Queen of the South completed a league and cup double in the most dramatic of circumstances in the Ramsdens Cup Final at Almondvale Stadium yesterday. After a goalless 90 minutes, the game went into extra time. However after a further 30 minutes the game was still level at 1-1 and it went to penalties, which the Doonhamers won 6-5.
Queens had only just finished celebrating their Scottish Second Division triumph, becoming the first league winners of the season in the United Kingdom. While Partick Thistle are leading from the front in the First Division battling it out for the title, and coveted promotion place to the SPL, with Morton. Both teams were in good form heading into the final, leading many to predict a game filled with goals and drama.
However, as is so often the case, predictions very seldom resemble how cup finals tend to unfold, and this one was no different. Both sides made heavy running of the 90 minutes, with very little in the way of free-flowing, end to end football being played. Time and time again, each side would work themselves into a threatening position on the final third and seemingly run out of ideas at the crucial moment.
Similarly, both teams can reflect on chances passed up during the game which could have won them the cup.
The Doonhamers’ saw a golden chance go begging around seven minutes from half time, when Michael Paton glanced on a cross which fell to free scoring Nicky Clark, but somehow he prodded the ball past the post from point-blank range.
The Jags also could have been celebrating after 90 minutes, when some good forward play allowed substitute Kris Doolan the time and space to fire it low towards goal. However, goalkeeper Lee Robinson stretched out his hand to direct the ball agonisingly wide of the post.
With nothing to separate the sides, extra time was required. And eleven minutes into overtime, Queen of the South finally made the breakthrough.
Carmichael’s cute chip from the edge of the box looped up and over Scott Fox in the Thistle goal, and he could only watch on helplessly as the ball cannoned off of the bar and fell to Clark, who nodded it home to put the Second Division Champions ahead. But there was far more drama to come yet.
With only two minutes remaining of extra time, Christie Elliot was fouled just inside the box, and referee Crawford Allan pointed to the spot. Aaron Muirhead stepped up to take the pressure penalty, but ‘keeper Robinson was there to beat the ball away.
Then, in the aftermath, a confrontation erupted and Muirhead was sent off for a headbutt on Chris Higgins, which saw players from both sides involved in the ensuing melee. Crawford Allan whipped out the red card, sending Muirhead for an early bath to the soundtrack of Doonhamers fans jeering his every step towards the tunnel.
With the game fast approaching its conclusion and the Doonhamers seconds from victory, Partick Thistle scored a dramatic leveller with the last kick of the ball. Kris Doolan rushed into the area to meet a cross and bundled it into the net. Jubilant scenes unfolded as the Thiste players mobbed the goalscorer.
Some over-excited Thistle fans broke through the advertising barrier as fans spilled onto the field in celebration with emotions running high.
After what had been a largely humdrum 90 minutes, both sides had conjured up a chaotic and compelling 30 minutes of extra time.
The lottery of penalties would need to suffice in deciding who was crowned as cup champions.
Derek Young slotted the first penalty away for Queens, while Stephen O’Donnell’s was saved by Lee Robinson. Balance was restored when Daniel Carmichael could not find a way past Scott Fox, while Chris Erskine buried his own penalty.
There then followed nine perfect penalties, including one from Doonhamers ‘keeper Robinson, before Conrad Balatoni stepped up for Thistle, only to see his spot kick saved.
Queens have completed an excellent double, winning 6-5 on penalties against a side leading the way at the top of the division above them.
A jubilant Queens manager Allan Johnston, after the match said: “The penalty shoot out at the end added a bit of drama at the end but hopefully it was a good advert for Scottish football because I thought both teams had a go and it could have went either way. After the opening ten minutes I though we played really well and we should have won the game. The boys actually got stronger through extra time so I can`t ask any more of them.
“We have a lot of talented players and it was hard to pick out individuals today. You could see the work rate of the whole team: that`s what we’ve been about all season. Against a top Partick Thistle team that are running away with the First Division it just shows how well the lads have been playing.
“It’s actually the first cup final I`ve ever won. I`ve been beaten in everything! Scottish Cup, League Cup, Ramsdens Cup, playoff finals so it’s about time I won a cup. I’m just gutted for the boys who missed out through suspension but delighted to get the win.”
Club captain Chris Higgins added: “There’s no words to explain it. I know it will never happen in my career again. The fans were great today, even the Thistle fans. There was a great atmosphere and it was brilliant for the full 120 minutes.”
Queen of the South: Robinson, Mitchell, Fitzpatrick, Durnan, Higgins (c), Young, Carmichael, McKenna, Lyle (Reilly ’77), Clark (Smith ‘101), Paton (Black ‘115).
Subs not used: Allan Johnston, Jim Atkinson (Gk).
Partick Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Sinclair, Bannigan (Forbes ’94), Muirhead, Balatoni, Welsh, Craigen, Craig (c) (Doohlan 66′), Lawless (Elliot 60′), Erskine.
Subs not used: McGuigan, Daniels (Gk).
Referee: Crawford Allan
Assistant Referees: Stuart MacMillan and Graeme Stewart
Fourth Official: Paul Robertson
For Match Statistics check out our Ramsdens Cup Final Infographic