2002/03 Back in the First
A serialised account of our season by our man who has been at almost every match home and away - Ewan Lithgow
Part Nine - February
February began with a controversial postponement of the home match with Arbroath. Despite the weather not being bad at all, referee Dougie Smith held a 9:30 a.m. pitch inspection and called the game off due to some frost still being in the goalmouths. Needless to say the pitch was perfectly playable by 3 p.m.

The next day though brought a second tragic piece of news to the club. Former full back Stan Leslie tragically died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 31. Stan, who had been playing for Annan Athletic pretty much since leaving Queens a few years ago, left a wife and young family. Over 1,000 people, including a number of former Queens players, attended his funeral the following week.

With weather conditions in the North East of Scotland pretty horrible, the Aberdeen replay also joined the growing list of postponed games that week. Due to the Dons having a couple of players in the Scotland squad for the following week, that meant a two week delay in getting the game played.

We finally got back to action with a home fixture against a resurgent St Johnstone, beginning a long run of wins that took them close to catching Falkirk. On this occasion they were very fortunate to leave Dumfries with the three points. Queens dominated for most of the game and O'Neill hit a post before McLaughlin opened the scoring with a fine run from halfway. Colin Scott then saved a penalty given for McColligan's challenge on Hartley before Robertson did equalise with a deflected free kick. Bowey hit the bar and Weatherson forced a great save out of Cuthbert before, with 3 minutes left, Stuart Noble hit a controversial winner for the Saints. He was allowed to run through and score despite clearly pulling back Jim Thomson to win possession in the first place. Referee Eric Martindale though sees nothing wrong.

Colin Scott saves another penalty

A week later and a sixth postponed game was reached when the trip to Ross County was called off 24 hours ahead of the game due to freezing conditions in the Highlands. Instead though we added a little depth to the squad by signing Ben Dawson for the rest of the season. Dawson was allowed to sign outside the transfer window as a free agent having recently returned to the Newcastle area following several years at college in the USA.

Tuesday night saw the Aberdeen replay finally take place and, after high hopes of maybe causing an upset, we came back down the road with our tails between our legs following a 4-1 defeat. Derek Young, D'Jaffo and Anderson scored early goals to end our challenge though Peter Weatherson scored a late consolation from the penalty spot after he was himself brought down by Rutkiewicz. In injury time Laurent D'Jaffo added his second and Aberdeen's fourth. The match was perhaps more significant for Sean O'Connor suffering a second ligament injury to his knee early in the second half though it turned out to be nowhere near as serious as his previous one. It did cause me to spent some time at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary though and have to travel home on the team bus!

The long trip north also seemed to have taken a lot out of the players as we struggled to lift ourselves for Saturday's trip to Love Street. This was the first of the re-arranged postponed games and was played on the Saturday set aside for Scottish Cup 4th Round ties. In the event we did very well to scramble a draw from a game we never played well in and twice trailed our opposition. Scott McLean tapped home the opener and we were fortunate to only trail by one at the interval. An improved second half showing saw O'Neill flick in an equaliser only for McColligan to knock McLean flying in the box and give away an immediate penalty. Ricky Gillies duly did the needful from the spot. However, a point was earned when Bowey scored following a fine move involving McColligan, O'Neill and Weatherson.

The final game of the month saw another rearranged game, this time at home to Clyde. It was yet another draw, our sixth in eight league games. Queens dominated the first half and Joe McAlpine, making his first start since the Challenge Cup Final, headed the opener after fine work by Lyle, playing an unfamiliar right midfield role. Clyde came storming back in the second half but couldn't find a goal until Paul Shields (needless to say) hit the bar with a 20 yard screamer and David Hagen reacted first to knock the rebound into the empty net.

At the end of February then we lay in 7th place in the division with 27 points from 24 games and were now only eight points clear of Alloa in 9th.

Ewan Lithgow
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