Queen's unbeaten spell came to an end at Stair Park this afternoon as a determined and lively Stranraer side won by the odd goal in five.
Manager John Connolly, not surprisingly, started exactly the same eleven as last week and, after a slow start to the contest from both sides, it was Queens who seized the early initiative. They took the lead out of nothing with their first significant attack after only eight minutes. A throw on the right, halfway inside the Stranraer half, found it's way to Peter Weatherson. The young striker controlled the ball and checked inside before shooting across the face of the goal. The effort was probably narrowly off target until it deflected off the home side's Dougie Johnstone and into the corner of the net for an unfortunate own goal.
After this though Stranraer began to assert themselves and gradually took control of the match. In 21 minutes, Johnstone almost atoned for his error when his long ball out of defence found Ian Harty racing clear but the striker shot narrowly over the top. The equaliser was only delayed by two minutes though and when it came one had to applaud the quality of the strike. Stranraer were awarded a free-kick halfway inside the Queen's half but seemed to have lost the chance when the ball was played back and forth across the field. However, it eventually came to Billy McDonald who took the opportunity to stride forward before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net, past the blameless David Mathieson, from about thirty yards out!
Ten minutes later, the home side very nearly took the lead when the ever dangerous Harty got clear down the right, evaded Danny Paterson's challenge and shot across goal. Mathieson managed to get a hand to the shot but could only palm it out across the face of goal. Fortunately, the first to the loose ball was Andy Aitken and he completed the clearance. In the 38th minute, a rare Queen's attack saw Hawke, Sunderland and Suddick combine to set up Stuart Davidson for a shot from the edge of the penalty box which was well struck but comfortably dealt with by Mark McGeown in the Stranraer goal. Within a minute, at the other end, Paul Walker managed to turn and shoot, forcing another good save from Mathieson.
In the 41st minute though it was Queens who re-took the lead. Davidson took a quick throw on the left side and enabled Paddy Atkinson to get to the bye-line before playing the ball in to Peter Weatherson on the near post. Weatherson took one touch to control the ball and then spun and played it back to his strike partner, Jarrod Suddick, standing unmarked six yards out. The striker made no mistake, burying the shot past McGeown to score his first for us in first team action. A minute before the break Queens very nearly doubled their advantage when Andy Aitken made a rare foray forward before shooting narrowly wide from twenty-five yards out.
However, just as we were settling for the half time advantage, Stranraer struck back again. An attack down the right side ended with a cross across the six yard box where it was met by the inrushing Keith Knox. The veteran struck his shot well and, although David Mathieson somehow performed miracles to get something on the ball, it went in anyway off the underside of the bar.
The second half was a much more one sided affair in all honesty. Stranraer seemed to come out for the second period much more up for the task than Queens did although the first chance of the half fell to Queens when Hawke broke up the right in the opening moments of the half. He fed the ball to Suddick who crossed across the face of goal but nobody could meet the cross and Stranraer broke straight upfield. Ian Harty beat two men and crossed to the back post but the header went over the bar.
In 51 minutes, Ronnie McQuilter played a backheeled pass without looking first and gave possession away to Harty again. Harty again got in a dangerous cross for Rae to power in a header which Mathieson managed to parry over the top. From the resultant corner the ball ended up at the feet of Rae again and this time he shot narrowly over the top. In the 55th minute, Danny Paterson finally gave way to the injury he had suffered in the first half and was replaced by Dean Muir.
However, just four minutes later, Stranraer clinched the points with a third goal. It all came from a Queen's corner. The ball found it's way to Ronnie McQuilter out on the right wing but the defender sold Suddick a little short with his pass and possession was lost. The ball was knocked long first time and Stephen Pickering missed his header completely leaving Paul Walker with a clear run in on goal. The winger took the ball into the penalty area before coolly slotting the ball past the helpless Mathieson. In fact, Walker could, and should, have doubled his side's lead ten minutes later when he found himself completely alone six yards out with just Mathieson to beat following a deflected shot. However, this time he fluffed the chance, lifting his effort right over the crossbar.
To be honest, the last twenty minutes saw no real decent efforts at goal from either side. In 72 minutes, Stranraer's Billy McDonald picked up the first booking of the match for a bad foul on Stuart Davidson. Three minutes later, he was joined in the book by his colleague, Ian Harty, whose continuing "balance problems" resulted in a booking for diving in the penalty box.
With eight minutes remaining, Connolly sent young Steven Skinner on in place of Suddick but the striker didn't have time to make any significant contribution. In the 87th minute, Warren Hawke was clattered by Fraser Wright. Peter Weatherson became involved and shoved Wright away from the incident only to be booked for his troubles.