After equalling Gretna`s record 2nd Division points total at Forfar last weekend, Queens produced a rather subdued performance for the most of their last home game of what has been a memorable season, but the never say die spirit that has been around the club all season shone as brightly as the April sunshine as Queens found the determination to dig deep and salvage a draw, when perhaps, the game should have been well beyond them at that stage.
Following the victory at Forfar, Queens boss, Allan Johnston, made 2 changes to the team that began at Station Park, with Ryan McGuffie, and Danny Carmichael replacing Chris Mitchell, and Derek Young. Visitors East Fife, who started the day in the relegation play off spot, and 3 points behind Stranraer, were hoping to build on last weekend`s encouraging victory over 2nd placed Alloa, that result being the Fife`s side first league win in 14 games.
Prior to kick-off there were several end of season presentations made to the players, with awards going to Nicky Clark, Lee Robinson, and Mark Durnan-surprisingly though, no award for an excellent achievement by the entire squad!!!
A guard of honour and a standing ovation for the Champions
It was the visitors who started the ball rolling for the last game on the Palmerston turf, and right from the start, it was clear that they had not arrived just to make up the numbers. An early break down the left by Barr produced a free-kick, and although Queens defended it well, the visitors showed that they had come looking to attack.
Queens as expected had plenty of possession in the opening period, although on many occasions, the final pass was either hurried, or in accurate, or sometimes both, and it took until the 7th minute before they created their first chance of the game. Ryan McGuffie, and Danny Carmichael exchanged passes down the right, and when the ball broke from Carmichael into the path of Michael Paton, the former Aberdeen player was not too far away from opening the scoring with a left foot drive from just outside the area. At the other end a mistake by Stephen McKenna let in the impressive Barr, but fortunately for Queens although he was able to reach the bye-line and pull the ball back into the six-yard box. Chris Higgins was across to clear the danger. On 14 minutes a Paul Burns effort was easily held by `keeper Antell, with the midfielder opting for placement rather than power.
Antell blocks Clark early on
The visitors looked compact and resolute, and on the break they had the pace of Barr on the left, and Samuel on the right, and it was the latter who led a counter-attack which ended with Lee Robinson having to tip over a dangerous cross that may just have been dipping under his crossbar. The first 20 minutes or so had seen some attacking play by both sides, and Queens threatened to break the deadlock when a delightful ball from Burns sent Clark clear down the right, but after outpacing the last defender his well placed driven cross found no takers as no other Queens player could make up the ground to latch on to his pass. With Queens starting to attack more frequently, it seemed as though a goal wasn`t far away, and following a period in which they forced three quick corners, Queens had a decent half chance to go ahead. In the absence of Chris Mitchell, Carmichael was on corner duty, and although his kick was cleared, the ball sat up nicely for Stephen McKenna to hit from just on the edge of the penalty area. Although not the most powerful of shots, the `keeper, somewhat unsighted by the amount of players in front of him, only just managed to push the ball away, and there were then a few half-hearted claims for a penalty as Clark was sent sprawling as the `keeper tried to claim the ball.
The goal that appeared to be coming, did eventually arrive after 36 minutes, but for the Queens fans in the rather disappointing crowd of just 2568, the goal was scored by the visitors. Queens failed to fully clear a free-kick on the right, and when the ball fell loose, Campbell produced a fine finish from 18-yards to give his side the lead. Moments later came Queens` best chance of the half. Carmichael and McGuffie combined well down the right and a well placed cross was `dummied` by Derek Lyle and allowed to roll into the path of the onrushing Clark, but the Country`s leading scorer blazed the ball over from 8-yards. Queens went even closer as the half drew to a close when Kevin Holt crashed a shot off the base of the far post following a cross from the right,and on the follow up he saw another effort blocked away for a corner. The set-piece should have brought about the equaliser, but when the ball broke to Higgins in front of goal, the skipper almost found Terregles Street with his shot, and try as they did, Queens couldn`t find a breakthrough and left the field a goal behind at the break.
Robinson is beaten by a neat finish
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-1 EAST FIFE
After obviously being given a `talking to` at the break, Queens began the 2nd half on the front foot and really should have levelled the game. Clark`s pace was too much for full-back Durie, and his low driven cross found Lyle unmarked 8-yards out, but the striker drove his shot straight at the `keeper who saved with his legs.
With just about their first attack of the half, the visitors were then presented with a real chance to increase their lead, when following a foul by Ryan McGuffie just inside the penalty area, the referee quite correctly awarded East Fife a spot kick. Leading scorer Scott McBride stepped up and drove his kick to his right, but Lee Robinson pulled off a fantastic diving save, pushing the ball away for a corner. Not a penalty miss, simply a first-class penalty save. Queens made their first change just after the hour mark, Paul Burns being replaced by Derek Young.
Robinson makes the penalty stop
The game`s first yellow card was shown to the visitors Craig Johnstone after 66 minutes for a clumsy challenge on Carmichael, as the Queens winger began to have more of an influence on the game. Twice in as many minutes his trickery took him past the visitors defence, but unfortunately each time his cross went too deep.
Queens` created another chance with 20 minutes to go following their best passing move of the 2nd period. Chris Higgins well flighted pass into the area was cushioned into the path of Lyle by Carmichael, but Lyle was unable to get over the ball, and as a consequence his shot was wide of the target. As they had been in the first half, East Fife were quick on the counter-attack, and with just 14 minutes left, they doubled their advantage when Wardlaw scored from close range following good work from Samuel.
Wardlaw slots home the second for the Fifers
It was a strange situation for Queens, as this was the first time during this wonderful season that they had been 2 goals down, and with time running out, it looked for all the world that the unbeaten home league record was gone, and that a new total points record would not be reached after this game. However, an incredible season still had more twists in store as Queens went for broke. There was a scare for the home faithful when East Fife almost scored a third goal, and in fact it was only thanks to a stunning save from Robinson, pushing away a shot from Willis, that the game was not well and truly over for Queens.
Mark Durnan was cautioned after 82 minutes, and then Queens made their final two changes with Steven Black, and Kevin Smith, replacing Durnan, and Lyle with 7 minutes left. With the clock ticking towards full-time, Queens pulled a goal back when Nicky Clark was on hand to head in from close range, to score his 39th goal of the season, and at that stage with just minutes remaining, most people in the ground saw the goal as being purely a consolation.
Clark nods in the first
and straight back to the centre spot
However, as the game moved into stoppage time, there was to be even more drama as Queens conjured up an unlikely equaliser. Substitute Kevin Smith collected the ball wide on the left, and on reaching the bye-line, he produced the cross of the day that was met with a firm header at the back post by Nicky Clark who scored his 2nd of the game, 40th of the season, and 22nd league goal from his last 20 league starts-brilliant.
Nicky nods in the second
and is acknowledged by the crowd
There was still time left for Chris Higgins to be cautioned, and Queens might have been in with a chance of winning the game, but just as it looked as though Carmichael might have got in behind the defence, he was pulled up for offside. So the curtain came down on Queens home season, and boy, what a season it has been. After suffering the doom and gloom following last season`s relegation, I don`t think anybody could have foreseen just what an amazing season we have just witnessed.
So I would like to take this opportunity to thank, Allan, Sandy, and all the players for providing us all with a season that will remain in our memories for a long, long, time. Thank You.
A `Magic` season
Derek Young and family
It was a real family day at Palmerston today