Challenge Cup Final number four for Queen of the South. 1997 was a day to remember even in defeat to Falkirk. Queens in a Cup Final seemed unimaginable then (how little did we know?), with the doldrum years of the early 1990s fresh in the memory. Queens fans sang their guts out with the glee of a toddler with a new toy. The Bairns took the trophy but Tommy Bryce shone taking man of the match.
The 2002 final was a different type of game. Division Two champions six months before, Queens were firm favourites to take care of Brechin, done so unspectacularly courtesy of John O’Neill and Derek Lyle goals. Then there was two seasons ago. Final score Ross County 2, QoS 0, this would be better written as just Ross County 2, such was the failure of Queens to turn up.
Some parallels to this year’s final from 2002. Queens again have just won the Division Two title. Derek Lyle is back, the tanned talisman looking to add to his pedigree as a Palmerston trophy magnet, a win today would make it the fourth time he has won a trophy at Queens. Will Lyle start though?
Lee Robinson, a rare player to emerge from last season’s relegation with an enhanced reputation, no doubt he is the preferred keeper. Chris Mitchell, an excellent acquisition and with Ryan McGuffie suspended, Mitchell seems sure to start at right back. Big, strong, committed and chipping in with goals, Mark Durnan has been a regular at centre back with no questions against his place in the team. Chris Higgins beside him will lead the team out and take up his position as a left footed centre back beside Durnan. The suspension of young Kevin Holt did seem to cause concern with no obvious candidate to step in as a left footed full back. Marc Fitzpatrick joining from Ross County in March makes for a straight swap to plug the gap.
Danny Carmichael’s abilities as a small and nippy trickster haven’t been questioned by the support of his home town club. Where to deploy him though? Allan Johnston seems to have found the answer and the wide right midfield spot has been his for some time.
Michael Paton is another recent arrival like Fitzpatrick. After some brief sub appearances, Paton announced himself to the Queens faithful in grand style in the title clinching 6-0 pounding of Brechin. Two gems from outside the box, one a curler and one a zinger into the top corner, his place on the left of the team seems assured.
Stephen McKenna. Robust, determined, competitive. Enjoying a fine season, he has shown with his ability to find team mates that it would be churlish to dismiss him as simply a midfield ball winner. Who to play beside him though? Paul Burns is cup tied.
The experienced Derek Young has prospered at Palmerston playing neat and tidy, get and give football. Subbed last week as a precaution, his recovery for depleted Queens to pivot with McKenna is key.
Top scorer Nick Clark has gushingly helped himself with the production line of chances his team mates have manufactured. Barring injury he will play. Young gun, Gavin Reilly, has been preferred start recently beside him demoting Lyle to the bench.
Can high flying Queens do it against their high flying opponents from a division above? Ask breath taken Hibs, sworded 2-0 in the League Cup. Or look at Ibrox in the Challenge Cup, comeback from 2-1 down in the last minute, this Queens team don’t do walking away.
All to play for.
My Starting XI – Robinson; Mitchell, Durnan, Higgins (c), Fitzpatrick; Carmichael, McKenna, Young, Paton; Clark, Reilly.
Written by Kirk