Queen of the South goalkeeper Lee Robinson was the hero as the Second Division Champions lifted the Ramsdens Cup at the expense of First Division leaders Partick Thistle in a 6-5 penalty kick success following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
Queen of the South 1-1 Partick Thistle AET, Queen of South win 6-5 on penalties
Scorers: Queen of the South - Clark (101); Partick Thistle - Doolan (119)
Referee: C Allan
The free-flowing final that had been hoped for failed to materialise, although the game still gripped the 9,452 fans right to the end at Livingston’s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium, with the extended period seeing both goals and Aaron Muirhead missing a penalty – before being sent off after breaking Queens captain Chris Higgins’ nose with what looked like a head-butt.
Nicky Clark atoned for a horror first-half miss by putting Queens ahead in the first half of extra-time with their 100th goal of the season and it looked like the cup was won when Robinson saved Muirhead’s spot kick 90 seconds from the end of extra time. However, Kris Doolan popped up with a last-gasp goal for Thistle.
Robinson then not only scored a spot-kick in the shoot-out, he kept out an effort by Stephen O’Donnell before saving the decisive kick from Conrad Balatoni to make it two trophies in 11 days for Allan Johnston’s side.
Young, Fitzpatrick, Gavin Reilly, Mitchell and Higgins all netted for the Doonhamers with only Daniel Carmichael missing, while Chris Erskine, Sean Welsh, Aaron Sinclair, Ross Forbes and Kris Doolan all netted for the Jags in the shoot-out.
Victorious player/manager Allan Johnston said afterwards: “The game had everything towards the end. After the initial ten minutes I thought we played well. I am hoping to get myself, my assistant Sandy Clark and the players signed up for next season now. It’s the first final I have won. I have lost a Scottish Cup final, a League Cup final and a Ramsdens Cup final so I am delighted.”
Thistle made the early running and a headed clearance by Mark Durnan gave them a corner in the first 30 seconds, but Derek Young rose to head James Craigen’s flag-kick clear. Thistle forced three further corners without threatening and Queens eventually started to get into the game. They came within inches of opening the scoring when a Michael Paton cross from the left was only partially cleared and Danny Carmichael headed the ball into the path of Lyle and his fierce drive only just cleared the bar.
The goal that the final needed should have come nine minutes from half-time for the Dumfries side, but the normally deadly Nicky Clark faltered when goal number 34 of the season looked on. Mitchell fired over a corner from the right and Lyle flicked on for Clark two yards out, but he flicked the ball wide.
Thistle upped their pace before half-time and Stuart Bannigan brought out a low diving save from Robinson.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw a surging Stephen McKenna run ended by an Aaron Sinclair foul that earned him a booking and Clark sending an effort out of the ground from the dead ball.
After 57 minutes Clark ran at a retreating red and yellow defensive line and his shot from 18 yards looked net-bound until Fox produced a fine one-handed save to turn the ball away.
With extra time looming, Thistle carved out a last chance when substitute Doolan got clear of goal, but his trundling effort just crawled past with the aid of a deflection.
Doolan went close after just 15 seconds of extra time with a left-footed drive that flashed across Robibson’s goal and Elliott blazed high over shortly afterwards, but just when Thistle looked the more likely to go in front Clark struck. Carmichael cut in from the left and sent in a curling effort that crashed off the bar with the striker ideally placed to nod the loose ball in.
The goalscorer was immediately replaced by Kevin Smith and just when it looked all over Marc Fitzpatrick tangled with Christie Elliott at the edge of the box to concede a penalty.
Muirhead took the kick and Robinson produced a stunning save before the players from both sides got involved in an angry exchange that saw Muirhead sent off and Elliott as well as Stephen McKenna booked. Thistle somehow responded positively to the double setback and with virtually the last kick Forbes curled in a right-foot cross from the left for Doolan to volley home. A section of Thistle fans staged a pitch invasion, but it was all over quickly and penalties were called for with Robinson emerging as a hero for the second time.
Thistle manager Alan Archibald said: “It was disappointing after a big build-up that the game was flat. I did not see Aaron’s sending off. It just seemed to be a big rammy.”
Archibald’s men must now lift themselves for a crucial midweek league clash which Archibald likened to “another cup final”.
Queen of the South: Robinson, Mitchell, Fitzpatrick, Durnan, Higgins, Young, Carmichael, McKenna, Lyle (Reilly 78), Clark (Smith 101), Paton (Black 120), Subs not used: Johnston, Atkinson.
Partick Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Sinclair, Bannigan (Forbes 95), Muirhead, Balatoni, Welsh, Craigen, Craig (Doolan 66), Lawless (Elliott 60), Erskine. Subs not used: McGuigan, Daniels.