Two first half goals paved the way for Queens to claim a vital win as they overcame a stubborn Morton side to record only their second home league win of the season. The win gave Queens their first league `double` of the season, and saw them move a further three points ahead of the Greenock side who currently occupy the bottom spot in the Championship league table with roughly a third of the season gone.
Manager, Jim McIntyre, in charge of Queens for the 20th time, made one change to the starting line-up that began in last weekend`s narrow cup defeat, with Ian McShane replacing Kevin Dzierzawski. There was also a return to the squad for Paul Burns, and fit again Stephen McKenna, who played for 35 minutes against Hamilton, again began on the bench.
Visitors Morton arrived at Palmerston after ending a poor run of form, with last weekend`s 2-0 victory over Dumbarton ending a stretch of 10 league games without a win. Former Queens player, Craig Reid, and ex-Rangers star, Nacho Novo, were included in the starting line-up for the visitors. The last time that Morton visited Palmerston back in January 2012, Queens ran out 2-1 winners courtesy of a Sam Parkin double, and earlier this season, Queens claimed all three points after a 2-0 win secured them their first away win of the campaign.
The first period began with Queens `traditionally` kicking towards the Terregles Street end, lining up in a 4-1-2-3 formation with Derek Young occupying the holding role in midfield. The opening minutes saw the visitors create a half chance following a free-kick almost on the bye-line, McKie`s cut back from the free-kick found an unmarked Imrie whose shot was pushed over the bar by the alert Zander Clark. Minutes later, and with their first meaningful attack of the game,Queens took the lead. After challenging and winning the ball in midfield, Gavin Reilly found Chris Mitchell down the right and he in turn played a slide rule pass into the path of Danny Carmichael. The tricky winger skipped past his defender and delivered a pin-point cross into the 6 yard box where Gavin Reilly got ahead of the defence to head the ball in from close range to score for the first time at Palmerston this season. It was just the start that Queens were hoping for, and boosted by taking the lead for the first time in a league game at Palmerston this season,the confidence began to flow through the team as Queens began to dominate. A free-kick conceded by Imrie gave Mitchell an opportunity to put the visitors under more pressure, but his delivery was over hit and Morton were able to clear the danger comfortably. Almost immediately, Imrie was again late with his challenge this time on Derek Lyle, but referee Allan deemed that a few words to the Morton striker was sufficient enough punishment.
Reilly beats former Palmerston favourite Reid to the ball and heads the opener
As Queens continued in the ascendancy, on 18 minutes they doubled their lead. Danny Carmichael was impeded by Peciar as he attempted to go past him, and the resulting free-kick eventually led to the second Queens goal. Mitchell`s initial cross was cleared out as far as Lyle on the left just outside the area, and with Chris Higgins in support, the striker`s pass enabled Higgins to cross into the packed penalty area and when the ball bounced loose 14 yards out Ian McShane was on hand to thump home a half-volley to score his first senior Queens goal. Helped by some poor defending from the visitors, it seemed as though Queens would score every time they went forward and they really should have added to their lead on 28 minutes. Danny Carmichael who was involved in most of Queens` attacks did well to get to the bye-line and whip in an excellent cross, but Iain Russell unmarked, and well placed in front of goal miscued his effort and `keeper Gaston made the save. With Queens, and in particular Derek Young, in complete control of the midfield, the visitors were struggling to even get into the Queens half , but a mistake by Higgins allowed them to get a sight of goal, but Imrie`s shot or cross went well wide of the target much to the annoyance of Morton boss Allan Moore, who was visibly unimpressed by his striker`s attempt.
McShane celebrates his goal
Having `lost` the battle for midfield, the visitors began to resort to the long ball method, and Gaston`s long punt up field was rewarded when,under pressure, Mitchell`s clearance resulted in a corner for the visitors, but the in-swinging delivery from the left was comfortably claimed by Clark under no real threat. Just before the break, Carmichael won another corner for Queens, but after combining with Mitchell for a short set-piece routine, Carmichael`s cross to the far post was over hit, and once again the Morton defence escaped lightly. At the other end Morton created a half chance from nothing, but an effort from Wallace posed no problems as Queens went into the break with a 2 goal lead at half-time for the first time in this season`s league campaign.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 2-0 MORTON
The second half started with both teams having good opportunities to score as the game moved from end to end in the opening phase of the half. Firstly Queens went close to adding a third goal when Carmichael`s effort hit the side netting, and almost straight away, Reilly could have done the same, but his angled drive flew well over the bar. Morton replied moments later when Novo latched on to a poor clearance by Clark, but the talented Spaniard drove his shot yards wide of the goal as Queens received a reprieve.
At this stage of the game, Morton were enjoying their best spell, and a break from defence by former Queens man, Craig Reid, won his team their first corner of the half, and from it, defender Page wasn`t to far off target with a fine header. With the visitors enjoying some good possession of the ball, a neat and tidy build up led to McKie trying his luck from distance, but his shot did not match the build up play, and went harmlessly past Clark`s near post. The first caution of the game arrived after 55 minutes when Bachirou blocked off Iain Russell, and as Queens launched an attack via Russell his cross eventually fell to Carmichael but his shot went straight at Gaston as Queens continued to look for a third goal. Ian McShane could have added to his and Queens tally minutes later, but following another short corner set-piece, McShane blazed a shot well over. That was to be the youngsters last involvement in the game as with an hour gone Queens made their first change of the afternoon as he was replaced by the returning Paul Burns, who was appearing for the first time since being injured in the league cup clash with St.Mirren back in August.
Derek Young keeps close to Bachirou
On 64 minutes the visitors had a really good chance to reduce the deficit when a good run and shot from Campbell had to be turned away from goal by Higgins, whether or not the ball was heading into the net is debatable, but the chance was one of the better created by the side from Greenock during the game. A mazy run and break from defence by Kevin Holt ended with both he and Wallace being booked, as the Morton player lunged at Holt as he passed him, only for Holt to lose possession and lunge at the Morton player as he tried to reclaim the ball. The fourth booking of the game arrived in rather bizarre circumstances as the nearside assistant, the referee and Morton technical staff contrived to make a mess of a Morton substitution, as Kabba Cham was booked for not receiving permission to enter the field of play. Queens made their 2nd change after 76 minutes, with Stephen McKenna replacing Derek Lyle. As the game entered it`s final stages, the best chance Queens had to add to their goal tally fell to Danny Carmichael, but following excellent play between Russell and Burns down the left, Carmichael`s shot under pressure went wide.
The final change for Queens came when Michael Paton replaced Gavin Reilly with 6 minutes left, and as Queens continued to control the final minutes, Iain Russell`s curling effort from just outside the area was the last piece of attacking play that either side could muster, and it was Queens who left the field to warm applause from the majority of the 1685 people in attendance. The second 45 minutes were pretty average compared to the first period, but Queens were still worthy winners. Sponsors choice of man of the match went to Mark Durnan, as Queens moved up a place in the league table, and now sit just 5 points away from a play-off place.