A superb second half performance from 10-man Queens saw the runaway league leaders come from behind to overwhelm visitors Arbroath in a highly entertaining clash at Palmerston this afternoon .Scoring 5 times within a 27 minute spell, Queens were very impressive, and even though they played for over 70 minutes with a man short, they simply outplayed their opponents as they became the first team in Scotland to reach 50 points for the season.
After the resounding midweek victory at Ayr , Queens boss, Allan Johnston made just one change to the side that began at Somerset, with Derek Lyle replacing Derek Young, whilst Paul Burns returned to the squad for the first time since the defaet at Alloa. Arbroath included former Queens men Derek Holmes and Scott Robertson in their squad as they looked for a 3rd win in succession following recent victories against Albion Rovers and East FIfe.
Queens began in their usual 4-4-2 line-up with Derek Lyle on the left of a midfield four, and Gavin Reilly and Nicky Clark were paired upfront., but just seconds into the game, it was the visitors who almost opened the scoring. A well flighted pass from midfield found the unmarked Doris and the striker lifted a shot goalwards that appeared to be going over Lee Robinson, but the Queens `keeper somehow managed to make up the ground and tipped the ball over for a corner which was ultimately well defended. The first opening for Queens came after 4 minutes and followed a move down the right, with Ryan McGuffie`s cross being met by a powerful diving header from Nicky Clark, but Queens` leading scorer was unable to add to his tally as the ball flew a couple of yards over the bar. Another chance arrived moments later following Queens first corner of the game, when Chris Mitchell`s delivery picked out Reilly at the back post, but the striker`s half volley went just wide of the target.
Reilly with an early effort
The best chance of the opening 15 minutes went the way of Queens as well. A long clearance from Robinson found Clark on the right and his measured pass sent Danny Carmichael clear but his effort was kept out by `keeper Hill, and as the ball rebounded into the path of Clark on the bye-line, his shot from close range was headed off the line by a covering Arbroath defender. The early pressure had come from the home side, but on 17 minutes Palmerston was silenced as the visitors took the lead. A defence splitting pass from Gribben found strike partner Doris just outside the Queens penalty box, and after taking a touch to control the ball, his next touch was to roll the ball past the advancing Robinson into the bottom corner of the net.
Doris slips it past Robinson
So for the second game in a row at Palmerston, and infact for the second game in succession, Queens had fallen behind. Minutes later things began to look even bleaker as Queens were reduced to 10-men when Mark Durnan was sent off for a challenge just outside the area. There was no doubting that the challenge was a foul, but a red card seemed a little harsh as the Arbroath player was going away from goal at the time, but the referee obviously thought differently and the Queens man was off. Gavin Reilly made way for Derek Young as Queens re-organised with McGuffie moving to centre-back, and Mitchell going to the right side of the back four. Arbroath certainly had their tails up, and boosted by the fact that they were ahead and playing against 10-men they threatened to increase their lead 5 minutes before the break when good play from Doris on the right saw him produce a cross that was just crying out to be tapped in, but fortunately for Queens Gribben was unable to connect with the ball. One more chance arrived for Queens as the first half came to a close, a free-kick on the right was delivered deep into the box by Mitchell, and as both Higgins and Clark went for the ball, neither were able to make a good connection which resulted in Clark`s header slipping wide of the far upright.
Red card for Durnan
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-1 ARBROATH
Neither side made any changes to their line-up at the start of the second period, but there was a definate change to Queens approach as they set about trying to get back on level terms, and Derek Lyle showed his intent with a shot from distance that although always drifting wide of the target, at least brought about a reaction from what until then had been a rather subdued Queens support. Defending their unbeaten home league record, and obviously having been given a `talking to` from the management team at the interval, 10-man Queens drew level just 9 minutes into the half. A good ball from Danny Carmichael found Clark just inside the area and although the striker`s shot was parried by the `keeper, there was still enough pace on the ball to take it towards goal where Derek Lyle was able to touch the ball home from almost on the goal-line.
Lyle fires home the equaliser
If ever a goal changed a game, then this was one such incident as from then on Queens completely outplayed their opponents, and began to show just why they are currently so far ahead of the rest in this league. A second goal almost followed straight away after Stephen McKenna`s persistance created a chance for McGuffie, but slightly off balance his shot from 16-yards went only inches past the post. However, the home fans in the crowd of 1693 were soon applauding a second goal as on 58 minutes Queens went in front for the first time. Neat play involving Young and Holt allowed Young to deliver an inch perfect pass into the path of Nicky Clark who lobbed the ball over the advancing `keeper and into the empty net to notch up his 23rd goal of the season.
Nicky lifts the ball over the keeper and...
....celebrates the goal
The confidence of coming from behind once again only increased the desire of the Queens team, and for long periods of the half it seemed as though Arbroath were the team playing with a man less such was the dominance of the home side. The first yellow card of the game was shown to Derek Lyle after he kicked the ball away in frustration, and his booking was swiftly followed by one for Arbroath`s Doris after he was late on Young., and Queens` skipper Chris Higgins was also booked for dissent. Some of the passing and movement off the ball was a delight to watch, and when Queens added a third goal after 65 minutes it was no more than they deserved. The visitors were on the attack when after a horrible bounce and wayward shot by Kerr, Queens broke clear at pace. With McGuffie leading the charge, Queens had 3 attackers against just the one lone Arbroath defender, and with an option of releasing either Carmichael to his right or Clark to his left, McGuffie opted for Danny Carmichael and the inform winger kept his composure before slotting home a cool finish from just inside the area.
Danny is congratulated by his team mates
Paul Burns was introduced in place of Lyle with 17 minutes left on the clock, and shortly afterwards Scott Robertson was the next player to be booked for a rather clumsy challenge in midfield. The visitors had hardly featured as an attacking force in the second period, although they had a half chance from a corner after 79 minutes, but Clark on defensive duty cleared a goalbound header. Goal number 4 for Queens came just a few minutes later as influential midfielder Stephen McKenna grabbed his first goal of the season following up from his own shot that was blocked to smash a low drive past `keeper Hill. With six minutes left Queens completed a marvellous second-half display when they added a fifth goal. Cark and Holt exchanged passes and Nicky Clark showed great skill and clinical finishing by passing the ball beyond Hill into the far corner, adding another goal to his season`s total that currently makes him the top scorer in Scottish football.
Clark produces a perfectly placed finish to wrap up the scoring
It was a superb end to what had been an excellent 45 minutes from Queens, and the win, their fifth in succession, and ninth in ten games, saw them move onto 50 league points,with 50 league goals scored. After going behind, and then losing a man, Queens produced a performance of quality,skill and determination to such a degree that Arbroath were just not able to contain them Skipper Chris Higgins was given sponsors man-of-the-match, although based on the second half, there must have been many contenders for the award.
With the news coming through that 2nd placed Alloa had lost at Brechin, Queens had not only recorded league win number 16, but in doing so , had extended their seemingly unassailable lead at the top of the table to a massive 14 points with almost half a season to play.