Second Division champions Queen of the South celebrated an unprecedented double as they clinched the Ramsdens Cup following a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over First Division leaders Partick Thistle at the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.
After a goalless 90 minutes the game exploded into life in extra-time as Nicky Clark headed Queens into the lead before Partick were given the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot with just two minutes left. Centre-back Aaron Muirhead saw his spot-kick saved by Queens `keeper Lee Robinson before sparking a melee after headbutting Queens captain Chris Higgins and being shown a red card. Partick recovered though to snatch an equaliser with the last kick of the game as Kris Doolan scrambled home to take the final to penalties. Lee Robinson took centre stage as he incurred the wrath of the Partick fans by employing his own special brand of gamesmanship to unsettle the Partick kick-takers. The tactic seemed to work as he saved the first penalty then scored himself from the spot and made the winning save from Conrad Balatoni to win the cup for Queens.
Queens manager Allan Johnston, said: “The penalty shoot out at the end added a bit of drama at the end but hopefully it was a good advert for Scottish football because I thought both teams had a go and it could have went either way.
“After the opening ten minutes I though we played really well and we should have won the game. The boys actually got stronger through extra time so I can`t ask any more of them.
“We have a lot of talented players and it was hard to pick out individuals today. You could see the work rate of the whole team: that`s what we’ve been about all season. Against a top Partick Thistle team that are running away with the First Division it just shows how well the lads have been playing.
“It’s actually the first cup final I`ve ever won. I`ve been beaten in everything! Scottish Cup, League Cup, Ramsdens Cup, playoff finals so it’s about time I won a cup!
“I’m just gutted for the boys who missed out through suspension but delighted to get the win.”
Lee Robinson was named man of the match after he saved three penalties, one in extra time and two in the shootout, he said: “This year has just been amazing for everyone. To be 20-odd points clear in the league and to win this cup which was so hard this year because we were playing against Partick and they would probably beat a lot of Premier League teams the way they`ve been playing so it’s great.
“We played really well this season and we`ve worked hard and I think the lads did deserve it. We played the better football and made the better chances. Doolan had a shot in the last minute but apart from that I didn`t really have a save to make so I think we deserved it.
“I like to think I`ve got a good chance at penalties but I knew I would have to take one so I didn`t want penalties to come. I was supposed to be number six but with the boys going off I was the fourth one but I like it really, I like to think I strike a decent ball.”
When asked about his tactics in the penalty shoot-out Robinson revealed how close he came to seeing a second yellow card but protested his innocence: “He was threatening to send me off every time but I was just trying to give their player the ball just to help. He threatened me a lot!”
Nicky Clark netted Queens 100th goal of the season in the 100th minute with a close range header to give the Doonhamers the lead.
He said: “I knew I was going off because I was struggling with my calf and then my hammies were going and Michael [Paton] got the ball on the left-hand side and I just though to myself `I better score here before I go off and I can go off happy`. I couldn`t believe it when it came off the bar and I just had to tap it in, I was delighted.”
Club captain Chris Higgins led his teammates in praising the performance of the team: “There’s no words to explain it. I know it will never happen in my career again. The fans were great today, even the Thistle fans. There was a great atmosphere and it was brilliant for the full 120 minutes.”
Dan Carmichael: “Just buzzing to get the win. My friends and family were in the crowd and to see them so happy I`m just buzzing. You can tell what it means to the fans as well so it`s all for them.”
Michael Paton: “Who thought 3 months ago when I was sitting on the treatment table that I`d be standing here today with the league and cup double? It’s unbelievable, I`m over the moon.”
Derek Young: “To win the league the way we did and to come here as underdogs and play the way we did is tremendous. This doesn`t happen every week but we’ll go and enjoy it tonight.”