After a long trip to the highlands it a rematch of last seasons Challenge Cup Final and heres hoping for a better result and indeed a better game too than on that occasion. For Queens the red card issued to Kevin Smith last week means he sits out the game and also missing from the starting line up are keeper Roddy McKenzie, defender Ryan McGuffie and midfielder Nicky Clark. Coming in today are Lee Robinson, Craig Reid, Ian McShane and Allan Johnston. for County both ex Queens men Rocco Quinn and Colin McMenamin lined up against us.
The feature this season has been that Queens have been far and away the better side in the first half and then fallen away in the second so to be pretty much dominated totally in this half wasn`t a good sign. To be fair County weren`t much better than us in what was a poor half of football.
It was Queens who made the first half chance as Johnston chipped a through ball to Carmichael and as raced for the ball County keeper Fraser elected to go for it too and he got to the ball a fraction before Danny to knock it wide for a corner. He took out Carmichael too but its ball first and ref Conroy is right to give just the corner. Again today Carmichael would prove to be one of the bright spots on the day.
After that the game settled into a largely stodgy midfield battle that gradually saw County gain control. Their chances though were limited to cross balls and the occasional long range sighter. Robinson taking crosses under no real pressure before almost making a mess of a clearance under the fast closing McMenamin. it was the 18th minute before either keeper had to make a save and it was County`s Fraser who supplied it by easily holding a low curling effort from McShane.
If his save was easy then two minutes later Robinson produced a save worthy of a much greater stage than this.County broke down their right and sent in a cross that found Gardyne 6 yards out and free his point blank header being superbly pushed way by the diving Robinson.
Robinson Saves (Photo courtesy of David Gow)
Its back to the long range efforts now as Kettlewell and Corcoran shot wide before Quinn and Gardyne combine through the centre of the defence to see Gardyne`s effort blocked by a last ditch Campbell tackle - County getting through the back line all too easy on that occasion.
There was little in response from Queens with only Carmichael beating his man out wide to send in a cross to show as a counter. With queens relying on clearing their lines to an isolated Carmichael it was a big ask for the wee man to do much with things.
The half ended with Higgins looking sharp to cut out a Quinn pass as the sides went in goalless.
Half Time Ross County 0 Queen of the South 0
No changes to either line up as the teams took the field for the second half and again with Queens clearing their lines it was down to Carmichael to harry the defender and latch onto the ball in the hope of scoring but he was called back by ref Conroy for the foul on Munro though he did use both hands to push him off the ball.
Queens did force a second save from Fraser a minute later as following some patient passing the ball was worked to McShane who cut inside and sent in a low shot that was held easily. From County`s next attack Queens cleared and Brighton sets off before being unceremoniously hauled down by Munro. Munro getting a lecture and not a card as most expected.
A dull game was livened up as Quinn hit a woeful pass that would have been an easy unchallenged catch for Robinson but he elects to hit it on the volley 60 yards upfield and allow County to set up another attack, crazy these keepers it seems. The attack sees Gardyne`s shot blocked by Campbell.
At the other end a harmless Queens cross is sliced high into the air by Munro but Brighton can only stab the ball wide as the unexpected chance goes a begging. Queens attempt to liven things up on the hour mark as Clark replaces Johnston and Clark does seem to do just that as he features in a few good moves today.
His first involvement is to latch onto a Campbell clearance but his low cross to Brighton is slid away by the home defence for a corner. County are soon back in control though and they begin to get regular crosses into the Queens box. Queens deal with the first two but the third sees McMenamin appear unmarked and 6 yards out. For the second time today though Robinson is up to the task as he again makes a great diving save to keep Queens level.
The game explodes into life in controversial circumstances on 70 minutes. Simmons and Kettlewell go in for the ball on half way and Simmons comes off worse in a strong challenge from the County number 6. Ref Conroy charges into action and produces a straight red for the County man as Simmons gets treatment from physio Kerso. Simmons certainly made less of it than some players have and it was a hard challenge but first reaction was it was hard but not outright dirty but is the sort of challenge that many refs will issue a red for, still some folk have long memories and the PBFC is quick to remember that Kettlewell was the guilty man who put in a shocker of a challenge on Paul Burns in the TV game at Palmerston a few years back and got away with it then so a bit of karma there? The upshot is though we are a man to the good and now have a chance to capitalize and get a good and unexpected positive result here.
Five minutes later the golden chance comes our way. Robinson clears and Carmichael sends Clark away and in on the County goal he draws Fraser but cant beat the stopper who dives to his left to turn away the shot.
Clark Lines Up A Shot ... (Photo courtesy of David Gow)
... but its Saved (Photo courtesy of David Gow)
Queens press again and Carmichael lays it back into the path of McShane but his shot is well wide. Clark again is the man again to cause trouble for the County back line as he worms his way into the box and passes into the six yard box, its left by almost everyone and McLaughlin almost gets on the end of it.
Despite the one man advantage that is it from Queens in an attacking sense as they allow County to again control the final ten minutes. Quinn sends in a long range effort that has Robinson beaten but also the post before Robinson has to head clear a pass that only ends up at the feet of Corcoran but he can make nothing of his half chance.
With the game running out towards a goal less draw Queens bring on young Ryan Smillie whilst County are able to bring on the experienced Stephen Craig and it is his introduction that wins the game for the home side. The substitution is made and County clear the ball inside Smillie and with Allan Reid posted missing sponsors man of the match Millar races clear to square the ball and Steven Craig is on hand to slot the ball home with his first touch to make it 1-0.
To add to our woes three minutes later and with basically the last kick of the match Steven Craig out muscles Campbell from underneath a high ball and runs off to place a shot past Robinson to give the score what was, sadly, a more realistic touch to it.
Final Score Ross County 2 Queen of the South 0
So a repeat of the score and almost of the perormance of last years Challenge Cup Final and a defeat that see`s Queens slip to the foot of the table and on todays performance thats about right. Last week a fine first half was thrown away with a poor second half today we didn`t have the fine first half. The midfield battle was lost today as County dominated that area and were able to build on that to put Queens on the back foot for long periods. That said Robinson really only had two saves to make though each had to be top notch to keep us in it however his opposite number Fraser had a trouble free afternoon. with the midfield under pressure the front two are always onto a hard afternoons work but again Carmichael offered a few glimpses of hope. substitute Clark injected some spark into things on his arrival but today was a day when far too many others under performed.
Next week sees firstly a visit from Forfar in the cup before a trip to Firhill for what is already looking like a vital bottom of the table clash.If we are to kick start a faltering start to the season then what better way than to get the ball rollin, rollin, rollin* than with a couple of wins?
Rollin, Rollin* - its a happy 41st birthday to Fred Durst and also celebrating, unlike us, are Ralf Hutter of Kraftwerk (66) Robert Plant Led Zep front man (64) and would have been the 63rd birthday of the sadly departed Phil Lynott.