A quickfire second half double from Nicky Clark and Mark Durnan helped Queen of the South to a 3-2 win over relegation-threatened East Fife at Bayview Stadium.
The match began positively for the away side as within the first few minutes Gavin Reilly raced clear of defenders on the left wing. The young striker tried to pick out Nicky Clark in the centre of goal but his strike partner could not connect with the cross.
The opening minutes went as the league table would suggest with Queen of the South dominating possession and trying to find a way through the East Fife defence. They did so after 15 minutes as Gavin Reilly raced through to score.
Gavin is congratulated
The goal came from a good old-fashioned punt up field which dropped between the home defence and goalkeeper for the fleet-footed Reilly to nip in and lob the goal over the stranded Calum Antell giving Queens the lead.
The Doonhamers were not about to rest on the lead as they almost doubled it just moments later through Dan Carmichael but his low centre across the goalmouth missed everybody and ran out harmlessly for a goal kick.
The league leaders continued to push and were close to a second through Paul Burns. Willing runner Gavin Reilly kept the ball from going for a goal kick and fed Nicky Clark inside the area who in turn played in Burns but the wide midfielder?s effort finished off target.
After that flurry of chances the home side found their way into the match and began to ask questions of the Queens defence but without testing Lee Robinson in the Queens goal.
The first half ended with both goalkeepers yet to make a save and the supporters hoping for some sort of spark in the second half.
That spark came on 65 minutes as East Fife equalised after Nicky Clark had brought two good saves from Calum Antell at the start of the second period.
The goal came under controversial circumstances as Clark felt he should have been awarded a free-kick on the halfway line as he went down under an East Fife challenge. The foul was not given and the home side took full advantage as David Muir thumped the ball forward for Paul McManus to run through the static defence and lob the ball over Robinson in an almost carbon copy of the Queens opener.
Queen of the South were clearly aggrieved that the foul was not given but used their frustration in a positive way as they immediately restored their lead through top scorer Nicky Clark. An attack straight from kick-off saw Clark play a give-and-go with Paul Burns to find himself through on goal and finished with ease to make it 21 goals for the season.
Nicky beats the East Fife keeper
The away side were full of confidence now and Derek Young almost extended the lead with a long-range piledriver that brought a full-stretch diving save from East Fife `keeper Antell.
East Fife`s respite was short-lived however as Mark Durnan notched his second goal in as many games as he rose at the back post to head in Chris Mitchell`s deep corner and the result looked in little doubt from then on.
Durnan beats the Fifers defence at the back post
The hosts had other ideas though as first Paul Willis smacked the ball onto the crossbar from the edge of the box before Liam Gormley halved the deficit.
Gormley finishes well after a defensive mix up
Allan Johnston will not be happy with his team`s defending as a simple deep free-kick into the box was allowed to bobble across the area for Gormley to finish from close range to make it nervy for the Queens players in the final minutes.
It was Queens though who looked more likely to score the sixth goal of the game as Michael Paton, on his Queens debut, brought a good save from Antell and Kevin Smith skewed an effort wide of the post from a good position.
New signing Paton lines up a shot
All in all it was a deserved victory for the champions-elect and the scoreline flattered the hosts as on the balance of play Queens should have won by more. Defensive lapses for the East Fife goals will concern manager Allan Johnston but his side continue imperiously toward the Second Division title.