Queens saw their 100% home league record come to an end this afternoon as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Stenhousemhuir in a game that almost ended in a riot after some controversial decisions by referee Gary Hilland saw Queens end the match having 2 players and their manager all sent off.
Following the Challenge Cup win over Arbroath last weekend, Queens boss made 3 changes to the team that began in that game with Chris Higgins, Paul Burns, and Willie Gibson all returning, with Dan Orsi, Stephen McKenna, and last weekend`s match winner, Ryan McGuffie all dropping to the bench. The visitors who were on a recent run of 4 games unbeaten included former Queens men Stewart Kean and Eric Paton in their squad as the sides met for the first time in years at Palmerston.
The game began with Queens attacking the Terregles Street end and a few minutes in neat play involving Paul Burns, and Chris Mitchell sent Danny Carmichael clear down the right, and although his cross was blocked away, Queens did profit from the corner kick that followed. Mitchell`s initial delivery was cleared at the near post but only as far as Carmichael, and in an instant he produced an inviting cross that was met at the back post by central defender Mark Durnan who powered home a header to give Queens the perfect start. The table toppers had started the game at a high tempo, and another good cross from Carmichael threatened the visiting defence before on loan Hamilton defender Kilday cleared the danger. The respite for the `Stenny` defence didn`t last long as this time a cross from Gibson from the left caused further problems, but no Queens player could get near enough to produce a shot at goal. With Queens dominating the early stages, a 2nd goal looked likely, and after just 9 minutes they created a very good chance to score again. Kevin Holt`s long ball down the left was collected by Gavin Reilly, and the youngster showed good skill to lay the ball into the path of Nicky Clark, but from 12 yards out the striker drove his shot straight at `Stenny` `keeper Robbie Thomson who saved well. Barely a minute later Reilly pounced on a poor backpass and as he tried to take the ball around the `keeper with the angle narrowing all the time, Thomson did well to block Reilly`s effort. After being awarded a free-kick on the left following a foul on Clark, Gibson`s deep delivery to the back post was only inches away from finding the well timed run of Durnan as Queens continued to have almost all of the early possession.
Durnan heads home
Gav tries to round Thomson...
...but the keeper stops the effort
The visitors had hardly been seen as an attacking force, but on a swift break they put together a flowing move that ended with Lee Robinson saving comfortably from an effort by Rodgers. Almost instantly, Queens were attacking again, this time Gibson showed good control before cutting inside and firing wildly over as another scoring opportunity was squandered. The visitors almost stole an equaliser on 21 minutes when following a corner leading striker John Gemmell saw his header brilliantly blocked on the line by Clark, who fortunately for Queens was in the right place at the right time. For the first time in the game, `Stenny` were begining to gain more possession in midfield, and as Queens slight frustration began to creep in, Derek Young was perhaps fortunate not to be cautioned after conceding a couple of free-kicks in quick succession, the latter giving Gemmell a shooting chance from 25 yards that the striker drilled well wide of the target.
After dominating the opening period, Queens had suddenly lost a bit of their rhythm, with passes going astray and heavy first touches leading to losses of possession, and following one such incident right on the stroke of half-time, Queens were reduced to 10 men. Derek Young`s poor first touch allowed the ball to spin from his control, and in trying to rectify his mistake he appeared to lunge in with both feet with the referee deeming that his challenge was worthy of a straight red card. Two other players were cautioned in the resulting melee between the players, Willie Gibson , and the visitors Greg Ross. That was just about the final action of a half in which Queens had plenty of chances to increase their lead, but the dismissal of Young certainly tainted what had been a decent enough first 45 from Queens.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 1-0 STENHOUSEMUIR
Queens made 2 changes at the break, with Stephen McKenna replacing Willie Gibson, and Dan Orsi coming on for Gavin Reilly as Queens switched to a 4-4-1 line-up for the 2nd half,and whether it was the half-time team talk, or the fact that Queens were feeling aggreived by the dismissal of Young, they began the half as they had done in the opening period by attacking their visitors right from the start. A well worked move down the left involving Mitchell and Burns set Carmichael free and as the winger tried to move into the box, he was harshly penalised for handball. The disappointment of that decision was swiftly forgotten as on 47 minutes, Queens went further in front. Chris Mitchell produced an accurate cross from the right and Nicky Clark guided the ball past `keeper Thomson with a well placed header. As they had done in the first half, Queens had begun really well, and substitute Stephen McKenna almost added a third goal after Burns, and then Clark had combined well to create the chance, but Thomson was alert enough and saved well at the expense of a corner. Mitchell`s delivery was excellent and a Higgins header was brilliantly tipped away by Thomson who was having a fine game, and keeping his team in the contest. Queens went forward again, and this time Burns and Carmichael set up a chance for Clark, but his acrobatic effort from just inside the area sailed just wide of the post.
Clark heads goalward.....
....and celebrates the second
With Queens seemingly in full control, and arguably showing no signs of being a man short, the total complexity of the game changed within a 5 minute spell during which time the visitors pulled a goal back, and then equalised. Firstly on 69 minutes, leading scorer Gemmell was on hand to knock in a shot from Hedge that had been deflected onto a post, and then a minute or so later Ferguson had levelled the game for the `Warriors` after Burns was rather harshly adjudged to have given away a penalty, when he appeared to stumble into, rather than foul his opponent. Queens players complained furiously that the first goal was offside and the protestations of skipper Chris Higgins was too much for referee Hilland to take, and he duly booked the Queens man for dissent.
Gemmill gets a toe onto the ball to direct it into the net
Robinson couldn`t do anything to stop the well placed penalty despite his best efforts
From coasting at 2-0 ahead, to coming under strong pressure in the space of 5 minutes, Queens still looked as they might go on and find the winner that would preserve their 100% home league record as they continued to go forward. Mitchell was next to go close following his shot from a free-kick on the angle some 25- yards from goal, and shortly afterwards, Queens made their final change as Derek Lyle replaced Nicky Clark with 15 minutes to go. Minutes after coming on, Lyle had an excellent chance to put his side in front. McKenna`s fine pass found the striker up against just one defender, but after doing all the hard work to create himself a shooting chance, he opted for power and blasted the ball a couple of yards over the bar from almost on the penalty spot. Four minutes later, Lyle went close again, this time `keeper Thomson was called into action to make another decent save. With both sides still convinced that they could take all three points, the final minutes of the game were filled with controversy. It appeared that Queens should have had a free-kick for a foul on the near touchline, but as the game was allowed to flow, Kevin Holt mistimed a challenge on Gemmell, and much to the amazement of most in the crowd of 1531, he became the 2nd Queens player to receive a straight red-card. Now down to 9 men Queens were hanging on, and `Stenny` almost snatched a winner from a corner. In the meantime, Higgins had been off the field receiving attention to a facial injury, and with the game going on the referee failed to wave the Queens captain back onto the pitch which prompted boss Allan Johnston to berate both him and his assistant for leaving Queens with only 8 players whilst defending , and for his actions, the Queens boss was sent from the dugout for the final few moments of the game.
Even though Queens lost their 100% home league record today, they still remain unbeaten in the league at the end of the first quarter, and with other results going in their favour, they actually increased their lead at the top of the table, now standing 7 points clear of their nearest challengers. At the end of the day, and in the circumstances in which the final few minutes panned out, a point was not such a bad thing, although to be honest, Queens should have had the game dead and buried well before the hour mark. Sponsors choice of man-of-the-match went to Chris Mitchell, who played well throughout the whole game, and provided a delightful cross for Nicky Clark`s goal.
So after the first quarter of the league season, Queens are unbeaten in 9 games, top the table by 7 points, have booked a place in the Challenge Cup final, and boss Allan Johnston has collected back-to-back managerial awards. Not a bad start to the season at all !!!