In the end all of the doubtful five were able to take their place in today's sixteen but unfortunately the end result was still a defeat, our fourth in five league games this season. There was little between the sides and it could have gone either way but at the end of the day we lost again and the problems continue to mount although ironically we gained a place in the table thanks to Airdrie's heavy defeat at Livingston. Ian McCall made four changes to the side that started the previous game against Ayr United with Dermot McCaffrey, Murray Henderson, Scott Robertson and John O'Neill coming in for Gibson, Callaghan, Henry and Andy Thomson, though the latter three were on the bench along with Colin Scott and the returning Jim Thomson. Ross County gave a debut to Amick Ciani but fortunately Alex Williams, our scourge last season, was not considered fit enough to feature.
Queens started quickly and inside the first minute Robertson made ground on the left and cut inside for Eric Paton to hit a left foot shot that lacked the pace to trouble Samson at all. On 12 minutes Robertson had another shot easily saved and a minute later another move involving O'Neill and Scally led to Mullen's shot also being dealt with by the former Queens loan player. Ross County though showed their ability with Michael Gardyne beating a couple of opponents before curling a shot narrowly wide of the top right corner from 20 yards. On 20 minutes Samson flapped at a Scally free kick and Murray Henderson lifted the loose ball goalward only for a defender to clear away from the line. Another four minutes later O'Neill was almost released by a Robertson pass but his first touch was poor and as a result he was forced a little wide and his shot had no real power. The rest of the half though was somewhat mundane before, in injury time, Cowie's cross presented a fine headed chance to Higgins who didn't get enough power in his effort and Corr saved easily.
Queens continued to pile up chances in the second half and on 51 minutes, Corr's deep clearance was headed on by Mullen and O'Neill appeared in behind the back line. However, he went for a curling effort from 18 yards and failed to hit the target. It was against the run of play then when County snatched the lead from their next attack on 56 minutes. Gardyne's cross from the right side of the park was headed home via the top of the left goalpost by Don Cowie.
County were intent on capitalising on their advantage and two minutes later Sean Higgins forced a fine block from Corr. Shortly thereafter McKinlay's free kick forced another fine save from Corr. As Queens rocked it was Irvine next up with a header from Ciani's cross that Corr had to make another smart save from. McCall's response was to make a double change with Jim and Andy Thomson replacing Eric Paton and Scott Robertson. Eric it seems will face a lengthy lay off with yet another serious injury. That meant John O'Neill dropping into midfield again whilst McCaffrey moved from centre half to left wing back and Henderson switched sides in the back line.
On 63 minutes Henderson headed Neil Scally's corner goalward and Samson bravely smothered the ball at Andy Thomson's feet in the six yard box. Scott Leitch then made his first change with Martin Scott replacing Kevin McKinlay. In the 65th minute O'Neill's smart header released Andy Thomson but his shot also lacked the power to greatly trouble Samson. Leitch then threw on young Craig Gunn in relief of Sean Higgins. Just to show they weren't finished as a threat though Ciani went on a run for County and although smothered out by sheer weight of numbers the loose ball ran to Gardyne who should maybe have done better than his over the top the effort.
With sixteen minutes to play Barry Callaghan came on for McCaffrey and heralded our best chance in getting something out of the game. Within a minute it was Callaghan who latched onto an O'Neill pass and struck a 25 yard shot beyond Samson but against the upright and clear. A minute later and Henderson flicked on a Callaghan throw for Andy Thomson to overhead kick an effort that Samson clawed over the bar with his fingertips. From the resulting corner Callaghan's cross found John O'Neill at the far post but as the goal gaped he found only the side netting. With County then replacing Gardyne with Stuart Anderson the substitutions were complete with still 11 minutes still to go.
In the 84th minute Gunn ran down the right side and crossed for Ciani to almost force the ball in from close range but his touch went wide, possibly off the post! In the final minute Jim Lauchlan picked up the first booking of the day when he slid in recklessly on Ciani. Although there was precious little actual contact the challenge was a little wild and the booking was a culmination of a number of poor tackles.
It's been a tough start for the club and was always likely to be but a return of one point from five games is disappointing to say the least. We probably didn't deserve to lose this one but you don't get points based on what you deserve. We need to turn our luck soon and next week at Dens Park would be a great time to do it. However, with Dundee surely buoyed by their big win at Raydale Park that won't be so easy and a certain Mr Lyle is on the goal trail again.