2002/03 Back in the First
A serialised account of our season by our man who has been at almost every match home and away - Ewan Lithgow
Part Two - Pre-Season
Pre-season friendlies began on 6th of July with a low-key game at Gala Fairydean, who were one of the candidates beaten to SFL entry by Gretna. On the eve of the game, Brian McLaughlin, the diminutive former Celtic winger became new signing number four when he joined up after his release by Ayr United. The game itself ended in a comfortable 4-0 win for Queens. O'Neill, Weatherson and Allan scored early goals and the rest of the game was coasted. Trialist David Colvin added a 4th late on after Lyle had won but then missed a penalty.

The following weekend saw the annual Scottish Brewers tournament at Annan take place with Queens drawn to face Livingston in their semi final. It was a young Livi side that we faced and goals from Lyle, Weatherson, Allan and Paton saw us through to a comfortable win. However, an injury to Colin Scott in the pre-match warm up meant that young Stuart Robertson had to play the game and centre half Jon Crawford wore the sub 'keeper's shirt! He even got on the field for the last minute or so though he never touched the ball. More seriously, with Jamie Campbell still suffering from a shoulder injury and at least six weeks away from fitness, there was suddenly a need to find a goalkeeper.

The following day saw us face a stronger looking Kilmarnock side in the final and a familiar face was back in goal. John Hillcoat, out of contract after being released by St Mirren, answered an SOS and turned out as a trialist in the game, two years after he departed the club in the wake of Connolly's replacement of Rowe and Eadie. The game itself was tight and might have gone either way before it ended scoreless. Kilmarnock though lifted the trophy following their 4-2 penalty kick success that ended our hopes of retaining the trophy for a third consecutive year. Aitken and Crawford converted our successful kicks whilst Atkinson and McLaughlin failed.

A week later saw the first home friendly with Kilmarnock again the opponents, though this time their first team showed up, not their under 21's. Never the less, Queens put up a good
performance and lost only narrowly. Eric Paton showed his shooting power, scoring with a direct free kick after trialist forward George Santos had struck twice for Killie but we failed to grab an equaliser. On this occasion another former St Mirren goalie, Derek Scrimgour, a one-time rival with David Mathieson for the Scotland u-21 jersey, played in goal as a trialist.

In midweek the pre-season friendlies continued with a 1-0 home victory over Barnsley, Peter Weatherson scoring the goal. This time the trialist goalkeeper was Neil Bennett whilst Ryan McGuffie also played as a trialist right back having been released by Newcastle United.

On the Friday following the Barnsley game though came the shock move that meant Queens were rarely far away from the headlines for the rest of the season. Former Rangers and Scotland legend Andy "The Goalie" Goram became John Connolly's fifth new signing of the summer when he accepted terms just a year after playing in the Champions League for Manchester United!

There was no immediate debut for Goram though as a prior commitment kept him in Scotland whilst Queens completed the pre-season build up with a friendly away to Southport of the Nationwide Conference. We lost 2-1 with Steve Bowey scoring the late consolation and Bennett and McGuffie playing as trialists for a second time though neither was ultimately signed. The match was perhaps most notable for Andy Aitken netting one of the best own goals ever seen from about forty yards from goal, out on the left touchline!

Ewan Lithgow

Warm Down in the Summer Sun at Southport
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

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