A 2-1 victory over Stenhousemuir at Palmerston today coupled with Alloa`s draw against Ayr saw Queens increase their lead to 18 points at the top of the 2nd division table as the title looms ever closer for Allan Johnston`s team.
After taking a two goal advantage into the break, a defensive error early in the 2nd half allowed the visitors the chance to get back into the game, and although being outplayed for a good part of the 2nd period, Queens held on to take the points.
Boss, Allan Johnston, fresh from collecting his fourth manager of the month award for this season, made just one change to the team that started in last week`s goalless draw with Alloa. Kevin Holt returned to the defence as Ryan McGuffie made way for him. The visitors, who shared the points in a controversial 2-2 draw at Palmerston earlier in the season, arrived on an unbeaten 3 game run, during which time they had gone over 300 minutes without conceding a goal, and along with Alloa, were the only side to have scored more than once against Queens at Palmerston this season.
The game began with both teams having the chance to open the scoring. A quick break by Danny Carmichael on the left produced an inviting cross into the box that was only inches away from the head of Nicky Clark, while at the other end , the visitors had an even better chance to go in front when Gemmell was through on goal with only Robinson to beat, but with the angle narrowing all the time his shot went well over the bar. Minutes later there were strong claims for a penalty for the visitors, although it did look as though Chris Higgins just got to the ball a fraction ahead of the `Stenny ` striker as he went to ground, and no penalty was the decision from a well placed referee.
Queens won their first corner of the game after 8 minutes and Chris Mitchell`s delivery was headed goalwards by Mark Durnan but was easily saved by `keeper Reidford. There was little to choose between the teams during the opening exchanges, and the game flowed from end to end in what was an enjoyable start, and credit must go to both teams as they tried to pass the ball around on what was a difficult surface to play on. In truth, it was Stenhousemuir who were starting to enjoy more possession and they were looking dangerous down either flank, and they were next to create a decent chance mid-way through the half. A long ball from Rowson found the lively Smith and his cross was met by Gemmmell`s powerful header that was deflected wide for a corner. The resulting set-piece was partially cleared but only as far as full-back McKinlay, who`s effort from distance was always rising. It was then the turn of Queens to attack when a neat passing move involving McKenna , Clark, and Lyle, ended with a shot from Derek Young drifting just wide of the far post, and minutes later a break from Clark down the right set up Mitchell to cross, and a glancing header from Lyle was gathered easily by `keeper Reidford.
The game then slipped into a bit of a lull with neither side creating anything in the final third of the field, as the game went from being an end to end affair into one of a battle in the middle of the park. Just past the half hour mark, some neat footwork and good awareness from Young in midfield almost freed Clark, but the `keeper was alert and was able to gather the ball at the striker`s feet. At the other end an effort from Corcoran went well wide, then another attack down the left by Queens ended up with a shot from Lyle that found it`s way over the bar and out of the ground.
Reidford gets his timing perfect to take the ball away from Clark
The breakthrough goal came after 35 minutes and it was a goal of real quality from Queens. The move was begun by Young just inside his own half, and after some neat passing involving Mitchell and Burns, Derek Young was on the end of Mitchell`s precise cross to slide in and sweep home a controlled finish from 12-yards. Things got even better for table topping Queens right on the stroke of half-time when they went further ahead. A mazy run from Carmichael down the left wing was only halted by a late challenge just outside the area, and from the free-kick, Chris Mitchell curled a stunning drive high into the net past the helpless Reidford to score his 2nd goal of the season.
Young gets his foot to the ball to steer it home
Young celebrates with the ball in the back of the net
Mitchell takes his free kick goal
The ball is past Reidford whilst the keeper is still in mid-dive
Mitchell celebrates his strike
HALF-TIME QUEENS 2-0 STENHOUSEMUIR
Queens began the 2nd period on the attack, and the lightning pace of Clark almost created a chance for Carmichael, but he overran the ball and Buist was able to clear the danger. Within seconds of that incident, the visitors were handed a way back into the game following a dreadful error by the Queens captain, Chris Higgins. There seemed to be no danger at all as Higgins looked to play the ball away, but uncharacteristically he dwelt on the ball for too long and was dispossessed by Corcoran who then blasted a shot over the onrushing Robinson to bring his side back into the game.
The goal clearly affected Queens, and they went from looking confidently in control, to decidedly troubled as `Stenny` began to take the game to them. Derek Young was cautioned for a high, mis-timed challenge in midfield on Dickson, as the visitors started to believe that like the earlier game in October,a comeback was on. The midfield pair of Rowson and Hodge were now dictating play, and the very impressive Smith was causing many a problem down the right hand side, and Kevin Holt was shown a yellow card for dragging him back as he threatened to break clear. The resulting set-piece posed more problems for the under pressure Queens defence as Corcoran`s effort fizzed just wide of the far upright, with any sort of touch more than likely to have found the net.
Carmichael can shake off his marker
Queens normal composed passing game had been replaced by the more direct long ball option, and following a quick break by Carmichael they won a succession of corners that ultimately all came to nothing. A Higgins back pass threatened to cause more problems for Queens, but fortunately his pass had just enough on it and Robinson was able to clear. On 68 minutes Gavin Reilly replaced Derek Lyle, and minutes after coming on, the young striker was almost on the end of a cross from Clark after Queens` leading scorer did well to out pace a defender on the bye-line. A curling shot from Corcoran was not too far wide, and although the visitors dominated for long spells of the half, they never really tested the Queens `keeper.
With 8 minutes to go, Kevin Smith replaced Nicky Clark, and a cross from Smith found the head of Reilly in the 6-yard box, but his effort was deflected for a corner, which was easily defended by the visitors. There was one final scare for Queens to deal with as seconds from the final whistle, `Stenny` were awarded a free-kick a yard outside the penalty area. It was Hearts in Mouths time for the majority of the 1354 fans inside the ground as Gemmmell prepared for his attempt on goal, but with what turned out to be the last kick of the game, the big striker blasted his shot into the middle of the Queens defensive wall and the game was over.
Sponsors m-o-m went to Chris Mitchell as Queens recorded another win and moved even further ahead in the league table, and on a day when they were below par for much of the game, two pieces of quality were enough to see them through.