0 - 2
Hutton   Reid Lilley McGuffie   Sub1 Carmichael Burns McKenna Johnston Harris   Holmes McLaren
McKenzie McShane Black Smillie Sub1-72 Degnan
The big day dawns and after a weather delay of 133 days Queens and Ross County finally got the ALBA cup final played. No doubt like countless fans accross the town and the wider country you are like me today and its time to meet up with old friends who you`ve watched the bad times and the good with and enjoy an all too rare day in the sun for the Super South.So an early start a spot of lunch and a blether about lifes important things, 3-5-2 v 4-4-2, who`ll score the goals, wheres the money gone and how do two 50 somethings send that commentary of that Ryan McCann goal via blue tooth to each other (the first of todays failures that turns out to be) still the rest of the diners appeared to enjoy listening to Bill Leckies commentary of it.
After the abortive attempt in November when the weather wiped out football for pretty much the next two months theres been a few changes. For County new boss Wilie McStay is now ex boss and the new boss is Jimmy Calderwood. For the referee the strikes are over so its Mr Euan Norris today and not Mr Borg of Malta. For Queens well where do we start? Firstly we are shorn of the services of Ryan Conroy and also of one man who was maybe more than most responsible for geting us here in the first place, keeper Lee Robinson. Back in Round 2 and our annual ALBA cup tie at Dunfermline it was Robinson who saved a penalty that kept us in the shoot out at 5-5 and then watched as Dowie`s final effort hit the bar as we went through 6-5 in a 16 penalty epic shoot out. For good measure he also made a vital last minute save at Peterhead to keep us a goal to the good and through to our third ALBA Final.Off the field its been intersting times down Palmerston way too as the weather related delays have led to the realisation that things arent so rosy in the bank balance department and todays final at least gives a chance to forget the worries of the direction things may take in the future.
Team news for the game is fairly straight forward for Queens as if fit your in. Robinson may have been the cup keeper in early season but regular number one David Hutton is a more than adequate replacement and his performance at Thursdays fans forum showed him to be well up for the cup.In the middle its the experience of Johnston over the youth of McShane. Upfront there are problems as in form striker Colin McMenamin is cup tied, after an early season appearance for Dundee, and injury to pacy front man David Weatherston sees a combination of Holmes and McLaren lead the attack.A youthfull bench sees Black, Smillie, Degnan and McShane join McKenzie.
In front of a crowd of 5,124 the bulk of whom had made the trip to support Queens it was Queens who kicked off to the strains of the first rally call for support for boss Kenny Brannigan sadly that though is almost the last time Queens touched the ball in the first half as they singularly failed to deliver on the big stage. County are instantly on the front foot and in the faces of the Queens players as they take early control of the game and one that they rarely looked like releasing. They bossed midfield looked secure in defence and a threat on the attack as Queens struggled to compete physically against sharper opponents, that this was a side who hadnt beaten us this season and most recently had been fairly well beaten up in Dingwall was probably the most disapointing aspect of a day to forget.
It was therefore a tale of County pressure as early as the second minute the first corner arrived before Vigurs shot forcing Hutton into an early save. Barrowman then made space to get in a header that again Hutton saved with relative ease.McGuffie heads back to Hutton under pressure and Queens finally launch an attack that sees Harris send the ball into Burns, Burns turns his man in the box but appears to slip over on a surface that gave both teams a few problems throughout the day , whilst it was better than Firhill last week you get the feeling its not a bowling green out there. Bowling green or not theres no excuse for what happens a minute later to gift County the lead.
A harmless ball out of defence is played back to keeper Hutton by the defence, Andy Barrowman puts a bit of pressure on Hutton who elects to dribble round the striker but in one of those, horrible for us joyous for the Staggies, moments David makes a horrendous mess of it and allows Barrowman to steal it off him and roll it in the empty net from a good yard. There`s plenty who will be quick to criticise the keeper and theres no denying that it was a shocker but its also very hard not to feel very sorry for a guy who was so obviously up for the cup this week.
Carmichael looks to get away and make amends for the early loss
Sometimes the loss of such a goal galvanises the team and they battle back in adversity, not today though. County attack straight from kick off and Hutton makes a more traditional save now to stop the shot. County are well on top and Queens struggle to clear the lines from a corner before Hutton punches a free kick clear under pressure.County play it long over Lilley and Gardyne races on to it only to, like Burns earlier, fall on the surface before he can make anything of the chance. Gardyne is then pipped to the ball by Hutton who has to be quick to take it off the forwards feet following a Barrowman knock down.
Theres a quarter of the game gone before Queens muster an attack and a Harris free kick is headed out before Burns plays it to Johnston who hits a shot that goes so wide it ends up a throw to County 30 yards from goal. Its back to normal though as on the half hour mark Barrowman finds himself free in front of goal but can only send his header directly at Hutton from 8 yards out, Vigurs shoots over again and then Hutton does complete a kicked clearance under pressure from Barrowman.
Queens havent been an attacking threat at all to date but theres a series of scrambles in the County box as Queens give the fans a bit of hope. Holmes heads on and Johnston`s shot is blocked by McGovern, Harris follows up and Queens get a corner it comes in and the unlikely head of McKenna powers it in only to see a Staggie`s defender head it off the line, McGuffies follow up shot is blocked, Johnston cant get on the end of Holmes header back in as the ball goes out to McGuffie who crosses in to see Reid hit the keeper at point blank range with his header as County survive.
They make Queens pay for this with 5 minutes of the half to play, Queens attack but County swiftly counter with a ball down the wing and past the exposed Reid, Gardyne is away and in to the box where he squares it to the waiting Ian Vigurs who calmly side foots it past Hutton to make it 2-0 and the game looking to be beyond Queens.
Vigurs slots home number 2
The first half ends with Queens at least attacking as Mclaren is crowded out by two defenders trying to reach Johnstons through ball.
Half Time Queen of the South 0 Ross County 2
Without doubt as bad a first half performance as Queens have put up all season but on the positive side we were 2-0 down at half time in a certain cup final in 2008 and had a no bad start to the second half that day, lost all the same rigtht enough though! Half time doesnt get better as the young Queens boys lose out to theri Ross counterparts in the 10 second shoot out, though they scored goals at least,
The second half begins with tactical changes for Queens with Reid going to right side and Harris to a more natural left side with McGuffie going to right midfield. The changes, whilst making us look a better balanced side in the second half dont change things too much as County almost make it 3 in the first minute. A corner is met by Kettlewell and it needs Carmichael to hook it off the line to save the day.Amidst all that Burns stays down in the area to the obvious concern of the PBFC sitting next to me and to the real Paul Burns Fan Club, his family, who are sitting directly behind us today. After treatment Burnsy is able to continue to relief all round.
Burns is in on McGovern but the keeper saves well
McLaren is able to get in a curling shot following a free kick but its always looking to be going wide and does. A County throw into the box takes a huge bounce over attackers and defenders alike but at least allows Hutton to claim it. A Queens free kick sees McGuffie come in at the back post but his cross is to no avail as he is ruled off side as he makes it. A regular comment from today so far but Vigurs then shoots over following a Barrowman cross. Burns sends in a good cross to the heart of the area but not one Queens player has made a forward run to match it so the ball goes sailing wide.Vigurs then shoots over again after a McGuffie block.
Queens day is then pretty much summed up on 65 minutes as Huttons clearance is half charged down and Harris skies a sclaffed clearance before Queens regain the ball and Carmichael skips past his marker only to see the ball take a massive bobble as he slices his cross wildly wide of the mark. Its not a proper Queens game though without the next sentance - McKenna becomes the first name in the book as he and Lawson get involved in front of the dug outs in the traditional push and shove match that see`s both carded. For good measure ref Norris also books Lilley and Barrowman who both look particularly perplexed to be booked, have to say i`d agree with them.It all results in a Queens free kick and from it Holmes hits a falling volley well over.
McKenna has to abandon beatling* round midfield to help out in defence as he heads a Gardyne cross clear before Holmes misses a glorious open goal header as from only 6 yards out he heads into the ground and over with the keeper stranded, thats a blessing for us though as he`s back defending a corner at the time.
With 18 minutes left on the clock and little to lose its time for Steven Degnan to make only a second ever senior appearance as he replaces Carmichael. The youngster instantly shows some fighting spirit as he battles after a Holmes flick on something that few others did today. He`s also then in the right place to get after a ball that spins his way in the box only to see a last ditch challenge result in a corner. Degnans introduction sees Queens spark into a bit of life and McGuffie`s cross finds McLaren at the back post but his shot is wide before Queens make one final chance. McLarens cross into the box sees Burns race in but McGovern also charges out and is able to make a point blank block on Burnsy`s shot.
Degnan look more likely than anyone else in yellow and blue to score when introduced
Its befitting and a true reflection on the game as a whole that the final chance goes to County and to probably the best player on the park too in Gardyne who fails to capitalise on Huttons missed punch and shoots over. The game peters out with County making a series of substitutions to give players a taste of winning action before ref Norris puts us out of our misery.
Full Time Queen of the South 0 Ross County 2
Many of the travelling fans are gone sharpish on full time but theres still plenty to at least give the players the round of applause that they deserved for at least making the final, the players will only too well know that today they let themselves down first and foremost. So its a dispirted bunch of fans who are left to witness County lift the cup before starting the long journey home.
limp, lacklustre, lifeless, lethargic and other adjectives beginning with L sum up the day as Queens suffered the old affliction that veteran fans have seen before - failing to do themselves justice in front of a big watching crowd.It was a day that we set out for in great hope with a genuine belief that what has become a troubled season could be brightend by a piece of national silverware. however we were out fought and out played in all departments really by a County side who were well worth their win today although they were hardly extended to do so, which is even more dissapointing from our point of view. It would be difficult to name a Queens man of the match today the usual suspects Reid, McKenna and Burns all did as expected steady if unspectacular but across the board Queens came up short. Given the energy shown in his 15 minute spell then Degnan wont be far off man of the match either to be honest.
So its back to the car to dissect the game and decide that the real highlight of the day was indeed Johno`s Lemon Meringue Pie, The PBFC`s fruit crumble and Bomphs Bucket of trifle pre match (photos available from GooTV). Its also time to reflect that with off field issues as they are its difficult not to wonder when it will be before we see another occassion like this. Also best wishes to the Queens fan who took ill midway through the first half and hope he makes a speedy recovery after what was a worrying spell that make a wee game of football not all that important really. (post game report i hear he has made a recovery so some good news there)
Beatling* - i suppose kind of appropriately given our biggest game of the season todays dead pop star should come form the biggest band of all time. Today is the anniversary of the death of original Beatles bassist Stuart Suttcliffe who died tragically young aged 21 of a brain aneuryism. He`d left the Beatles by then to concentrate on an art career and his short life has been the subject of a couple of films and tv dramas.