Queens continued their inevitable march towards the 2nd division title this afternoon after they notched up their 21st league win of the season following victory over bottom of the table Albion Rovers at a cold, but sunny Palmerston.
After a first period in which Queens struggled to break down a stubborn visiting defence, a goal late in the half helped settle any anxieties,and although it took until the final 15 minutes for Queens to complete the scoring, the outcome was never really in doubt.
Following last weekend`s impressive victory at Stranraer, boss Allan Johnston decided to recall skipper Chris Higgins after his one game suspension, with Ryan McGuffie making way for him. Former Rangers, and Queens player Marvin Andrews, was included in defence for the visitors, as Rovers who had only collected one away win all season, arrived in Dumfries on a run of 6 consecutive league defeats.
Ten minutes before kick-off, Queens `keeper Lee Robinson was presented with a memento after he made his 100th appearance for the club in the game at Stranraer last Saturday, a game which saw Lee add another clean sheet to his total.
Lee Rbbinson receives his 100 game award from Chairman Billy Hewitson
The game began with Queens attacking from the start and they might have gone ahead as early as the 2nd minute when Chris Mitchell and Paul Burns exchanged passes down the right wing, with Burns` driven cross being just to far ahead of the on rushing Nicky Clark. With Queens taking the game to their opponents, a run and shot from the edge of the penalty area from Derek Young was only just wide of the far post. After just 6 minutes following a free-kick, Clark`s attempt to add to his season`s goal tally almost paid off, but his shot from Mitchell`s cleverly disguised set-piece, was blocked by Andrews. Table topping Queens began the day a massive 49 points ahead of their visitors, and having scored more than 3 goals in twelve of their league games so far, it was already looking as though the visiting defenders were going to be in for a difficult afternoon as Queens controlled the opening stages of the game. It wasn`t hard to see why the visitors had failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their 11 league games away from Cliftonhill this season, and some excellent close control saw Danny Carmichael skip past 3 defenders before slightly over hitting his final pass which allowed Rovers `keeper McGinley the chance to beat Clark to the loose ball.
Burns squares the ball across goal
After an opening period that was virtually all directed toward the visitors goal, the away side finally had a spell of possession that might have seen them take the lead but for some excellent defending by Higgins, who was on hand to make a crucial tackle to thwart Winters. The visitors then won the game`s first corner after Derek Young lost possession in the middle of the park, but the set piece was easily dealt with by the Queens defence. On 25 minutes, Kevin Holt, and Danny Carmichael, combined down the left to create a chance for Clark, but as the striker cut inside he was fouled right on the edge of the penalty area to give Queens a free-kick in a central position. The striker stepped up himself to drive a low shot past the wall, and unfortunately just past the far post as well. That was the best clear cut chance from either side, and although Queens were having plenty of the ball, the visitors were defending well and making it very hard for Queens to find a way through by denying them the space to play in.
With 10 minutes of the first half left, Paul Burns and Danny Carmichael swapped wings in search of finding a way through the visitors back-line, and a few moments afterwards Carmichael`s cross almost fell kindly to Derek Lyle in the 6-yard box, but the ball bobbled away from him and the chance had gone. With the half almost at an end, a long ball upfield from Durnan was repelled at force by Rovers centre-back Marvin Andrews, and when seconds later, Durnan tried the same long ball, this time it turned out to a perfect pass as the ball evaded the jumping Andrews and fell nicely into the path of Derek Lyle who lifted the ball over the onrushing McGinley to score his 11th league goal of the campaign. The goal was probably just about deserved on the balance of play, although having defended so well for almost the entire first 45 minutes, the visitors would have been very disappointed to lose a goal so late in the half.
Lyle chips McGinley to open the scoring
HALF-TIME QUEENS 1-0 ALBION ROVERS
Queens started the second half brightly and forced their first corner of the contest a minute into the half. Dan Carmichael`s delivery going deep to the far post where Durnan was able to head the ball back into the danger area, but `keeper McGinley gathered under no pressure.
After tidying up a rare break from Albion, Queens launched a lightning quick break that so nearly produced a classic goal. Lee Robinson`s quick throw sent Carmichael away down the right with Mitchell on the overlap, Carmichael`s pass to Mitchell allowed the full-back to cross on the run and his pass was met by a powerful header from Clark that was only just a foot or so too high. The first yellow card of the game was shown to Albion`s Russell on 52 minutes for a foul on halfway, and soon afterwards, Robinson had to be alert to save well from Marriot`s drive from the edge of area, diving to his left to gather the shot.
Just short of the hour mark, a foul on Lyle - which led to the striker having to hobble off - saw Queens awarded another free-kick in a similar position to the one they had in the first half, although perhaps a few yards further back. This time it was Mitchell and not Clark who had the effort,with the full-back`s shot deflecting off the wall and out for a corner. Minutes later, leading scorer Clark did exceptionally well to get the better of two defenders before seeing a decent effort from a tight angle land on the roof of the net. Although Derek Lyle had managed to return to the game following the foul on him, he was clearly uncomfortable and was replaced by Gavin Reilly after 61 minutes.
Another free-kick followed for Queens after Paul Burns was sent flying, with the offender Reid, becoming the second player to be cautioned, and from the set-piece, Durnan got on the end of Carmichael`s cross but could only direct his header straight at the `keeper. Minutes later it was Carmichael`s turn to be on the receiving end of a rather crude challenge, and this time Innes joined his team-mates in the referee`s notebook. Queens made their second change on 71 minutes when Derek Young was replaced by Ryan McGuffie who moved to right back with Chris Mitchell moving into midfield.
Danny frustrates the Albion defence
With 14 minutes to play, Queens doubled their lead. A break down the right led to Clark winning a corner, and from Mitchell`s delivery, Durnan`s header came back off a defender and dropped nicely for Nicky Clark to sweep the ball home from close range to net his 20th league goal of the season. With the game entering the last 10 minutes, Queens added a third goal, and once again it followed another set-piece. Albion gave away yet another free-kick some 8-yards outside of their penalty area, and Mitchell`s fierce curling drive was only parried upwards by `keeper McGinley before being bundled over the line by Mark Durnan. Whether or not the ball had already crossed the line is up for debate, but it did appear that the big centre-back was last to get a touch.
Clark slams the ball home for number two
Mark Durnan bundles in the third
Queens made their third and final change with 7 minutes remaining when Kevin Smith came on for Nicky Clark as the game drifted towards the full time whistle. Sponsors named Chris Mitchell as their m-o-m, who picked up the award for the second home game running, and with the news coming through that Alloa had also been beaten, the home fans in the crowd of 1520 left the ground knowing that the lead had been extended once again.
So it`s now a run of 10 league wins from the last 11 games, 21 league wins in total, and now 21 points clear at the top of the table. The `Fat Lady` is slowly starting to warm up her vocal chords!!!