QUEENS blew away New Year cobwebs to draw level with third-placed Hibernian after a vastly improved second-half performance saw them overpower Livingston.
Scorers: Queen of the South - Dowie 31; Lyle 64; Russell 75; Livingston - White 39
Veteran striker Derek Lyle, unwell earlier in the week, played a major part in the victory, scoring Queens’ second and providing the pass for their third.
“Derek hadn’t been well,” said the Doonhamers manager, James Fowler.
“I was conscious of how he was feeling and was just about to substitute him when he showed a great bit of pace to put us in front.
“He then produced a great through ball for the third, although I think the celebration completely finished him. He then definitely had to come off”.
With both sides lacklustre early on, Queens came to life in the 13th minute. Danny Carmichael dashed down the right wing, side-stepping Shaun Rutherford, to swing a dangerous ball across the six-yard box. The cross was met by Gavin Reilly, but the young striker was unable to direct his header on target.
Moments later, Mark Durnan also headed over the crossbar before Livingston responded when Myles Hippolyte robbed Iain Russell before crossing for Jordan White, who headed wide from close range.
Despite the chances, it was a scrappy first half and the game badly needed the goal which finally came when Andy Dowie rose above the Livingston defence to head home after Ian McShane’s dangerous delivery.
The home side failed to capitalise and gifted Livingston an equaliser eight minutes later. Defensive confusion saw Durnan make a complete meal of clearing a long punt upfield and White pounced to nod the ball over Queens goalkeeper Zander Clark.
Livingston were almost in front five minutes after the restart when Hippolyte released White, whose dangerous ball across the box was turned onto the post by Danny Mullen. As Mullen slid in, he and the home goalkeeper collided with the post and, while Mullen eventually walked away, Clark was stretchered off to be replaced by Jim Atkinson.
Queens struggled to get into gear but looked like they might reclaim the lead when – in a repeat of the first-half goal – McShane’s corner found Dowie.
Despite having a free header this time, the defender headed high over the crossbar.
Moments later, as Livingston hit Queens on the break, the inexperienced Atkinson made a fine, close-range stop from White.
The home side finally began to hit form and they went in front on 64 minutes when Reilly broke into the penalty box and drilled the ball across the six-yard line for striker Lyle to slam in at the back post.
The Doonhamers claimed a deserved third when an inch-perfect through pass from Lyle split three Livingston players to send Russell in on goal to provide a fine finish.
The loss leaves Livingston firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, but Mark Burchill, their manager, praised his side and said he believed a little bit of confidence would make a big difference to their season.
“The players are hurting, they’ve lost confidence and it’s my job to get into them that they can play with a bit of freedom,” he said.
“We’re creating plenty of chances – we just need to capitalise on them.”
Queen of the South: Clark (Atkinson 52), Dowie, Durnan, Higgins, Holt, McShane, Carmichael, Reilly, Russell (Dzierzawski 87), Lyle (Paton 78), Kidd. Subs not used: Atkinson, Hooper, Smith, Pickard, Paton, Baird.
Livingston: Jamieson, Mensing, Fordyce, Jacobs, O’Brien (Piaprotnik), Hippolyte (Ogleby), Gallagher, White, Glen (Robertson 33), Mullen, Rutherford. Subs not used: Grant, Sives, Beaumont, McKenna.
Referee: G Aitken. Attendance: 1,940