It was a poor match at Palmerston Park on Saturday afternoon as Queen of the South faced fellow play-off hopefuls Dunfermline Athletic in Dumfries.
The Dumfries side were able to name goalkeeper Sam Henderson on the bench despite midweek reports in the National Media of his exclusion due to a collision with a runaway cow. Elsewhere, Scott Mercer and Ross Fergusson had to do with places on the bench with Shaun Rooney and Connor Murray replacing those players on the right-flank for Gary Naysmith’s men.
Allan Johnston had 14 days to consider his team selection and with a near fully-fit squad to choose from, he decided to stick with the same starting eleven which drew 0-0 with Livingston two weeks prior. Kallum Higginbotham and Lewis Martin did join the 18-man squad, however, as Fraser Aird and Dean Shiels dropped out altogether.
With Livingston defeating Dundee United 2-1 on Friday evening, it gave the chasing pack a rough idea of how things needed to pan out over the course of the 90 minutes for it to be a success for their own club. Both these sides knew a victory would equate to a key 3 points as they chase down Greenock Morton in fourth position.
The game was even early on, although it could be argued Dunfermline looked the likelier of the two sides to score in this period. The Pars managed the first shot of the game, too, as Declan McManus rifled in an effort from 25-yards which young keeper Jack Leighfield pushed over the bar.
Dom Thomas, on loan from Kilmarnock, cut inside from the right onto his favoured left-foot and, after creating a yard of space for himself, got an effort in on goal from 20-yards out but the effort was weak and was simple pickings for Robinson.
At the other end, James Craigen then had a chance at the back post as McManus bundled his way into the area, beating Rooney to the ball at the third time of asking to loft the cross in from the right but midfielder Craigen was unable to control his volley which went harmlessly over, into the unoccupied terracing behind Leighfield’s net.
It was the Fifers who continued to look the more threatening without overly-troubling the Queens defence. Andy Ryan and then towering Frenchman Jean-Yves M’Voto got efforts in on goal but neither player could direct their headers on-target as the game remained goalless midway through the opening half.
Ex-Par Rooney received treatment for an injury and tried to run it off but was unable to continue, being replaced by former Dunfermline full-back Scott Mercer on the right.
It was set-pieces which seemed to be the most obvious chance for either side to score on a dour afternoon on the pitch at Palmerston Park. Craigen’s in-swinging delivery from the left found the head of Nicky Clark, but the away skipper couldn’t force the ball home on this occasion.
Stephen Dobbie was quiet for the standards set by the 24-goal striker so far this season. His first real sniff of goal came just before the break as his right-footed effort from inside the area drifted well wide of goal with former Doonhamer Robinson in-tested in the goal for Johnston’s men.
It was a poor match which Dunfermline dominated in possession and shots at the interval, but neither side looked increasingly likely to open the scoring with the quality in the final third seemingly lacking in the first 45 minutes.
Naysmith’s men came out a lot more assertively at the beginning of the second-half with Lyndon Dykes firing an effort at goal from inside the D, with Robinson flying low to his right to tip the ball behind for a corner. From the resultant low delivery by Murray, Dobbie was picked out unmarked, 15-yards from goal but his attempt was deflected behind for another set-piece chance for the hosts.
Thomas then fired in an ambitious effort from outside the penalty box but this went wide of target before McManus had similar luck at the other end: after a corner was initially cleared, the ex-Raith frontman saw a shot blocked by Queen of the South captain John Rankin before his follow-up drifted wide right of Leighfield’s goal.
Kallum Higginbotham was introduced by Allan Johnston, in place of striker Andy Ryan, while Naysmith brought on Nikolay Todorov, with the Bulgarian forward coming on in place of winger Murray.
Clark smashed an effort towards goal which was expertly saved by Leighfield as the Dunfermline number 10 looked to score against his former employers in what was evidently looking like a “winner takes all” scenario in this SPFL Ladbrokes Championship match.
From the following corner, Leighfield’s only error of the match saw him spill the delivery which allowed Higginbotham to swivel and shoot towards goal from very close range but somehow the Englishman directed his effort wide of goal in the most clear-cut chance of the match.
After Myles Beerman was brought on for John Rankin, Dunfermline seemed to take control again as the game got stretched. McManus used his pace to drive towards goal and it was down to Kyle Jacobs to haul the attacker down 19-yards out to stop the forward from getting a shot on goal.
Craigen took a direct shot from the resultant set-piece but, once again, Leighfield stood up to the test and saved the effort by the creative midfielder. Joe Cardle was brought on very late on for Craigen as Johnston tried to switch things up as the encounter came to a close but no further chances were to be created as Queens and Dunfermline had to settle for a draw.
Overall, it was a game for the purist. The sun shone all afternoon but there was no quality on the park to keep the fans warm. The 200 or so travelling supporters can probably leave Dumfries the happier of the two sets of supporters, purely down to being the away team, but, with Morton defeating Inverness, it leaves either side 6 points off third and 5 behind Dundee United in 4th, who have two games in hand.
Speaking after the match, Dunfermline gaffer Allan Johnston told the press:
“In my opinion, I thought we were the better team again. It has probably been the case too often in recent games, that we have been the better team but not come away with all three points. That is what we need to improve on. We need to put a run together if we want to make the top four; we can see that Morton got a result again today while you can see how well Livingston are doing. We need to turn draws into wins: we are more than capable of doing that.
When you get good chances and don’t take them, or get in good positions but don’t pick out the right pass, then, sometimes it can come back to haunt you – especially with guys like [Stephen] Dobbie on the pitch as he has that wee bit of quality. I think Lee [Robinson] has only had one save throughout the match. Other than that, he was pretty quiet. We just have to make sure we are ready for Tuesday night and start getting wins on the board.”
While, his opposite number Gary Naysmith also spoke after the game:
All Credit and Copyright sits with Queen of the South Football Club, QOSFCTV and Sandra Brown.
FULL-TIME: Queen of the South 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic
Queen of the South
20. Jack Leighfield
2. Shaun Rooney (Scott Mercer 28′)
4. Callum Fordyce
5. Darren Brownlie
3. Jordan Marshall
17. Connor Murray (Nikolay Todorov 67′)
14. Kyle Jacobs
8. John Rankin (Myles Beerman 76′) (Captain)
10. Dom Thomas
11. Stephen Dobbie
25. Lyndon Dykes
13. Sam Henderson (GK)
6. Kyle Cameron
9. Derek Lyle
15. Nikolay Todorov
18. Ross Fergusson
23. Myles Beerman
24. Scott Mercer
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamson
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
26. James Vincent
31. Tom Beadling
28. James Craigen (Joe Cardle 86′)
10. Nicky Clark (Captain)
9. Declan McManus
16. Andy Ryan (Kallum Higginbotham 67′)
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
5. Callum Morris
7. Kallum Higginbotham
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle
12. Daniel Armstrong
Referee: Don Robertson