Queens hopes of taking part in the end of season play-offs suffered a huge setback this afternoon as they were on the end of a two goal defeat inflicted upon them by a strong Falkirk team. Gary Naysmith`s side were second best in all areas and struggled to breakthrough a well organised Falkirk team in which visiting `keeper Rodgers had little to do throughout the ninety minutes.
Looking for a third league home win on the bounce, Queens named the same team that started against Raith last time out but they did revert to the more familiar 4-4-2 formation, whilst visitors Falkirk began with 3 former Queens players in their starting eleven, and another two on the bench. For Queens there was the welcome return to the match day squad for Dale Hilson, who was featuring for the first time since playing against Hibernian back in September of last year.
The opening stages were promising for Queens and Derek Lyle and Dom Thomas combined well down the right to allow Thomas to get in a cross shot, but his ball in was blocked away at the near post by a covering defender. Unfortunately those opening minutes were probably the best for the home side because as the game developed it was the visitors who assumed control of the game and created the better of the chances. A foul on Sibbald wide on the left created their first opening, but the free kick in from Craigen was wasted when his delivery sailed over the bar, however minutes later they had an even better chance to open the scoring when Sibbald`s effort from close range was well blocked by the onrushing Lee Robinson.
With most of the play taking place deep inside the Queens half it was no surprise to see Falkirk go close again on 16 minutes when Baird got on the end of Taiwo`s cross, but with no power behind his header, Robinson saved comfortably. The visitors were forced into making an early change when Craigen went down, and following treatment he was unable to carry on and was replaced by Aird. The game continued with Queens finding it very difficult to string more than two passes together, whilst the defence continued to be kept under strong pressure particularly by the impressive Austin who was posing many problems for both Dowie and Brownlie.
The central midfield pairing of Jacobs and Rankin were being overrun by Falkirk`s midfield which allowed the visitors to constantly press and probe and force Queens back and as a result the home side offered little in attack and it took them 33 minutes to force a corner, Stephen Dobbie`s pressure winning them the set-piece. Dom Thomas` delivery was driven low to the near post but the alert Leahy cleared the ball away before any Queens player could react.
The full back was in the action at the other end moments later when he came close to breaking the deadlock. Falkirk were awarded a free-kick after Darren Brownlie hauled Austin to the ground - the centre back was booked for his discretion- and Leahy produced a looping header from the set-piece which was pushed over the bar by the stretching Robinson. The best chance of the game to date fell to Falkirk as the half moved towards it`s conclusion and Queens defender, Scott Mercer, was hugely relieved to see the chance go begging. A long ball from defence was inexplicably left by Mercer and was allowed to run through to Baird 14 yards from goal, but with only Robinson to beat, Baird lacked composure and blasted his shot wide of the target. That was a huge let off for Queens but unfortunately with the interval only seconds away they were unable to prevent the visitors from establishing an interval lead. A free-kick was given for a foul on Baird just a few yards outside of the penalty area in a central position, and from what was an excellent opportunity former Queens man, Lewis Kidd stepped up to drive a low shot through the wall and into the bottom corner.
Baird can only find the side netting
Kidd turns to celebrate his strike
The timing of the goal was cruel for Queens, but it would be hard to argue the fact that it wasn`t deserved as Falkirk had been by far the better team, and certainly merited their lead.
HALF-TIME QUEENS 0-1 FALKIRK
Starting the half a goal behind and with the chance of making up some ground in the chase for a play-off place, you might expect that Queens would come out `with all guns blazing`, but alas much to the disappointment of the majority of the 1995 crowd, the second half rally failed to materialise and for what ever reason, the hosts never really worked themselves back into the game and in fact the second period went pretty much the same way as the first half had done.
With Falkirk once again doing most of the attacking, it took Robinson to produce another really good save to keep the score down,as he reacted well to push away Leahy`s deflected angled drive. Queens outlet was more often than not a long hopeful ball and Dobbie almost profited from one such ball but Gasparotto produced a well timed challenge to prevent the Queens top scorer from getting in a shot. That was one of few limited chances for Queens as Sibbald, Kerr, and Taiwo kept the Falkirk midfield well in control of the game.
Gasparotto foils Dobbie
Although Queens were still playing below par, whilst they were only one goal behind, they were still in the contest and had they scored from their best chance of the game, the end result could have been different. Dom Thomas showed good skill and control to get his way out of a tight spot on the left touchline and work the ball inside to Jacobs who, as he gained possession, was fouled. The resulting free-kick was delivered deep to the back post were it was headed back into the mix and Jacobs could only guide his header over the bar.
Queens made their first change just after the hour mark when captain, John Rankin, was replaced by Lyndon Dykes.The substitution did little to change the context of the game and Falkirk might well have increased their lead had Austin done better when he was through following Aird`s pinpoint pass. The hosts made two further changes when Danny Carmichael, and Dale Hilson ,replaced Stephen Dobbie, and Derek Lyle with 77 minutes played. It was good to see the return of Hilson, and although he had little impact in the final moments of the game, it was a bonus for Queens to have him back involved in the action once again.
The game was finally decided with 11 minutes to go. Not for the first time in the contest Austin was again causing problems and when both Brownlie and Dowie decided to leave the ball for each other, the result was always going to be bad from a Queens point of view. When the ball fell kindly for the Falkirk striker he was only prevented from getting a shot away by Dowie`s rash challenge who in trying to recover the situation only succeeded in bringing the striker crashing to the ground to give away what was a certain spot kick. The set-piece was duly converted by Sibbald and as the ball hit the back of the net many of the Queens support began to make for the exits. There could have been further goals for the visitors, a moment of madness from Robinson saw him race from his goal and mis-kick his clearance setting up a chance from distance for Aird that went only just wide of the target, and then substitute McHugh went close after a mazy run took him past three defenders but he was unable to apply an appropriate finish.
Sibbald beats Robinson from the spot
The game finished with Queens having been second best and having failed to test the Falkirk `keeper once in the ninety minutes, and the quest for a play-off place looks a little more remote after what was ultimately a disappointing performance and result.