Nicky Clark`s opportunist strike deep into stoppage time grabbed a point for Queens as the second division title gets ever closer. On the balance of 90 minutes play the point was probably just about deserved but with the home side having been the better team in the second period and having scored with just seven minutes to go it was a desperately good point to get. It was far from a vintage performance from Queens but champions roll their sleeves up and make sure they don`t lose games like these and that`s what the team did today.
Injury meant captain Chris Higgins sat out today and Derek Young was also still missing but new father Stephen McKenna was back in the heart of midfield. Trialist Marc Fizpatrick made a debut at left back after sitting on the bench last week also. All that meant Ryan McGuffie moved across to centre half to partner Durnan, Chris Mitchell slotted back into his preferred right back position and Kevin Holt dropped to the bench. The home side surprisingly left Steven Doris on the bench but Derek Holmes was there to prove a handful as usual.
Referee Tumilty leads the sides out for a minutes silence in the memory of both Ed Littlejohn and Jim Leslie
Queens were much the better side in the opening period, particularly after a tactical switch to 4-3-3 midway through the half. McGuffie had already headed a good opportunity from a corner over the crossbar before Gavin Reilly battered the outside of the post with a fierce strike from out wide. The home side had their only obvious opportunity of the opening half in 14 minutes but Robinson did well to make a block and the defence mopped up. A flying save from Morrison in the home goal denied Nicky Clark his 30th goal of the season just before the half hour and then Derek Lyle sliced wildly over the bar when he had time to do better. However, the best chance of the half arrived in the final minute when Clark burst clean through on goal. He had Carmichael alongside and a pass would surely have meant a tap in for the winger but it`s hard to blame the striker for having a go himself given his success this season. Morrison though was equal to it and made the block, setting his team on a break in fact that ended when Durnan was booked for a cynical foul on halfway.
Derek Lyle passes up a great chance as his efort flies over
Queens started the second period brightly enough with Gavin Reilly flashing a shot across the face of goal but the home side soon took control and should have taken the lead just before the hour when an horrendous error from McKenna presented the ball to Sheerin on the edge of our box with only Robinson between him and goal. The player manager seemed almost to be taken by surprise though and Robinson was quickly out to save before he could take full advantage. Five minute later the keeper was again the hero as he denied Holmes from point blank range with a flying save.
The Queens management team decided changes were needed and produced three in quick succession as Holt, Paton and Smith replaced Fitzpatrick, Reilly and Lyle respectively. It was the hosts though that broke the dealock in spectacular style with seven minutes to go. An attack broke down but the ball was never properly cleared and Euan Smith won it back 30 yards from goal. He took a couple of strides forward into space and then unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top right corner of Robinson`s goal that the keeper couldn`t get near.
No.7 Smith gives Robinson no chance with a superb strike to give the home side the lead
That should have been enough for Arbroath but perhaps not surprisingly, on the brink of inflicting only our second defeat all season, they got nervous and started to make obvious mistakes at the back. In the final minute it took a stunning save from Morrison to deny Clark as he spun onto a loose ball and rifled it goalwards. It was ironic then that three minutes into the injury time it was the keeper`s needless venture into no-man`s land for a long ball forward he was never getting near that left Nicky Clark with what amounted to a tap in to an empty net when the loose ball dropped to him in space.
In the end it was an ugly scrappy draw but in the circumstances it felt like a win and means the title is only nine points away tonight.
Queens fans created a great atmosphere with a conga almost all the way around the ground.