Much huffing and puffing but no end product in Dumfries
Ryan Williamson and Callum Morris returned to the starting 11 after missing the Irn Bru Cup game last week through international duty. Fraser Aird was named amongst the subs after he too had been away last week playing for his country. Allan Johnston stuck with his 4-4-2 formation despite having no natural left winger. This week, Callum Smith was played wide left.
MINUTES THAT MATTERED:
2' Queens' Stephen Dobbie had the game's first effort on goal but his shot went over the bar
19' Nicky Clark put the ball wide from a tight angle inside the 6 yard box
27' James McFadden struck a well-hit shot just wide of the post for the home side
47' Kallum Higginbotham's shot went narrowly past the left post
58' Callum Fordyce missed a great chance to score against his former team when his shot from 8 yards was saved by Sean Murdoch
89' Lee Ashcroft's header was cleared off the line
Not much quality on show but no lack of effort from both teams in a dreich day at Palmerston. Allan Johnston must have spent part of his childhood trying to force a square peg into a round hole (see image below) and has carried this into adulthood when selecting a football team. Lacking a true left winger, he has shunted centre forwards wide and avoided changing the formation to suit the personnel available.
The free-scoring form of the early weeks of the season has been replaced by a more workmanlike series of performances that have been less entertaining and a whole lot less pleasing on the eye. While not exactly playing route one football, there has been a marked increase in long balls played to strikers who, with the exception of Declan McManus (who is hardly a man mountain himself) have little ability in the air and, in Nicky Clark's case, struggle to jump at all.
The loss of Joe Cardle is becoming more clear with each passing week. This is no great surprise but there was always a clear danger of relying on one player to ignite the team and provide goals and a spark.
The stand-out performers today were mainly in defence. Sean Murdoch was a calming presence in goal and did what was required of him. Callum Morris was dominant at the back, winning almost every ball and playing his way out of potentially difficult situations on numerous occasions. Jason Talbot had another effective game at left back. Ryan Williamson's runs up the right often ended, frustratingly, in floated crosses when a hard driven ball across the 6 yard line might have been more productive. Lee Ashcroft, once again forced into wearing a head bandage after a cut to his head in the first half, was solid beside Morris.
In midfield, Kallum Higginbotham was a mixture of sometimes tidy passing and wasteful play. Big Nat made less of an impact that we have been used to this season, while beside him Aaron Splaine did little to suggest that he is a real asset for the team, and picked up his customary booking. Callum Smith, played out of position on the left, had the best game of the team's more creative players, and forced ex-Par Callum Fordyce into a first half booking after using pace and skill to get past him down the left.
Up front, Nicky Clark was given the full 90 minutes to run about to little effect. Declan McManus was the busier of the two strikers but found himself substituted instead of Clark, despite making more of an impact on the game. Andy Ryan, who has been wasted by Johnston since his arrival, was given 14 minutes at the end. Ryan, a player with great goalscoring instinct, must surely be given a start soon.
Lee Ashcroft's late header, cleared off the line, was the closest the Pars came to scoring, while up the other end, Fordyce should have done better with a shot from 8 yards out.
I rarely mention referees in match reports but Stephen Finnie surpassed his previous dire performances in Dunfermline games with a display that went beyond the realms of incompetence and into a different dimension of complete ineptitude.
Stat Pack feature on the QOS game: goo.gl/QS4Abc
Photos and edits by Pars Review
Tomorrow: match photo gallery & matchday vlog