goalward and cross for McAlpine at the back post but he took a touch to control the ball first and his shot was blocked from eight yards by a defender. Falkirk though broke well from the resulting corner and Miller should have done better than lash over the top when given a shooting chance inside the box.
On the hour mark, Derek Anderson did very well to shepherd clear a dangerous McQuilken cross from the left. Just after that Ian McCall withdrew Coyle and put on Trinidadian star Collin Samuel. Four minutes later, Samuel latched onto a deflected pass to home in on goal, beating Goram but hitting the foot of the left post with his shot. A minute after that Aitken prevented Samuel from being clear again by sending a diving header towards his own goal and Goram again did very well to acrobatically tip it over the crossbar.
With 20 minutes left, and following a weak Shields header at goal, Connolly made his first change, replacing McAlpine with Brian McLaughlin. A minute later, McQuilken found himself clear on goal eight yards out and brought a magnificent diving save out of Goram. The second goal was delayed only a further five minutes though and it came from another Lawrie cross. Again a defender threw himself at the cross ball but DEREK ALLAN wasn't as lucky as Neilson and Aitken before him and his diving header bulleted past Goram into the top left corner of the net for his second successive own goal following the one he knew nothing about against Ayr last weekend.
If that had pretty much sewn things up for Falkirk, the game was ended as a real contest a minute later. Scott McKenzie allowed a short back pass to run through to Allan Ferguson when it was never going to get there easily. Robbie Neilson dived in to challenge the 'keeper and was adjudged to have fouled him. There was only one possible result and the resultant yellow card was his second of the game and saw him sent from the field. In 80 minutes Goram made another fantastic save, clawing the ball out of the air after Samuel's shot. A minute later, Andy Lawrie again shot just over the top of the bar with Goram beaten. From the resultant goal kick the ball came straight back again and Samuel was again through on goal. This time Goram saved well with his feet at the edge of the box. In 82 minutes, Samuel caught Andy Aitken dallying in possession thirty yards out and bore down on goal. Goram again made a great block with his feet and Bowey appeared to clear the rebound. The third goal arrived in 84 minutes and through the space vacated by Neilson. Weatherson gambled on an interception but missed the ball allowing a clear run down the left for McQuilken. His cross was met at the near post by a combination of COLLIN SAMUEL and Goram and the ball flew up into the roof of the net. Connolly immediately withdrew Derek Lyle and put Jon Crawford on to shore up the defence but the game was long gone now. In the final minute, Bowey made another great block to prevent substitute Mark Kerr from adding a fourth from ten yards out.
So a 3-0 defeat but we weren't disgraced. Falkirk were by far the best team I've seen this season and, on this form, it will take a good side to stop them. The movement from the front players in particular was very impressive and our midweek exertions probably didn't help either. Teams will take worse beatings at Brockville this season than we did.
Photograph David Gow