SPFL Championship: QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 0 DUNFERMLINE 1: 06/05/17

Allan Johnston made one change for the final match of the season, Michael Paton coming into the starting eleven with the injured Jason Talbot dropping out altogether. Queens made two changes to their team, Callum Topping and Dom Thomas being preferred to former Pars youth Scott Mercer and Joe Thomson.

Having travelled south in fine Spring sunshine, Palmerston Park covered in cloud and there was a cool breeze as the teams warmed up. Fortunately for match day 36 there was still something at stake. A home win would ensure a fifth place finish for the Dumfries men but if Dunfermline could avoid defeat it would be them who would finish fifth.

The sun reappeared as the hosts kicked off attacking the goal at the south end of the ground and in just the second minute Lyndon Dykes fired a cross in from the right corner flag that made Sean Murdoch stop the cross and then take.

After an early push from their opponents Dunfermline made some positive moves forward with Michael Moffat combining nicely with both Kallum Higginbotham and Nicky Clark and Rhys McCabe playing the ball into good spaces. Higginbotham`s eighth minute corner from the right was directed at Clark but he failed to connect and when a Pars man did it was skywards from Lee Ashcroft.

The league`s top goalscorer Stephen Dobbie was the first to get a shot on goal in any earnestly when in tenth minute from 20 yards out, he fired just wide of the left goalpost. Four minutes later the visitors were awarded a free kick 29 yards out in a central position after Clark was taken down. Wedderburn, Higginbotham and McCabe stood over the ball but it was the latter who fired the setpiece into the three man wall.

QOS captain John Rankin then sent a decent attempt narrowly wide after he had met a Jordan Marshall cut back 20 yards out. In 20th minute Wedderburn`s pass to Clark rebounded back and Queens broke resulting in Paton having to concede a corner on the right. Fortunately that was defended easily and back at the other end McCabe struck another free kick this time from just over 30`yards off the wall for a corner on the left. Callum Fordyce attacked Higginbotham`s delivery but the home defence cleared.

Murdoch made a good save to deny Dobbie in 25th minute, the chance coming from a Daniel Carmichael pass from the right. As the Pars responded the home fans grew increasingly frustrated especially when Paton`s cross was knocked down for Higginbotham to crash a shot at Rankin. Next Chris Higgins headed away a Ryan Williamson cut back at the end of one of his trademark surges down the right.

Murdoch held a good effort from Dykes on the half hour and three minutes later Paton made a good job of preventing a Callum Tapping cross. There was a period with a dearth of goalmouth activity and in 40th minute McCabe was forced to try a shot from distance that crept wide left.

Three minutes from the interval Moffat sent Higginbotham away down the right channel. He had Moffat to his right and Clark to his left. He chose to lay off to the latter but from the edge of the box the striker`s shot was blocked. Play switched quickly to the other end and Dykes was able to pick out Dobbie in front of goal but his shot went high and left.

Honours even then at the break with the sides matched in terms of possession. Only one Pars shot on target and that will need to improve if the Fifers were to lose the tag of the only Championship club not to have beaten Queens this season.

Half time: Queen of the South 0 Dunfermline 0

Paul McMullan showed good intent in the opening minutes of the second half beating three men out on the left and cutting inside but his final pass was then cut out. The deadlock almost got broken on 51 minutes after Tapping got around Wedderburn on the left and sent an inviting ball across the six yard box before Paton cleared.

Next minute Murdoch was called upon to palm away a snapshot from 25 yards out by Tapping. Then the ever energetic Tapping had the ball in the net but the offside was already raised. In 55 minutes Dobbie made ground on the left and squeezed a shot in that sneaked just outside the right post.

Dunfermline attacked with Higginbotham driving forward, laying off from the top of the box to McMullan who crossed but just too high for Clark to get any purchase on. Joe Cardle replaced Michael Moffat in 61 minutes either side of two substitutions for the home side, the second of which introduced former Par Derek Lyle.

Queen of the South keeper Lee Robinson held Higginbotham`s header from a McCabe cross and on 69 minutes could have been better tested as McMullan picked out Clark in front of goal.

At the other end Murdoch made a good save to deny Dobbie what looked like a certainty and Ashcroft made an equally good block to prevent Lyle converting the parried ball. Next chance fell to their sub Joe Thomson, he connected well but hammered his shot wide left.

With thirteeen minutes let, Dobbie was yellow carded when he fell backwards in the box. Referee showed him a yellow card for the incident which Gary Naysmith claimed should have earned the Doonhammers a penalty.

A 79th minute corner saw Paton head the ball on target but intercepted by a defender`s body. Callum Smith was then introduced in place of Paul McMullan but it was the QOS Development team graduate Connor Murray who had an extreme good attempt to find the net. His shot from the edge of the box required two takes from Murdoch.

The home side had several more chances that raised the crowd`s anticipation but Fordyce and then Ashcroft cleared and Dobbie sent the ball over the bar. Murdoch came out and scooped away a Lyle attempt away from Dobbie.

Then in the first minute of added time Sean Murdoch`s clearance rocketed straight up the park, CLARK got his head to it possibly wrong footing keeper Robinson who slipped. The ball rolled into the net and the Pars had the match winner. 0-1

The Fifers goal totally deflated Queen of the South`s end of season lap of honour. Most would agree that they probably did not deserve to lose this game but as Allan Johnston would point out his team were due a bit of luck this season.

A creditable fifth placed finish in their league season back in the second tier of Scottish football. Onwards and upwards, enjoy the break and here`s to an exciting 2017-2018.
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH: Lee Robinson: Kyle Jacobs, Darren Brownlie, Chris Higgins, Jordan Marshall: Callum Tapping (Joe Thomson 60), John Rankin, Dominic Thomas, Danny Carmichael (Connor Murray 74): Lyndon Dykes (Derek Lyle 65), Stephen Dobbie.
SUBS NOT USED: Scott Mercer, Andy Dowie, Dale Hilson, Jim Atkinson (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Dobbie (77)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Michael Paton: Kallum Higginbotham, Nat Wedderburn, Rhys McCabe, Paul McMullan (Callum Smith 80): Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat (Joe Cardle 61).
SUBS NOT USED: Gavin Reilly, Stuart Morrison, Lewis Spence, Brandon Luke, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: Clark (90+1)

REFEREE: Alan Newlands
WEATHER: Cloudy 16C

NEXT MATCH: Pre Season Friendly TBA

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