Queens made it into their fourth challenge cup final after an extra-time goal from Ryan McGuffie was finally enough to see off a spirited performance from Arbroath. This game was nothing like the league clash between the sides at Palmerston earlier in the season, and although Queens created the better of the chances, the visitors were still well in the game until McGuffie`s calm finish settled the game and sent Queens into the final.
Queens boss Allan Johnston was forced into making changes to the side that started at Stranraer last time out, with Paul Burns being cup-tied, and both Willie Gibson and Chris Higgins being suspended. Stephen McKenna ,and Dan Orsi ,filled the midfield places, whilst Ryan McGuffie replaced skipper Higgins at the back,and took over the captain`s armband for the day as he made his first start since that epic night at Ibrox last month. The visitors who had been on a decent run after losing at Palmerston, included former Queens men, Scott Robertson in midfield, and Derek Holmes on the bench.
By the time kick-off arrived, a crowd of just over 2300 had gathered to witness what was a first ever semi-final tie to be played at Palmerston and on a pleasant Autumnal afternoon, Queens attacked the Terregles Street end in their usual 4-4-2 formation as the half got under way. As early as the opening minute Nicky Clark unsettled Arbroath defender Stuart Malcolm to win a first corner for the home side, but Chris Mitchell`s delivery was easily defended by the visitors. After wining a 2nd corner early on following good play from Dan Orsi, a neat lay off from Derek Young fell nicely for Stephen McKenna, but the midfielder drove his shot from 20-yards narrowly over the bar. Arbroath had threatened with the pace of Rennie down the right on a couple of occasions, but he had no support in either break and Queens coped comfortably.
The early goal that Queens were looking for came on 9 minutes when Orsi made good progress down the left before playing the ball inside to Derek Young who`s drive from the edge of the area took a nasty deflection and bounced past the wrong footed Arbroath `keeper Morrison to put the home side in front. Winger Orsi had made a bright start to the game and his pace and direct running was causing problems for full back Baxter, and another break by the youngster brought another corner for Queens, but once again the cross from the dead ball situation was wasted. Queens appeared to have strong claims for a penalty after 18 minutes when a tackle by Kevin Holt saw the ball rebound into the path of Gavin Reilly and the young striker appeared to be pulled down inside the area as he moved towards goal, but referee Clancy waved away the appeals. There then followed a period in the game that could have resulted in both sides scoring. Firstly, a swift move down the right involving Dorris and Rennie for the visitors set up a chance for Robertson, but the former Queens man saw his well placed header brilliantly turned away by the diving Lee Robinson, and as Queens hit on the break straight after, Danny Carmichael ghosted past 3 defenders before placing his shot from just inside the box narrowly over the bar with the `keeper well beaten. Another quick break from Queens saw Reilly and Clark combine on half way, but as Reilly made for the six-yard box, Clark`s initial touch was just too heavy meaning that he was slightly off balance as he attempted to find his strike partner and he miscued his cross, although the ball bounced on the top of the crossbar had the cross been another six or so inches further back, Reilly might well have scored.
Derek Young strikes the first goal
Surely a penalty as Reilly has his shirt almost off his back
The first of 8 yellow cards to be shown in the game went to Arbroath full back Mark Baxter for a crude challenge that left Kevin Holt lying on the ground,and minutes later Queens really should have gone further in front. Excellent play down the right from Carmichael saw the winger produce a perfect cross into the 6 yard box where an unmarked Clark directed his header wide of the post. Carmichael was starting to have more of an influence on the game, and twice in the space of three minutes he was sent sprawling to the ground by defender Hamilton, the second time being enough for him to be cautioned for the offence. The visitors replied with a shot from Currie going wide of the target after good hold up play by the impressive Doris. Arbroath were convinced that they should have been awarded a penalty minutes from the break as Currie cut inside Holt in the area, but the striker seemed to stumble into Holt more than being fouled by the Queens man, and the referee waved play on much to the disbelief of the visitor`s bench who were still fuming at the decision as the referee ended the half.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 1-0 ARBROATH
Arbroath replaced Hamilton with David Banjo at the break, no doubt hoping that the youngster would be able to pull the strings in midfield during the 2nd period. The half began brightly for Queens and after a spell of pressure in which they pinned their visitors back, Orsi unleashed a cracking drive that may have caused problems for the Arbroath `keeper, but instead it caused more problems for Ryan McGuffie as the ball smacked straight into his face and knocked him over. An effort from Reilly was blocked by Keddie, and soon after McKenna had another go from distance but his shot was never on target and always rising over the bar. Queens forced another corner after 53 minutes, but once again the delivery was lacking, and Arbroath were able to launch a swift counter-attack that led to a shot from Rennie going wide after a good lay off from Sibanda. The visitors were clearly gaining in confidence and 5 minutes later they levelled the game when Keddie was on hand to head in at the near post following Rennie`s corner.
Keddie`s effort beats Robinson to equalise the scores
For the first time in the game, Queens showed signs of being disorganised, and Doris almost put Arbroath in front, but Lee Robinson saved well as Queens began to look a bit shaky. The first change for Queens came after 69 minutes with Derek Lyle replacing Dan Orsi, and two minutes after coming on, Lyle had the ball in the net,but the goal was disallowed apparently for pushing. Sibanda on 74, and Robertson on 75, made their way into the referee`s notebook, and Carmichael was sent to the floor fot the umpteenth time in the game, this time it was scorer Keddie who was cautioned. The resulting free-kick from a good position on the right was ultimately wasted when Derek Lyle shot well over. With the game moving towards extra-time, a quick break from Arbroath created a half chance for Doris, but a timely intervention allowed Mark Durnan to clear the ball to safety. McGuffie and then Holt were both cautioned for silly fouls right on the stroke of full time, as the first ever Palmerston semi-final was set for extra-time.
Sabanda puts in a strong challenge on Mitchell
It was Queens who had the first chance of the extra period,when following good play by Lyle and Clark, Carmichael was just unable to latch onto Clark`s pass and Malcolm cleared. Lyle was in the action a couple of minutes later as he showed good skill to bring down Robinson`s high clearance with a sublime touch before playing a square pass to Reilly who hit a powerful drive over when well placed. Arbroath`s Banjo created a half chance for himself after charging down a clearance inside the Queens box, but he shot well wide of the target.The best opening of all then fell to Queens as Carmichael`s effort was parried into the path of Clark 4 yards from goal but the striker was unable to keep his shot down and the chance was gone. To be fair the ball did come back off the `keeper at fast pace, but in form Clark probably should have done better. Gavin Reilly was then replaced by the player-manager after 103 minutes as Queens continued to have the better of the play,but without being able to find that bit of composure needed to find the breakthrough.
The second period of extra time saw Arbroath go close to taking the lead as Robertson again rose above the Queens defence to glance a header just wide, and almost straight away Queens might have grabbed the lead when Carmichael charged down the `keeper`s clearance and the ball looped up and only just cleared the crossbar. Another chance came Queens` way following a good cross from Johnston, Lyle dummied the ball but Carmichael didn`t make the best of connections and his shot went just wide. Just as it seemed as if the game was heading to penalty kicks, the hero of Ibrox, became the hero of Palmerston when Ryan McGuffie produced a top class finish from just inside the box placing his shot high into the net past the outstretched hand of `keeper Morrison to give Queens the advantage. Queens introduced Steven Black in place of Clark, who had taken a knock in the dying minutes,and as the final whistle blew, it was Queens who had triumphed to make it into another Challenge Cup Final. Ramsdens man-of-the-match award went to Danny Carmichael who had another fine game, and special mention has to go to Ryan McGuffie, who`s deciding spot-kick at Ibrox got Queens into this semi-final, and today his perfect finish has put Queens into the Final. Absolutely Brilliant!!!
McGuffie strikes the winner
Morrison can`t reach McGuffies effort
Danny picks up the sponsors Man of the Match award