Queens 8 game unbeaten league run came to an abrupt ending after they were on the wrong end of a five goal mauling from visitors Morton this afternoon,with the defeat also seeing them relinquish their position at the top of the Championship table, albeit on goal difference. A goal behind after just 6 minutes - only the third time this campaign that Queens have been behind - and then three down at the interval, the unbeaten league run was given up without too much resistance from a Queens team who seemed shocked by the opening period of the game, and were never able to get a foothold in the game against what was a very impressive display from the visitors from Greenock.
There was just one change to the team that started against Linfield last time out, with Mark Millar replacing the injured Kyle Jacobs, and as the injury concerns deepened with captain Chris Higgins becoming the latest casualty, the substitutes bench comprised of four players who had so far not experienced any first team football.
Morton included two players who played for Queens last season, as both Gary Oliver, and Andy Murdoch made the starting line-up.
The home side began the game well and forced the visitors to defend for the opening few minutes and Steven Rigg and then Stephen Dobbie both had half chances, and at that point there was nothing to suggest that a nightmare 90 minutes was about to unfold but unfortunately after just 6 minutes, Morton were in front. Sloppy defending - something that was to be a recurring feature throughout the game - led to Morton winning a corner and when a second corner followed seconds later a short set-piece routine led to Forbes being given enough time and space to curl a shot past Lee Robinson.
An early penalty claim was waived away by the referee
Robinson is beaten
Boosted by the early goal, Morton grew in confidence and for the next phase of the game Queens spent most of the time chasing shadows as the visitors midfield three of Forbes, Murdoch, and in particular Lindsay, dominated the ball and were able to put the usually steady Queens rearguard under constant pressure. The lively Quitongo, and effective Oliver were giving Darren Brownlie and Andy Dowie a difficult afternoon as the Greenock side pushed Queens further and further back with their offensive play.
With no option other than to play on the break, Queens best chance in the opening quarter fell to Dobbie. Rigg, Dobbie and Millar linked well before Millar`s ball found Jamie Hamill in space on the right and although his cross was repelled the ball fell to Dobbie whose shot on the half volley flashed only just wide of the near post.
In the space of two minutes each side had a player cautioned. Brownlie`s challenge on Quitongo was very rash and fully deserved a yellow card, whilst Oliver`s attempt to block Robinson`s clearance was perhaps, not as straight forward.
On the half hour mark Andy Dowie might have done better with a header from Hamill`s delivery, and minutes later Queens were punished for not taking that chance when Morton doubled their lead after an excellent passage of play ended with McDonagh drilling a low shot past Robinson`s despairing dive. As frustrations began to grow, Jake Pickard`s wild challenge in midfield was only seen as a booking rather than a sending off - on another day, with a different referee it could easily have been red, and if that wasn`t bad enough for the Queens fans in the crowd of 1695, three minutes later two became three as Oliver returned to Palmerston to become the latest beneficiary of some poor defending,
With 5 minutes left of what had been a thoroughly disappointing first half for the home side, visiting `keeper Gaston was at last forced into action when he turned a speculative effort from Lyndon Dykes over the bar for a corner. Unfortunately the set-piece came to nothing and to compound what had been a woeful first half for Queens, Mark Millar became the third player to booked by referee Kirkland.
So quite remarkably Queens had once again completed a first half without scoring, and continuing the unbeaten league and home runs this season was looking very unlikely at the interval.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-3 MORTON
The Queens side were out on the pitch some 3 minutes or so before their visitors at the start of the second period and it seemed as though their intentions to haul themselves back into the contest was there, however it wasn`t too long before the visitors got into their rhythm of the first half and continued to play the better football creating several good chances to increase their lead with Nesbitt, Forbes and Lindsay all going close.
The visitors went even closer when Quitongo`s excellent footwork created a shooting opportunity for himself and he was very unlucky to see his shot beat Robinson but crash against the foot of a post. Andy Dowie`s crude challenge on Oliver saw him become the fourth Queens player to find his way into the referee`s notebook and Forbes saw his set-piece attempt deflected over the bar. The home side made a double change when Scott Hooper and Dean Brotherston replaced Mark Millar and Grant Anderson and although Queens huffed and puffed for a short spell early in the half but they were never really in the game as an attacking force and it came as no real surprise when just past the hour mark, Morton scored a fourth goal.
Having seen his last effort hit the post, Quitongo got his reward when he was on the end of another short corner routine to smash the ball in off the post from close range as the Queens defence was undone again.
Quitongo celebrates his goal
Queens were limited to just a few half chances such was the dominance of the Morton side, and one such chance fell to Jamie Hamill but his shot from the edge of the penalty area sailed harmlessly over Gaston`s goal.The best chance of the game for Queens came when Scott Hooper dug out a cross on the right,picked out Jake Pickard 3 yards out but the fact that he was not able to work the `keeper really summed up the whole performance from Queens on what was a really bad day at the office.
Pickard heads past as Rigg is held back
There was more suffering for the home support on 72 minutes when Brownlie fouled Forbes inside the penalty area to concede a spot-kick. Lee Robinson`s protestations saw him cautioned before Morton captain O`Ware just beat him with the penalty to emphasise the gulf between the teams on the day.Youngster Ross Fergusson was given his Queens debut when he replaced Steven Rigg for the final quarter of an hour, but nothing could stem the flow of play which was continually moving towards the Queens goal. Jordan Marshall`s foul late on saw him become the 6th Queens player to be booked before Robinson did well to stop substitute Scullion making it a super six for the visitors. An effort from Dykes late on needed saving by Gaston, but to be honest Queens rarely threatened the vising `keeper who enjoyed a comfortable afternoon.
Hopefully this was a one off performance and Queens will bounce back sooner rather than later, but as the injuries start to take their toll on the squad the next few games will see what effect this heavy loss has had on the team.