The curtain finally came down on what has been a very disappointing season for Queens this afternoon as champions Ross County were just a bit too good for a relatively in-experienced Queens team, and eventually ran out 5-3 winners in a hugely entertaining game.
With relegation confirmed, and the resignation of both manager Gus MacPherson and his assistant Andy Millen earlier in the week, the game, rather than being an end of season `training session` took on an increased significance when it was announced on Thursday that Allan Johnston was to become the clubs new player-manager.
After less than 48 hours in the `hot-seat`, the new boss`s first team selection included several changes to the team that began at Raith last weekend as Queens tried to become only the second team to record a league victory over Ross County this season. Youngsters Steven Black, Daniel Orsi and Gavin Reilly all started, and the bench was made up of more youngsters in the form of messrs McShane, Degnan, Smillie and reserve `keeper Jim Atkinson.The champions included former Queens players Rocco Quinn and top scorer Colin McMenamin in their squad as they aimed to continue their terrific unbeaten sequence.
Prior to kick-off, outgoing chairman Davie Rae was amongst several people who received special presentations to mark their contributions to the club, and as the teams took to the field, the Queens players acknowledged Ross County`s efforts as they formed a `guard of honour` and applauded the champions onto the pitch.
Attacking the Terregles Street end of the ground, Queens began in lively style and following a long free-kick from Black, the first half chance fell to Sam Parkin who`s shot was well blocked by Michael Fraser and Gavin Reilly, reacting first, fired the loose ball just wide. Queens were looking really sharp in the opening period, and Danny Carmichael looked to have found a new lease of life as his pace and trickery took him past full back Miller on several occasions in the opening spell, and it was really no surprise when Queens took the lead after just 8 minutes with Carmichael at the heart of the move. Good play down the left involving Kevin Holt and Gavin Reilly allowed Carmichael the chance to run at Miller again, only this time the winger cut inside the full back and drove a crisp shot across Fraser and into the bottom right hand corner from just outside the box to give Queens a well deserved lead. However, joy turned to sorrow less than 60 seconds later as Kettlewell headed home a fine Gardyne cross to put the visitors level. In a very attacking start to the game by both sides, Kevin Holt won Queens a corner after good work on the left, and Carmichael`s delivery was met by a powerful header from Parkin that flew well over the bar, and as Queens continued to take the game to the visitors, they went ahead again on 13 minutes. An attempted cross-cum-shot from Dan Orsi was deflected for a corner, and this time from Carmichael`s perfect cross Sam Parkin nodded home at the near post.
Danny fires home - photo from Sandy Robertson
The first caution of the game given by the rather `fussy` referee MrSomers, was shown to Steven Black for a foul on the edge of the box which led to Vigurs having a shot at goal, but Lee Robinson wasn`t tested on this occasion. The impressive Michael Gardyne went close after showing good close control, but it was a Queens player who was drawing the most applause in the first half, as Danny Carmichael grew in confidence as every minute passed. The diminutive winger halted a Ross County attack deep in his own half before embarking on a solo run that saw him twist and turn his defender inside and out before delivering an almost perfect cross the ball unfortunately being inches behind the onrushing Reilly. On 38 minutes Queens almost added a third goal when following a 30-yard run Parkin was unable to get enough power into his shot, and Fraser saved comfortably from 14-yards out. That effort would have given Queens a clear margin in the game, and less than a minute later, County had equalised once again. A ball from defence found Gardyne all on his own, and with one touch to control he delivered a perfect angled chip shot from just outside the box that sailed over Robinson and into the net-a really good finish, and without doubt one of the better goals scored at Palmerston this season. Just before the break, Stephen McKenna became the second Queens player to be cautioned, as he picked up his obligatory Yellow card after hauling back Brittain in midfield, and that was the last action of a particularly good half of football with Queens more than holding their own against the division`s best team.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 2-2 ROSS COUNTY
During the half -time break the Queens under-19 side were warmly applauded as they did a lap of honour after their achievements this season, and the game resumed with neither side having made any changes at the interval.
Their was an early scare for Queens when a goalbound shot from Gardyne was cleared by John Potter, but moments later, after 53 minutes Queens took the lead for the third time in the game. A perfectly driven pass from Ryan McGuffie found Gavin Reilly just inside the penalty area, and his delightful first touch allowed him to drive a powerful shot through the `keepers legs to put Queens in front. Unfortunately Queens were not able to hang onto the lead, and former striker Colin McMenamin was on hand to bundle the ball over the line following a left wing cross from Morrison and so the game was all square again.
Gav strikes a great goal from a tight angle
Last seasons Player of the Season gets the better of this seasons as McMenamin gets the ball over the line
The visitors were now starting to see more of the ball, and with Brittain and Lawson starting to have more of an influence, the Queens defence came under a period of sustained pressure for the first time in the game, as half chances were created firstly by Gardyne, then by McMenamin, and finally a shot from a free-kick by Vigurs almost caught Robinson out. At the other end, Queens attacking play had slowed down somewhat, although Carmichael was still able to pose a problem or two as Queens tried to hit on the break. The 4-4-2 formation had worked a treat in the game, although with all the effort that the players had put in, it was inevitable that tiredness would creep in, and this proved to be the case during the latter stages as slowly but surely Queens began to defend from deeper positions.
With 12 minutes left, the visitors went ahead in the game for the first time when Gardyne finished superbly from close range, as the travelling fans from Dingwall began to do the congo around the Galloway News Stand. Queens made a double change on 81 minutes as the injured Kevin Holt was replaced by Alan Reid, and Ryan Smillie replaced Dan Orsi, and with 5 minutes left a quick counter attack from Queens saw Reilly drive an effort wide. McShane`s first touch of the game saw him hit a free-kick only just wide of the near post, and just on the 90 minute mark a Queens corner almost brought about a goal that would have been talked about for years to come. Goalkeeper Lee Robinson made his way into the box, and as everybody jumped and missed the ball it fell right into the `keeper`s path and although he did not connect perfectly, his effort was goalbound but it hit a covering defender and was cleared into the path of County substitute Kurtis Byrne who from just inside his own half fired his shot into the unguarded goal to give his team their fifth goal of the game.
It looked like an equaliser to Lee but the ball ended up in his net moments later
There was hardly time to re-start the game before referee Somers blew for time and Queens 360 games in the first division had come to an end. There were plenty of positives to take from the game, and some of the best attacking play that has been seen at Palmerston was produced today, with Daniel Carmichael looking like the player he was earlier in the season, and he was quite rightly named as man-of-the-match by the sponsors.
Congratulations to Ross County on their title win, and here`s hoping that you all enjoy the close season and return full of enthusiasm to support Allan Johnston and the team in their efforts to return to the first division next season. Cheers.