An early goal from club captain Chris Higgins helped lay the foundations for Queens to record a comfortable victory over bottom side Morton in today`s Championship clash at Palmerston, and as the hosts added 2 further goals in the second half they were able to open up a six-point gap between themselves and both Livingston and Dumbarton in the fight for the final play-off place. After the disappointing result at Dundee in midweek, Queens reacted well to that defeat and produced an assured, professional performance to inflict more worries on the all but relegated Greenock side, and in the end they were well worth their 3-0 victory.
Queens boss Jim McIntyre named the same starting line-up that narrowly lost at Dens, as once again a 4-4-2 formation was employed. Visitors Morton arrived at Palmerston on a dismal run of 8 league games without a win that stretched back to the last meeting between the teams when they drew 1-1 at Cappielow, in January, and the run of 5 consecutive defeats saw them begin the game clinging on desperately to preserve their Championship status.
Attacking the Terregles Street end in the first period, it was the home side who began brightly and created the first opportunity when Mark Kerr, Paul Burns and Derek Lyle combined well, but in trying to release Lyle, a return pass from Burns was over hit and Morton cleared the danger. Paul Burns and Chris Mitchell were next to exchange passes again down the right wing, however after beating the covering full-back, Mitchell ran out of pitch and the promising attack ended. It was clear from the early stages that the pace of Gavin Reilly was going to cause problems for the visitors defence, and it was the speed of the young Queens striker that resulted in the home side taking a 9th minute lead. Reilly and Michael Paton exchanged passes in midfield and as Reilly appeared to have got the better of the last defender, the Morton player just managed to knock the ball away to give Queens their first corner of the game. The reprieve for the visitors was only brief however as Mitchell`s perfect in-swinging corner was met at the near post by Chris Higgins who planted a firm header into the far corner to give Queens the perfect start.
Higgins heads through Gastons hands to open the scoring....
...and takes great delight in scoring
Morton reacted well to falling behind, and for the next few minutes it was their turn to put the home defence under a bit of pressure as they won two corners in quick succession, and although Queens coped well enough with the first, striker Campbell perhaps should have done better following the second set-piece, but his rather tame effort was comfortably saved by Zander Clark. The hosts continued to look to increase their advantage, and excellent play from Reilly created a shooting opportunity for Ian McShane, however although he managed to get his shot on target, Morton `keeper Gaston held his drive easily. Although the visitors were struggling with their recent poor run, it was the men from Greenock who slowly started to find their way into the game, and for the next 10 or so minutes, they were much the better of the two teams. Their approach play at times looked as though it might cause problems for Queens, but their play in the final third did not match that of their build up play.However,on 24 minutes they went very close to getting themselves back into the game as it took a combination of both Zander Clark, and Ian McShane to prevent a header from O`Ware from finding the far corner.
Ian McShane clears off the line
On several occasions in the half, Queens had tried to capitalise on the pace of Reilly, and the young striker, who had made his 100th appearance for Queens at Dundee, almost created a chance for himself when his chasing down saw him nearly take the ball away from Findlay. The youngster was involved in the action moments later when his flicked header from a long ball from Mitchell sent Paton clear but defender Taggart reacted well to concede a corner. Mitchell`s delivery from the set-piece was well defended and as Morton tried to break on the counter, Mitchell became the first player to be cautioned as referee Brines penalised his awkward challenge on Bachirou.
Just past the half an hour mark, Queens went close to scoring again. Burns and Mitchell worked the ball down the right and eventually won another corner. This time, rather surprisingly, Mitchell was poor with his initial cross however the ball found it`s way back to him and this time his floated ball into the box fell to Reilly at the far post, but under some pressure he was unable to make decent contact and the ball was blocked away. However, the ball ran out as far as Chris Higgins just outside the box, and the skipper came within inches of scoring for the second time in the match, but Gaston was just able to scramble across his goal to push the ball away. The best chance for Queens to go further in front came just before the break. Reilly dispossessed Imrie in midfield and slipped the ball through to Derek Lyle, but the striker hesitated for a fraction too long and delayed his pass to Paton which in turn allowed Findlay to intercept the ball and prevent Paton from having a clear shot on goal. Morton were forced into making a change a minute before the interval, when former Scotland star, Garry O`Connor, who seemed to pull up injured, was replaced by young Jack Smith.
Queens ended the half as they had begun it, on top, and a flowing move from back to front involving McShane, Burns and Kerr ended with a shot from 25-yards out by Mitchell being unfortunately both high and wide of the target. That was to be the final action of the half and although Queens went ahead early on they would probably have wanted to have had the luxury of at least one more goal such was their dominance especially on chances made.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 1-0 MORTON
The home side were quickly into their stride at the start of the second period, and only the crossbar prevented Reilly from adding to the lead as his glancing header from a super ball in from Mitchell smacked against the woodwork with `keeper Gaston well beaten. As Queens continued to apply the pressure as they searched for that all important second goal, on 49 minutes their efforts were rewarded although it has to be said, they were given a huge helping hand from the visiting `keeper. Upon releasing the ball the `keeper placed his team-mate under immediate pressure from Michael Paton, and the Queens man kept his composure before unselfishly squaring the ball into the path of the unmarked Derek Lyle who placed the ball into the empty net from close range. That goal, Lyle`s first strike since he scored the winner at Livingston, really settled Queens and from then on it was mostly one-way traffic towards the Morton goal. Another Mitchell corner caused problems for Gaston as this time the delivery hit the `keeper`s shoulder as he appeared to get his positioning all wrong.
Lyle swivels, scores and ........
...celebrates with Burnsey
Morton did manage to create a half chance almost from nothing, but Taggart`s shot lacked accuracy and sailed high over the crossbar. Queens made their first change just past the hour mark when Bob McHugh replaced the scorer of the second goal, Derek Lyle, and McHugh`s first involvement in the game was to win his side yet another corner as they looked to put the game beyond any doubt. Once again Mitchell`s delivery caused problems and when the ball was headed straight back to him, his next attempt picked out the head of Mark Durnan, but his effort was too high. Mark Kerr then became the second Queens player to be cautioned by referee Brines, after a trip in midfield on Bachirou, and minutes later Queens shuffled the pack again as Stephen McKenna replaced Paul Burns to make his first appearance since the home defeat to Dundee.
Fitzpatrick beats Lyle to the header
McKenna was quickly into the action and his driven cross from the right fell to Reilly at the near post and his shot on the turn was deflected for yet another Queens corner. Once again Mitchell`s cross was cleared straight back to him and in an instant he picked out McHugh on the penalty spot from where the on-loan Motherwell striker flashed a header inches over the bar. Queens final change of the game saw Iain Russell replace Ian McShane for the final twenty minutes. Morton were struggling to find anything in the way of attacking play, and even with the creativity of Bachirou and Imrie in their side, chances were few and far between, and it was not hard to see why they have been on such a poor run of late. The closest they came to getting a goal back came when Imrie shaved the bar from a tight angle, but when you are down at the wrong end of the table, those sort of chances just don`t go in, and as if to prove that fact, thirty seconds later, Queens had added a third goal.
Substitutes McHugh and Russell were involved in the build up to the goal as firstly McHugh showed delightful skill in sending Russell away down the left, and then Russell effortlessly flicked the ball into the path of Gavin Reilly who was on hand to calmly finish from 6-yards out to claim his fourth consecutive home goal, and his 11th in total so far. It was a fitting reward for the youngster whose non stop chasing, and running saw him named as man-of-the-match by the sponsors for what was yet another fine all round display from the young striker.
Gav slams home the third
There was even time for Queens to add more gloss to the scoreline as firstly McHugh was denied by a really good stop from Gaston, and then right at the death, Kerr, Russell, and McHugh again all had their efforts blocked. This really was as comfortable as the scoreline would suggest, and in fact Queens could, and should have scored more than they did, but all in all it was a good afternoon`s work as Queens bounced back well from the disappointment of the loss in midweek to claim a valuable three points.
No fixture next week as Raith are involved in the Ramsdens Cup final, but remember that there is football at Palmerston on Sunday when Queens fans have the chance to show their appreciation to Paul Burns as his testimonial game takes place with a kick -off time of 2pm. All the best on your day Paul.