Two teams separated by an entire league will have to do it all again to settle this Fourth Round William Hill Scottish Cup tie. If the replay on 10 December is anything like this, it will be a match well worth watching.
Scorers: Queen of the South - Russell 35; Paton 72; St Mirren - Newton 9; Thompson 51
On paper it looked like a classic Scottish Cup tie. Eighth in the Championship playing eighth in the Premiership, and the visitors looking for revenge after having the League Cup removed from their grasp in Dumfries in August. That was back when Danny Lennon’s men were in the doldrums – they are a different side now, and had captain Jim Goodwin back after suspension to beef them up.
Astonishingly, this was the first time in their combined 230 years of history that the clubs from Scotland’s third-largest and largest towns had met in the Scottish Cup. If it was not a complete classic to mark such a historic occasion, the crowd of 2,176 was thoroughly entertained by an absorbing match.
St Mirren made the better start and thoroughly deserved their early lead, though Queen of the South had a decent early penalty claim turned down, referee Kevin Clancy correctly judging that Marc McAusland had fallen on the ball rather than grabbing it.
With nine minutes gone, Kevin Holt got his head to a dangerous-looking cross but could only nod it as far as Conor Newton. The on-loan Newcastle player showed superb technique to control his half volley and fire it low to Zander Clark’s right side. The ball took the merest deflection off Gavin Reilly but it was goalbound anyway.
Manager Jim McIntyre said afterwards: “Losing that goal had us rattled, but we started to string together some good passes and the boys’ confidence grew.”
Indeed it did, especially down the left wing where Iain Russell, Ian McShane and gangly left-back Holt formed a dangerous triumvirate. Losing Paul McGowan didn’t help St Mirren, but Thomas Reilly was an able deputy.
Holt was first to have a go at Marian Kello’s goal, but his shot was too straight. Then Russell grabbed centre stage, inspiring the move that led to Michael Paton’s 25-yard thunderbolt which Kello saved brilliantly.
Russell then scythed down Kenny McLean to earn a yellow card before he drew a fine save from Kello and he also shot just wide seconds later.
His equaliser was only delayed until the 35th minute, Kello failing to clear properly and Russell smacking the ball goalwards where Darren McGregor deflected the shot in off the post.
St Mirren had gone off the boil but came out fired up after half-time and should have gone ahead right at the start. McAusland directed McLean’s corner goalward only for Clark to instinctively get his body in the way. The ball rebounded to the feet of Jason Naismith and, like Billy Bremner’s infamous miss against Brazil, he could not control his effort and it trickled inches by the post.
The St Mirren goal was only briefly delayed, however. With 51 minutes on the clock, a swift move down the left saw Sean Kelly send in a low ball that caught the home defence napping, Steven Thompson pouncing at the far post to steer the ball home.
Queen of the South came back again, though the visitors were quick and willing to break upfield when able to do so, and got players forward in numbers. As Naismith had done earlier, McGregor also missed with a defender’s strike from point blank range, somehow knocking McLean’s cross wide, and how Saints came to regret that scorned chance when Queen of the South equalised after 72 minutes.
Substitute Derek Lyle sent in a deep cross from the right which Paul Burns knocked down perfectly to Paton who side-footed the ball high behind Kello.
Burns almost made it three after he chased a long ball and knocked it over the outrushing Kello, only for the lob to veer wide.
Both sides tried their all to get a winner, but the defences were on top.
St Mirren manager Lennon summed it up: “It was a real proper cup tie and the result was in the balance right up until the final whistle.”
You suspect it might be the same again in Paisley a week on Tuesday.