A crowd of over 3400 turned up at Palmerston tonight, the largest for just over two years since the match against Hearts in the same competition infact, to see the Dumfries side put on one of their best displays for some time. They at times took apart a decidedly shaky Aberdonian defence and had it not been for the inspired and at times lucky goalkeeper Ryan Esson in the Dons goal they would have been travelling north in defeat. As it turned out though Queens just failed to turn their superiority into goals and the Dons came away with a win.
The start was not as planned for Queens as within three minutes Frenchman Eugene Dadi had rifled in a shot from the edge of the box after the Dumfries defence had failed to clear a corner properly, the ball fell to the former Toulouse forward who sent his shot in through a ruck of players with Scott unsighted. It was an early setback and quietened the crowd somewhat.
Queens, though, were matching their SPL opponents in every department as they pushed forward mainly down the right hand side with Gordon Connelly and Craig Feroz combining well. In eight minutes Queens had their first real chance as Alan Gray hit the bye line and sent across an excellent ball that Peter Weatherson turned goalward, Esson made the first of what was to be many terrific saves as he cleared Nellie's effort.
The re-signed Craig Feroz was causing the Dons defence problems as he twisted and turned his way into the box, on ten minutes as he was making his way toward goal he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground by McQuire, referee Smith though saw no wrong.
Joe McAlpine was another star performer tonight, making only his second home appearance out of six he demonstrated early on that he will be a massive favourite with the Doonhamers faithful as he won the ball on the left in determined fashion, holding off a challenging defender before releasing John O'Neill. O'Neill advanced a few paces then looked up before sending a dipping shot just over the bar.
On twenty minutes Craig Feroz again broke through down the right and sent across a driven ball that John O'Neill was first to, the power of the cross was too much for O'Neill to control his goalward effort and the ball squirmed past the post.
Disaster for Queens followed quickly as a corner on the right for Queens turned into a goal at the other end for the Dons. Joe McAlpine took the corner but it was easily cleared at the near post, with the majority of the Dumfries defence in the visitors box the ball broke clear to Ben Thornley, the former Manchester United player took the ball from his own half and headed towards the Queens goal, with three Aberdeen players to one Queens defender it was odds on that the ball would be squared for a tap in, Thornley though had other ideas and struck an excellent shot into the back of Colin Scott's net to flatter the visitors with a 2-0 lead.
It was fast at times.
Queens continued to play well and dominate although the Dons looked deadly on the break with the pace of Zerouali a particular problem for Andy Aitken.
In forty minutes Queens had the miss of the match or Esson the save of the match as a Gordon Connelly cross into the middle found Joe McAlpine arriving first, McAlpine's thunderous shot was somehow deflected away to safety by Esson from around four yards out. Then with time running out in the half a superb Craig Feroz solo run and shot was somehow tipped away by Esson.
HALF TIME 0-2
Queens started the second half in determined fashion and within a minute of the restart Alan Gray had sent in a thirty yard cross/shot that had Esson back pedalling into his own goalnet and only just managing to keep from crossing his line as he flapped it away.
Queens then produced some of the best football of the night as they sustained a lengthy attack on the Dons goal, Alan Gray being particularly unlucky when his long range effort at an open goal was somehow reached by Esson at the last moment. A goal had to come.
Queens continue to press.
In sixty three minutes John O'Neill was fed the ball on the edge of the box, he took it wide and then brought it back across goal where Craig Feroz was waiting to drive it into the back of the net, there was nothing that Esson could do about that one.
The pressure was all coming from the Doonhamers with the Dons having to soak it up and rely on making breaks to create their chances. From one of these breaks Colin Scott made his best save of the night as with Dadi bearing down on him in a one to one he managed to take the ball off the Frenchmans toes as he was about to be rounded.
This was the pattern for the rest of the match with Queens pressing and the Dons breaking, Esson had to make one more save as he collected, at the second attempt a Peter Weatherson free kick form the edge of the box.
Esson collects Weatherson's free kick at the second attempt.
The final whistle went and the Dumfries fans made sure that the Queens side knew that their efforts had been appreciated as they left the field to a standing ovation.
For those of you with a statistical interest Queens had sixteen goal attempts to the Dons twelve, with eleven on target whilst the Dons only had four on target, we also only committed five fouls whilst Aberdeen managed double that figure.