Queens are beginning to look like our bogey team. We couldn't beat them in the friendly or the League Cup and we couldn't beat them today. It's like Man Utd and Middlesbrough in the mid 1990s and early 2000s. But we're still in the cup, which is more than can be said for Motherwell. We're perhaps a bit lucky as we struggled each time we went in front and didn't really switch back on after being pulled back. Let's hope we can finish the job in Paisley next week.
Our team selections have become rather settled and predictable of late and today was no different. It was no surprise to see Jim Goodwin back in for David van Zanten and that was our only change. We had a shocker at Palmerston in August but this was a different team and a different approach. Dan Carmichael was only on the bench for Queens but Iain Russell and Gavin Reilly both started while Chris Higgins was fit enough to take his place in defence.
As we passed the ball about, Queens decided to go with route one. It almost worked too as Marc McAusland struggled to get the ball back to Marian Kelly with Reilly close by, half the ground claiming either for a passback or a handball. Their appeals fell in deaf ears and we rubbed salt in the wound by promptly taking the lead. A corner wasn't properly dealt with and bounced to Conor Newton, the midfielder taking advantage of it sitting up just perfectly to ping it into the net from outside the box. To me it looked a goal all the way, but I'm reliably informed it took a deflection off of Iain Russell - which may explain why the Queens defence and goalie were so slow to react.
If that was good coming so early what we had to deal with next was rather bad. Paul McGowan had managed to injure himself and had to come off with barely 20 minutes played, meaning Thomas Reilly was called on to take his place. Weird that Gary Harkins didn't get the nod, but any injury to McGowan is obviously one to worry about. After Thompson and McLean put half chances wide we began to struggle. Marian Kello saved twice from Kevin Holt then was tested by a fierce shot from Michael Paton, doing well to turn it behind for a corner.
After Russell was booked for tripping McLean he made it his personal mission to find an equaliser. His first effort was saved by Marian Kello after a good attack and his next went just wide. It really was a case of third time lucky though as Kello only managed to get Ian McShane's free-kick as far as the edge of the box and Russell duly dispatched it straight back past him, Darren McGregor only able to help it on its way. The only surprise was it had taken Queens so long to draw level as we had totally failed to cope with McGowan's departure, which doesn't bode well if he ends up out for a lengthy period of time.
Somehow we managed to get ourselves in level at the break and whatever Danny Lennon did or said it obviously worked a treat. Jason Naismith missed a sitter, the ball falling kindly for him after Zander Clark had blocked McAusland's header but he somehow contrived to miss it. Jim Goodwin went close with a free-kick before a terrific move saw Sean Kelly found in lots of lovely space and his low ball into the box was stabbed home by Thompson, who was at full stretch to divert it past Clark. It was a great move and on the basis of the five minutes of the second half we deserved to be back in front.
However, no sooner had we done that than we were struggling to cope with Queens again and had a huge let off when Holt completely missed getting anything on Burns cross. Naismith was booked for persistent fouling before Burns tried, and failed, to head a loose ball over the line. We were still struggling at the back and Queens tried to exploit that by putting on Derek Lyle for Gavin Reilly. Before he could do anything we should have doubled our lead when McLean picked out McGregor with a free-kick but again one of our defenders somehow managed to miss when it was easier to score. In fairness the linesman kind of flagged for offside – perhaps he knew there was no point scoring...
Shortly after that we were all square again Lyle played a cute aerial ball for Burns and we somehow let one of the smallest men on the park nod to down for Paton, who was also in plenty of space, to tuck it past Kello from close range. It was so simple and easy to avoid and we were in trouble again, McGinn getting booked after a foul on Burns to make things worse. Queens looked by far the more likely side to find a winner and Burns should have perhaps done better than send an attempted lob wide of goal before Paton messed up Lyle's trickery by smashing a shot miles off target. The forward shot over again after finding himself some space as we clung on for a replay that we just about deserved.
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