Two first half goals helped Queens to a comfortable win over Cowdenbeath in today`s Championship clash at Palmerston, and although the visitors pulled a goal back in the final minute, a second win in a row for Queens saw them strengthen their push for a play-off spot. The third meeting between the teams this season saw Queens create plenty of goalscoring opportunities, especially in the second half, and with better, and more composed finishing the margin of victory would have been far greater as the home side were certainly well worth the victory.
After last weekend`s win at Alloa, Queens made one change to the team that started at Recreation Park, as Kevin Holt returned to the side in place of Mark Durnan, as they started a run of 3 home games from their next 4 fixtures. Visitors Cowdenbeath were on the end of a heavy defeat in their last match after a poor second half display saw them concede four goals which led to them losing 5-1 at Dumbarton. They gave a first team debut to `keeper Seb Usai, whilst they had to do without the Championship`s top scorer, Kane Hemmings who was once again missing through injury. Queens were unbeaten against their Fife visitors, in the previous 2 meetings this season having drawn at Palmerston, whilst collecting all three points in a 2-0 win at Central Park back in December last year.
It was the home side who began the game, and their first chance came within the opening 90 seconds when Paul Burns shot inches wide after the debutant `keeper failed to deal with a high ball into his area. The visitors replied with an attack of their own which saw Queens` captain, Chris Higgins penalised for a foul some 20-yards out, and from the resulting free-kick Stevenson saw his effort deflected away for the game`s first corner, with the set-piece being easily dealt with by the Queens defence. In the early stages of the game it was Cowdenbeath who were playing the better football as some neat and precise passing allowed them to by pass the Queens midfield however, it was in the final third of the pitch were they failed to pose Queens any great problems as their attacking play lacked any real goal threat.
McHugh flicks on
After Burns` early opportunity, Queens had been finding it difficult to get behind the Cowdenbeath defence, but after 16 minutes they found a breakthrough. Striker Bob McHugh did extremely well to win his side a corner after pressurising a defender down the right hand side, and Chris Mitchell`s pin-point delivery from the corner was met at the near post by Chris Higgins who side footed the ball home from close range to score his first league goal of the campaign. The hosts slowly but surely began to dominate and McHugh was very close to adding a second goal when his cross-come shot looped only inches over the bar following good play involving Iain Russell, and Gavin Reilly. As Queens continued to look to increase their lead, a quickly taken throw-in by Mitchell sent McHugh racing clear down the right wing and his cross to the far post was headed clear for another corner. Once again Mitchell`s delivery from the set-piece caused all sorts of problems for the Cowdenbeath defence, and there were claims for a penalty when McHugh appeared to be pushed in the box, but as play continued the striker went close to scoring, but his hooked effort from close range flew over the bar.
Higgins and Mitchell celebrate the opening goal
That effort came just after the 30 minute mark, and only 3 minutes later, Queens, courtesy of some sloppy defending by the visitors, doubled their lead. Having been awarded a some what fortuitous free-kick for hand ball just short of the halfway line, Chris Mitchell`s delivery was headed back towards his own goal by defender Brett, but the pace of the pass wasn`t strong enough and it allowed Gavin Reilly the chance to latch on to the ball and round `keeper Usai before calmly rolling the ball into the empty net to take his seasons tally into double figures. The visitors had offered little as an attacking force and were clearly missing the presence up front of leading scorer Hemmings, but to their credit they continued to try to hit Queens on the break, and right on the stroke of half-time they won themselves a corner, which unfortunately for them sailed right out of play which in a way, summed up their first half performance. So at the break, Queens were full value for their lead without ever really getting out of first gear.
Reilly rounds the keeper to score
Russell congratulates Reilly
HALF-TIME QUEENS 2-0 COWDENBEATH
The visitors made two changes at the break with Sammy Stewart replacing Robertson, and Morton replacing Brett, and the first half chance of the second period fell to one of the substitutes, but Morton`s drive following a mistake by Iain Russell, finished well wide of the target. At the other end, Queens almost made it three following a move down the right which saw McHugh cut the ball back for Reilly, and after his shot was blocked into the path of Russell, it seemed as though Queens` leading scorer would add another goal to his total, but somehow he was unable to connect properly with the ball and the chance had gone. That was to be the tone for the rest of the second half as Queens created, and missed several chances as time after time, they carved the visitors defence wide open only to lack the final composure which would have put the game out of reach.
On 51 minutes Queens made their first change when Iain Russell was replaced by Michael Paton, and his first piece of action was to flick a neat pass inside to Ian McShane, but the young midfielder was way off target with his shot from just outside the penalty area. For the next 5 or so minutes, the visitors enjoyed what was probably their best spell of the game and in fact they did manage to put the ball in the net, but the assistant`s flag was up well before the ball went in and quite rightly the goal was disallowed. They had another chance minutes later from a free-kick 25- yards out, but McKeown`s drive did not dip in time, and Zander Clark was not troubled by his effort. Both sides then had chances to score as firstly Queens were denied by a last ditch clearance by Kane that stopped McHugh finding the net and then a Chris Higgins header after 65 minutes was cleared off the line, whilst at the other end Kane, involved in the action again , hit a half-volley wide. Next it was Queens` turn to go close once more after a long ball from defence saw Reilly battling for possession, and after out muscling Wedderburn-which was no mean feat-the inform striker blasted his drive straight at `keeper Usai.
Off the line
Queens made a second change on 69 minutes when Derek Lyle replaced Bob McHugh, and with the visitors looking to get themselves back into the game, the home side got a little bit of fortune when Ian McShane was in the right place to clear a Kane shot off the line following a Cowdenbeath corner. A bustling run from midfield by Mark Kerr that was ended unfairly by Wedderburn created another chance for Queens, but Mitchell`s set-piece attempt from 22-yards was off target. As the home side continued to have the better of the chances, Lyle was next to go close, but his header from close range was comfortably saved by Usai. It was hard to believe that with the amount of chances being created in the half neither side had managed to find the net, and once again Queens had another chance to do so when good approach play on the right presented Paul Burns with an opportunity, unfortunately though his control let him down and Wedderburn recovered to clear the danger. It was Burns again who had the next effort for Queens, although not known for his heading ability, he rose well to connect with Kevin Holt`s excellent cross to power a header only inches over the crossbar.
With four minutes to go, Queens did finally manage to get the ball in the net, but unfortunately Derek Lyle was given offside and his effort did not count-it seemed a close call at the time, and it could have gone either way. As the game neared its conclusion and it seemed as though Queens would record back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time this season, Cowdenbeath got themselves a consolation goal. Queens gave away a free-kick, for which Andy Dowie was cautioned and there seemed to be no danger at all for the home defence when the cross from the left found it`s way into the area, but following a bit of a scramble, Greig Stewart prodded the ball past Zander Clark from close range to score his 11th league goal of the season.
Stewart pokes the ball into the net
Thankfully for the Queens fans in the crowd of 1619, there was no time for Cowdenbeath to put the home side under any further pressure, and Queens were able to record a second successive league win. The sponsors chose Chris Higgins as their man-of-the-match, and the win coupled with Dumbarton`s defeat by Dundee saw Queens move six points ahead of Dumbarton-who have a game in hand-to consolidate 4th place ahead of Tuesday night`s trip to league leaders, Dundee.