Queen of the South returned to the scene of last season`s Ramsdens Cup victory as they drew 3-3 with Livingston in the Scottish Championship.
A much quieter Energy Assets Arena this time witnessed a game full of goals and controversy as the Doonhamers battled back to secure a point with Gavin Reilly`s 85th minute goal.
The home side took the lead through Danny Denholm`s placed shot before Iain Russell returned to haunt his old side by firing a volley past the Livingston goalkeeper after 37 minutes. Queens took the lead in fortunate fashion as they were awarded a dubious-looking penalty which Ryan McGuffie confidently dispatched to put his team 2-1 up going into half-time.
Livingston equalised through Callum Fordyce`s header but were reduced to ten men in the 71st minute as Neil Hastings picked up a second yellow card. The ten men took the lead eight minutes later, however, as Danny Mullen scrambled home after 79 minutes. Substitute Gavin Reilly spared Queens` blushes though as he netted inside a crowded penalty area with five minutes remaining to give his side a hard-earned point.
The match began with Livingston very much in the ascendancy as Queens struggled to get any sort of fluid possession and the home side almost took the lead after 11 minutes as Danny Denholm missed a free header from inside the Queens six yard box following Martin Scott`s corner kick.
They did not have to wait long to open the scoring though as that man Denholm swept the ball past Calum Antell to find the far corner following fine wing play from Connor McDonald on the left. McDonald nutmegged Queens right-back Chris Mitchell before cutting the ball back for Denholm to score.
Queen of the South were looking off the pace and Livingston looked to capitalise as Chris Higgins allowed Denholm to run free of the defence with only Antell to beat but the young `keeper was quickly off his line to smother the shot.
After half an hour it had been one-way traffic and that theme continued and Denholm was causing Higgins and Dowie all sorts of problems as the 22 year old yet again created space inside the Queens box only to fire wide from an angle.
The away side began to work their way into the game but without creating any clear cut chances or even an effort on goal until Iain Russell stepped up on 37 minutes. The striker scored 15 league goals for Livingston last season before being deemed surplus to requirements at Almondvale allowing Queens to sign him up and it looked like he had a point to prove. The goal came from a Mitchell free-kick on the right side of the pitch and following some head tennis the ball found its way to Russell who with the ball at shoulder height volleyed low past Jamieson in the Livingston goal. The `keeper may feel that he could have got his hands to the ball but Queens were delighted to find a route back into the contest.
Russell takes the ball cleanly as he fires past his former colleagues to equalise for Queens
Iain Russell enjoyed his goal
Minutes later and Ryan McGuffie had the chance from the spot to put Queens into an unlikely lead just before half-time. Derek Lyle had done well to keep the ball in play and find Russell just inside the box on the left wing, his cross was blocked by Coll Donaldson with what the referee adjudged was an arm and Queens had the penalty. Livingston were furious as it appeared that the ball had struck Donaldson`s head but the away side were not about to argue and McGuffie swept the ball confidently into the top right-hand corner to put Queens in at half-time with a one-goal lead.
The home side were rattled and Neil Hastings picked up a rash booking for a slide on Russell just moments after replacing Moussa Mampuya to cap a miserable few minutes for the full-back.
Into the second half and it seemed like Queens had found their rhythm and were beginning to play much better as they almost took the lead 5 minutes after the restart. Chris Mitchell whipped in the corner for Kevin Holt to meet with a firm header at the far post. The ball was headed for the top corner only for Darren Jamieson to push it over the crossbar.
Calum Antell then made a good save from Marc McNulty?s thunderous volley from the edge of the area but from the resulting corner the scores were level. Martin Scott to Callum Fordyce`s head and the ball was beyond Antell, making the score 2-2.
Fordyce rises unchallenged to head the corner into the net
Derek Lyle had a decent header pushed over by Jamieson before Neil Hastings summed up his performance by getting his marching orders from referee Alan Muir for a trip on Dan Carmichael inside the Livingston half.
Queens were keen to make the extra man count but fell behind as they allowed Simon Mensing to use his aerial power inside the box to head down for the ball to eventually drop for substitute Danny Mullen who slotted the ball past Antell and into the corner.
The away side were stunned but levelled the scores once again with just five minutes remaining through substitute Gavin Reilly. Livingston could only clear a Mitchell corner to Paton who made a yard to stand the ball up to the back post where Ryan McGuffie headed back across goal for Reilly to scramble the ball into the net.
Reilly prods the equaliser into the net under heavy pressure from Mensing
Delight for Queens as the substitute turns to the fans to celebrate
The closing stages promised plenty of pressure from last year`s Second Division champions but they were unable to create any real chances and the match came to end with both teams level.
The Queens faithful will have been happy that their team salvaged a draw in the closing stages and four points from the first two matches is not to be sniffed at but the level of performance and the poor defending on show may provide some with cause for concern.