Queens fielded a strong side today with only one trialist, in the shape of former St.Mirren and Scotland Under 21 goalkeeper Derek Scrimgour, and most of the others those that will be competing for first team starts next season. The defence was a bit different to what would be expected as the normal starting line-up with Anderson, Thomson and Gray all missing their places taken by Crawford, Allan and Atkinson respectively. In terms of the middle of the park and up-front though the main contenders all started.
Killie for their part must be congratulated in bring such a good support and also such a strong side with them to Dumfries, names such as McLaren, Dargo, McSwegan, Fulton, Marshall, Mahood and Santos all quality players and probably first choice for the SPL assault next season with the Ayrshire side.
The game started at a good pace and like most SPL sides that we have seen in recent years Killie were on top of the game from the kick-off, it took only two minutes for them to take the lead as Andy McLaren skinned Paddy Atkinson, not for the first or last time this afternoon and placed a cross onto the head of the imposing George Santos the French former Sheffield United and West Brom striker, to nod down and into the net with Scrimgour well beaten, it looked ominous but Queens rallied.
Lyle, O'Neill and Weatherson between them lifted the tempo of the doonhamers game and brought Eric Paton into a more effective role, the former Bankie was instrumental in setting up Lyle to lay-off the ball into his path for an excellent cross to be swung across the goals but with no takers the ball was cleared. Paton then took the chance to have a strike on goal from just outside the box, his deflected effort dipped wickedly but still managed to clear the cross bar.
The left hand side of the defence was to be the area where the Killie attacks were concentrated and with former Queens player John McLaren's brother in exceptional form down the right it was no surprise that their second goal would again come via this route. McLaren beat Paddy Atkinson to the bye line and crossed for Santos this time to connect with his foot onto a low cross and double the visitors advantage.
Queens felt aggrieved as they had been dominating periods of the match to that point and within two minutes the lee way was reduced as Peter Weatherson won a free kick on the left hand side of the box and Eric Paton showed his strength at free kicks as he spotted a gap through the defence and buried the ball into the net past Marshall in the visitors goal.
Queens press in the first half
Queens took heart from this and went on to give at least as good as they got for the remainder of the half. In thirty minutes the scores could have been level as Derek Lyle showed fantastic ball control to beat a number of Killie defenders before almost chipping Marshall. The just six minutes later Peter Weatherson got himself clean through after turning his man neatly but could only shoot straight at Marshall as the experienced 'keeper reduced Nellie's options.
On the stroke of half time though Killie could have killed the game off as Craig Dargo received the ball from a corner just ten yards out and central on goals, his effort though was forced and he chipped over the bar.
Half time - 2-1
The second half did not see any changes to the Queens side. Within five minutes of the re-start makeshift left-back Jon Crawford found himself breaking through the Killie defence and almost scoring as his effort flew just over, then minutes later Steve Bowey had the ball in the back off the net only for it to be chalked off for off-side.
For the next ten minutes Queens were under pressure as Killie rallied and Scrimgour appeared more settled with a couple of decent saves and some good distribution. Queens though were soon back on the attack and an excellent cross field ball by Andy Aitken to Joe McAlpine deserved a better ending than a cross that no one took advantage of.
John Connolly then decided to make some changes with Sean O'Connor coming on for John O'Neill and then minutes later Brian McLaughlin for Joe McAlpine, then a double change seeing Alan Gray and Brian McColligan coming on for Paddy Atkinson and Derek Lyle respectively.
Second half pressure
The changes did little to alter the impetus that Queens had although Killie looked as though they could have stepped up a gear if needed, particularly in the later stages, Andy McLaren will need to practice his balancing in the box if his fall in the seventy fifth minute was anything to go by and then at th other end a minute or two later Peter Weatherson became the meat in the sandwich of two Killie defenders as he went down but to no avail.
Queens ended the match pushing hard for the equaliser that they richly deserved but it was not to come, still some comfort can be taken from the fact that it was more or less a full strength SPL Killie side that in all fairness we should have drawn against. Both teams should be congratulated on the effort and commitment shown today in what was an enjoyable and fairly contested match.