|2003/04 Season Review
||A serialised account of our season by our man who has been at almost every match home and away - Ewan Lithgow
|Part Three - August|
The season proper started in a most dangerous and awkward manner. Stranraer may have been relegated from a very tight second division the previous season but they were dangerous local rivals and desperate to turn over Queens. To start the defence of the Challenge Cup at Stair Park was always a potential banana skin, albeit one looked forward to eagerly by most fans. Unfortunately a wedding in the South of England meant I couldn't be there but by all accounts Queens put in an abject showing for much of the game and found themselves deservedly one down at the interval to Michael Moore's strike. Though Queens were better in the second period, Moore's second, slightly against the run of play, doubled the lead. Derek Lyle pulled a goal back late on but the portents for the league campaign were not good. However, after the game Queens agreed a deal with Berwick Rangers to sign centre forward and occasional centre back Gary Wood on a two year deal also reported to be worth around £30,000.
Great Weather - Terrible First Half
A week later an awkward trip to Perth opened the league campaign. St Johnstone had again been installed as pre-season title favourites and had accumulated a strong squad. Queens clinched another crucial signing on the morning of the game as ex-Rangers centre half Brian Reid joined up on an initial six-month deal. However, he was not signed in time to play and with Jim Thomson missing with tonsillitis it was the unfamiliar pairing of Derek Allan and Andy Aitken who faced the daunting Paatelainen and Donnelly. It didn't really work and we took a 4-1 drubbing as a result. Paatelainen appeared to foul Dodds in the build up to Fotheringham's opener but Keigan Parker added two quality strikes, both after errors by Aitken. Steve Bowey, freshly back from honeymoon, chipped a consolation goal in the second half but Eddie Malone restored the three goal gap in the last minute after fine work from Donnelly. Big defeats for Ayr and Brechin meant we were not in the bottom two but the prophets of doom on the internet had us as good as down already. They would soon change their tune!
The first shoots of recovery appeared a week later in a narrow 1-0 home win over Ross County. The Dingwall side passed the ball around quickly but lacked any real product up front as Thomson and Reid dominated in the newly established pairing. The goal arrived after only 11 minutes through Derek Lyle, first to the rebound when keeper Colin Stewart spilled a long range effort by Paton. Two in three games for Lyle and yet he wouldn't score again for us all season. Before the next game John Connolly effectively conceded it had been a mistake to re-sign Sandy Hodge and moved him on to Hamilton Academical without a fee.
A Good Aerial Battle
There was another encouraging performance away to champions Falkirk that finished in a 0-0 draw. Queens weathered a lot of pressure in the first half with Russell Latapy particularly outstanding but could easily have won the game in the end with Lyle, Gibson and O'Connor twice failing to convert good chances.
A week later, the final game of the month saw an outstanding performance in a 4-1 win at Somerset Park. Eric Paton's first half strike looked like dividing the teams for a long time before sub Sean O'Connor added a second with 20 minutes left. Fellow sub Alex Burke trebled the lead after a brilliant team passing move before Mark Campbell's header gave Ayr some consolation. However, there was still time for O'Connor's second goal to rub salt in the wound and the fact that Ludovic Roy was a clear man of the match speaks volumes about the game. Had it been 10-1 it would hardly have flattered Queens.
So for all the poor start the team ended August healthily placed 5th in the table and with seven points from a possible twelve. Thanks to other teams beating each other in fact we sat just one solitary point off the top!
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