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A memorable season was made all the sweeter as Queen of the South won the Ramsdens Cup following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over First Division leaders Partick Thistle at Livingston`s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.
Lee Robinson was the star of the show as he saved the winning penalty from Conrad Balatoni after scoring one himself and saving Stephen O`Donnell`s earlier spot-kick. The stopper also saved Aaron Muirhead`s penalty kick in extra-time earning him the man of the match award.
Scoring chances were few and far between in open play as it took until the 100th minute for the deadlock to be broken as Nicky Clark headed in following Dan Carmichael`s chip rebounded off the crossbar. Extra-time ended in dramatic fashion as Partick were awarded a penalty with two minutes remaining. Muirhead saw his spotkick saved by Lee Robinson before reacting to Queens` celebrations by headbutting Chris Higgins and being shown a red card. The drama continued however as Partick?s ten-men stole an equaliser through Kris Doolan with the last kick of the game only for Lee Robinson to steal the show and win the cup for Queen of the South.
The match began in nervy fashion for Queens as Partick took control of the early stages and racked up five corners in the first six minutes all of which were defended well by the Second Division champions.
The first opening of the match fell to Queens as Nicky Clark stole possession from Stephen O`Donnell on the halfway line only to overhit his throughball to Derek Lyle. There was plenty of space to find Lyle but Partick `keeper Scott Fox was quick off his line to clear for Partick.
Queens began to ease themselves into the game and started to show the attacking threat that had scored 99 goals already this season. Derek Lyle fired a looping volley wide of the goal before knocking a half-volley inches over the crossbar from Dan Carmichael?s setup.
Nicky Clark then missed a gilt-edged chance as Mark Durnan`s flicked header from a Chris Mitchell corner landed at the feet of the Queens top scorer with the goal gaping but he could not sort his feet out and the ball ended up wide of the post.
The first half ended with Partick on top but Stuart Bannigan`s long range shot was the only effort to trouble Lee Robinson with the ball looking to be heading wide anyway.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first with efforts on goal at a premium although Nicky Clark did produce the best effort of the match so far as his curling shot brought a full-stretch save from Scott Fox after 55 minutes.
Mark Durnan then headed a Chris Mitchell free-kick just wide after 70 minutes with the Partick goalkeeper beaten before Queens showed a bit of class eight minutes later with a flowing passing move that almost brought Nicky Clark a shooting chance but for Muirhead?s interception.
The match was drifting toward extra-time before Partick`s substitute Kris Doolan had the opportunity to win the cup for the Glasgow side. Doolan found himself clear of the defence with just Robinson to beat and sent the ball rolling toward the bottom corner. Queens supporter`s hearts were in their mouths as it looked to be all over but Robinson had other ideas as he made a fingertip save to send the ball wide of the post.
Queen of the South had probably just about edged the match in terms of chances created but the real drama was yet to come.
Both teams created early opportunities as Kris Doolan flashed a shot just wide before Dan Carmichael danced between two opposing defenders only to hit a weak shot straight at Scott Fox. It was ten minutes into extra-time though before the fans finally had something to shout about.
The goal came from the left wing as Dan Carmichael spotted Scott Fox creeping off his line and attempted to chip the goalkeeper only for the ball to rebound off the crossbar and straight into the path of the lurking Nicky Clark. Clark was about to be substituted due to cramp but was on hand to head the ball into the net from close range before running to celebrate with the rapturous Queens support.
Queens began to back off in the second period as tired legs took effect and they looked to defend their lead with Partick dominating the remainder of the match.
Thistle`s refusal to give up was rewarded as they were awarded a debatable penalty with two minutes left following Marc Fitzpatrick`s challenge on Christie Elliott which seemed to take place outside the box. Centre-back Aaron Muirhead stepped up but saw his penalty well saved by Queens` Lee Robinson before tempers flared and Muirhead was sent from the field for violent conduct.
Muirhead took exception to Chris Higgins` over-exuberant celebrations following the penalty save and headbutted the Queen of the South captain to spark a melee inside the penalty area. The Partick defender saw red and Queens` Stephen McKenna and Partick`s Christie Elliott were each cautioned for pushing and shoving.
The drama did not end there, however, as Queens were unable to hold on as Kris Doolan snuck in at the back post to equalise with almost the last kick of the match and send the cup final to penalty kicks.
Partick had the momentum going into the shoot-out following the late equaliser but Queens had their star penalty stopper in Lee Robinson who had saved penalties at Morton and at Rangers en route to the final.
The kicks were to be taken in front of the stand filled with Queens fans and it was the midfield lynchpin Derek Young to go first.
The former-Aberdeen player made no mistake as he sent his penalty high into the top corner to give Queens the lead. Stephen O`Donnell was first up for Partick and first to suffer Lee Robinson`s mindgames as the goalkeeper employed every tactic at his disposal to upset his opponent despite the threat of a second yellow card from referee Crawford Allan. The mindgames worked as Robinson pushed out O`Donnell`s penalty to give Queens the perfect start to the shootout.
The perfect start did not last long however as Dan Carmichael`s spotkick was kept out by Scott Fox and Chris Erskine scored to level the scores at 1-1 after two kicks each.
Marc Fitzpatrick and Sean Welsh each netted with aplomb before Queens goalkeeper Lee Robinson himself stepped up to take the fourth one for the Dumfries side. He showed unerring confidence as he sent Fox the wrong way and gave Queens a 3-2 lead before Aaron Sinclair scored to level things up.
Gavin Reilly and Ross Forbes each scored to make it four apiece before Chris Mitchell and Kris Doolan netted the first of the sudden death spotkicks.
Next up was skipper Chris Higgins who sent his effort high into the centre of the net before Partick`s Conrad Balatoni stepped forward. Robinson employed his own special brand of psychology once more despite repeated warnings from the referee and once again came up trumps as he dived to his right to win the trophy for the Second Division side.
Although the contest was a very tight affair with few goalmouth chances Queen of the South were deserved winners of the Ramsdens Cup for the second time and capped what has been a tremendously successful season as they celebrated a wonderful league and cup double.