Queen of the South continued their impressive away form as they hammered relegation strugglers Stranraer 5-0 at Stair Park on Saturday.
Since losing their only league game of the season away at Alloa in December the Doonhamers have won all four away fixtures scoring 16 goals in the process.
Despite a very muddy pitch Queens played some excellent flowing football with goals coming from Paul Burns, Ryan McGuffie and Derek Lyle in the first half. The home side had been reduced to ten men on 21 minutes as goalkeeper David Mitchell saw red for preventing Nicky Clark a goalscoring opportunity. The second half was entirely dominated by the league leaders and they wrapped up the victory with impressive finishes from Nicky Clark and Derek Lyle.
The match began in scrappy fashion as each team came to terms with the state of the playing surface and neither team was able to keep possession for any length of time. There were few chances in the opening minutes until Queens took the lead through Paul Burns on 16 minutes.
The goal was well constructed as Nicky Clark nodded down a long pass into the stride of his strike partner Derek Lyle who drove at the defence before finding a man over in the shape of Paul Burns. The midfielder took the chance well as he side-footed the ball under the diving Stranraer goalkeeper and set the Dumfries-side on their way to another away victory.
The home side reacted well though to going behind as they opened up the Queens defence and Craig Malcolm found himself one-on-one with `keeper Lee Robinson. The Queens goalkeeper was quick off his line and Malcolm was unable to maintain his composure and placed the ball wide of the post.
The match had been competitive until this point but that was to change as Stranraer goalkeeper David Mitchell was dismissed for preventing a goalscoring opportunity as Nicky Clark knocked the ball past him in the area before being brought down. After a lengthy stoppage to allow Stranraer substitute goalkeeper Russell Cadwell time to get kitted Ryan McGuffie kept his head and buried the penalty kick low into the bottom right-hand corner to effectively end the tie as a contest.
Clark guides the ball around Mitchell
Clark is launched by keeper Mitchell
McGuffie nets the penalty
Queens were now in total control and passed the ball around the sticky surface with real confidence and looked capable of scoring at any moment. They did just so on 39 minutes through front man Derek Lyle. The goal came from good play down the right wing by Dan Carmichael as he beat the full-back before cutting the ball back to the waiting Lyle and the striker made no mistake as he fired his shot into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Lyle fires home his first of the day
The away side were flying and almost extended the lead before half-time as first Kevin Holt missed an awkward chance at the back post following Chris Mitchell`s teasing cross and then Lyle shaved the crossbar with a shot from 25 yards.
There was no let-up in the second period as Queens dominated possession and were hungry for more goals. The inevitable fourth did not come until 60 minutes though as Nicky Clark scored a wonderful solo effort.
The league`s top scorer controlled Lyle?s pass with his chest on the edge of the area before shimmying past a couple of challenges and smashing an unstoppable right-foot shot across the goalkeeper and into the top corner. It was a quality finish and a real contender for goal of the season.
Clark scores a super goal
There was no end in sight for the beleaguered home side and they were continually tormented by the pace and trickery of Clark and Carmichael especially. The latter fashioned a chance for Lyle to grab his second as the winger danced through the Stranraer defence before rolling the ball to Lyle who was free in the area. The experienced striker was unable to cap the move off though as his low shot was blocked by the feet of Cadwell in the Stranraer goal.
Lyle was not to be denied for long though as he wrapped up the scoring with a placed shot from the 20 yards.
Stranraer`s ten men had been unable to trouble the Queens defence but did fashion a gilt-edged chance with fifteen minutes to go as determined play from Craig Malcolm saw the striker get past two challenges to play in substitute Michael Moore. The target man elected to pass rather than shoot as he laid the ball onto Jamie Campbell who had only to hit the target with the goal gaping. It was a moment to forget though for Campbell as his scuffed his effort well wide of the goal.
Kevin Smith was keen to get on the scoresheet after coming on at half-time and was only inches away as he smashed a shot from fully 30 yards that had the sprawling goalkeeper beaten but whistled just past the upright.
The home players were glad to hear the referee blow for full-time but for Queens it was another impressive performance on the road with some classy goals to boot.