Queens ran out comfortable winners for the third time this season on Forfar`s state of the art 3G pitch and in doing so moved into sight of Gretna`s Division Two points record. A single point in the last two league games will clinch a new record. The match was also a personal triumph for striker Nicky Clark who struck a second half hat-trick and moved to 38 goals for the season in the process, three short of the club record.
After the midweek defeat at Stenhousemuir, only the second in the league this season, there was a far less experimental look to the Queens side. Back was the established centre half pairing of Durnan and Higgins, with Steven Black dropping right out of the squad following two successive starts. Back also was the experienced Derek Young in the centre of midfield meaning young Pat Slattery had to make do with a seat on the bench. Finally Paul Burns shook off the knock that kept him out of the Stenhousemuir trip to replace Danny Carmichael who had a minor ankle problem. There was a pre-kickoff boost for Queens as Odmar Faeroe, who had impressed for Forfar on their last visit to Palmerston, suffered an injury in warm up that saw him withdraw from the line up.
The first half was a fairly low key affair early on, though Mark Durnan collected an early booking for a fairly cynical foul. Queens should have taken an early lead though when Nicky Clark sprung the offside trap and raced in on goal only to chip Darren Hill early and send the ball well wide. Hill made a fine save midway through the half to deny Chris Mitchell a second successive goal from a direct free kick. However, Queens grabbed the lead just after the half hour mark as a fine passing move involving both Lyle and Clark saw Michael Paton presented with the opportunity to face up to Hill from 20 yards and this time he buried the shot behind the keeper. Just before the interval Queens survived loud shouts for a penalty from the home side when Durnan blocked a goalbound effort on the line. The home players were adamant the ball had struck Durnan`s arm but, even if it did, it didn`t appear that there was any deliberate movement to the ball.
The second half was all about Nicky Clark really as the striker grabbed his second hat-trick of the season and could have had more. He spurned the first good chance of the second period when heading into the side netting from close range but was soon on the goal trail again. Paul Burns did tremendously well to keep a ball in that was being guided over the goal-line by a home defender and then played it back to Lyle. Derek sent in a fine low cross to pick out his strike partner all alone at the back post and though Clark appeared to initially miss the ball completely with one foot, he did guide it into the empty net with the other. The cheers for the second goal had barely died down when two became three and again it was Paul Burns who set it up, this time making ground down the right on to a pass from Clark before laying it back into the penalty area for the striker to fire into the top right corner first time.
Goal number one for Clark
Goal number two
The game`s most controversial moment arrived soon after and again involved that man Paul Burns. This time he was clattered by a physical challenge in the air and, as the ball ran loose to another Forfar player he picked himself up and, perhaps with a little red mist involved, charged into a bad foul out at the touchline in front of the Forfar dugout. The home side were not at all happy with the challenge and it was a relief to see the referee produce a yellow card amid fears it may have been another colour.
With 20 minutes to go Dan Orsi replaced Michael Paton and, with his first touch, sent Nicky scampering clear of the defence again. This time though Clark`s touch deserted him and he pushed the ball too far ahead of himself, allowing Hill to gather it easily enough. Kevin Smith was introduced for Lyle and then Slattery for McKenna before the fourth goal arrived with five minutes to go. This time it was Kevin Holt who seized on a loose ball in the middle of the park and strode forward with it before sliding Clark in behind the back line again. This time his touch was sure and he easily rounded Hill and tapped into the empty net.
The hat-trick is completed
Another outstanding performance then from this record breaking side and we can all look forward to the party atmosphere next weekend.
Thanks to Gavin Hedge for this great picture of a Chris Mitchell free kick