Queens remarkable unbeaten start to the season finally ended this evening as SPL side Dundee United became the first team to beat Allan Johnston`s table topping side as they sneaked a 1-0 win in a Scottish Communities 3rd round cup tie at a cold and blustery Palmerston Park. However,while it was the visitors who progressed to the next round, all the plaudits will go to Queens who put up a spirited display and were unfortunate not to take something from a game in which they more than matched their higher league opponents for much of the encounter, and completely dominated for a large part of the 2nd period.
Following Saturday`s comfortable win, Queens made two changes to the team that started at Brechin with Derek Young coming in for Paul Burns, and Gavin Reilly starting ahead of Derek Lyle. The visitors showed every respect to Queens by naming a strong squad, and apart from the injured Gary Mackay-Steven, Dundee United began with pretty much a full strength team.
The visitors settled quickly into the game, with their neat direct passing causing early problems for Queens and a slack pass from Mark Durnan allowed the first half chance of the match go to Brian McLean but his low drive was comfortably held by Lee Robinson. The pace of Danny Carmichael, which has caused many problems already this season, was soon to the fore as he escaped down the right flank but his cross was slightly over hit and drifted out of play. Minutes later and Carmichael was again involved, this time it was all his own work as he drifted past two defenders before being crowded out by the recovering McLean. With the wind playing a major role in the game, the quality of the football on show was actually very good as both teams attempted to play a passing game, although Queens did resort to the long ball down the flanks on several occasions in an attempt to stretch the United defence. On 18 minutes Queens won their first corner of the game, but Willie Gibson`s inswinging effort was too strong for anyone in a blue shirt and the ball floated harmlessly out of play much to the annoyance of most of the 2374 fans who were watching on.
Chris Higgins strides away from Russell
In a 10 minute spell that was littered with a few needlessly awarded free-kicks, the play became a bit disjointed and after being spoken to by the referee for a couple of late challenges, Stephen McKenna was given his final chance by the official. The game was pretty even at that stage, but on 28 minutes the visitors took the lead. Gardyne managed to break clear down the left and his driven cross found Russell in space and although Lee Robinson produced a stunning reflex save, the ball fell straight back to Russell who reacted quickly to smash it high into the net. It was a blow to Queens to lose a goal almost out of nowhere, but they had a chance to equalise almost straight away, but Nicky Clark`s effort was deflected which made it easier for Cierzniak to save.
Russell pokes the rebound past Robinson
After 36 minutes McKenna was eventually yellow carded, after apparently forgetting to take notice of the referee`s final warning, and probably for the first time in the game, the visitors began to stamp their authority on the proceedings. Queens had their best chance to score right on the stroke of half-time when Gibson`s driven free-kick was met by Clark at the far post and although the ball seemed to arrive at him at pace, he was still able to direct his header goalwards but `keeper Cierzniak palmed the ball over for a corner. The resulting kick was cleared convincingly by central defender Gavin Gunning, who seemed to be in the right place at the right time on every occasion that Queens were able to get crosses in. So at the end of a fairly even first 45 minutes, it was the SPL side who took a slight advantage into the half-time interval.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-1 DUNDEE UTD
Queens made a change at the break with Paul Burns, making his first appearance back at Palmerston since re-joining the club,on in place of Stephen McKenna, and whatever was said by manager Allan Johnston, it certainly fired Queens up as almost from the re-start they laid seige to the visiting defence.
Inside the opening few minutes Gibson should have done much better from a free-kick that he hit wildly over, and a cross from Chris Mitchell was headed over by Burns as Queens quickened the tempo and put United under severe pressure. Queens were using the flanks well with Gibson and Holt combining well down the left, and Mitchell,Burns and the very effective Carmichael causing all sorts of problems down the right. A neat pass from Carmichael threatened to send Burns clear, but just as it looked like Queens were in, the resolute visiting defence slammed the door shut and another chance had gone. It really was all Queens at that stage, but try as they did, they were just not able to find a way through, as a tremendous burst of pace from Burns set up a chance for Clark who`s well hit shot was pushed behind for another corner. Burns was involved in the next bit of action after he cheekily nutmegged Willo Flood, only for the former Celtic man to show his dislike to the situation with a rash challenge that earned him a booking.
Gibson received double attention everytime he had the ball
With 10 minutes to go, the visitors went close for the first time in the half, as a shot from Armstrong wasn`t too far off target,but back up the other end it was Queens who should have scored. A Gibson free-kick was knocked back by Burns into the box where Clark turned and shot beating everyone but agonisingly for Queens, beating the far post as well.
Clark looks to get a shot away
Gavin Reilly was replaced by Derek Lyle with 7 minutes to go, and although Queens continued to create some half chances, the ball just would not fall kindly enough for them. It was the visitors who had the last chance of an highly entertaining game when Holt was short with a backpass and goalscorer Russell looked to have finished the tie off after rounding Robinson, but Holt redeemed the situation and blocked the United striker`s effort.
So it wasn`t to be for Queens on this occasion, as the SPL side were taken right to the wire and at no time during the 90 minutes were Queens ever outplayed, their effort and desire to compete against one of the better sides in the country was there for all to see, and but for a little bit of luck, it could have been another night that produced a cup upset. It`s taken 12 games for a team to finally end Queens` great start to the season, and they can all be very proud of what they have achieved so far, and after a performance like tonight`s, especially in the 2nd half, Queens look to be in for an enjoyable future.