Queen of the South 4 - 3 Dundee: Title favourites usurped

WE THOUGHT the Championship might be competitive this season, but who would have imagined it would kick off in a blaze of fireworks like this?

The narrowness of the scoreline disguises the fact that Queens actually gave almost everyone’s favourites for promotion, Dundee, a bit of a doing at Palmerston yesterday.

Only two late goals by the visitors restored some respectability for them, but no-one was fooled, least of all the Dens Park side’s manager John Brown, who must have winced as the hosts went on the rampage after the interval, finding the net three times in 11 minutes to turn the game on its head.

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Predictably, a grim-faced Brown did not mince his words afterwards. “Defensively we’ve got to look at ourselves,” he said. “You give guys responsibility, but the longer the game went on the more they got on top and our boys didn’t do their jobs. They’ve been told that that wasn’t acceptable and if they’re not up to it other players will be brought in.”

It was a right old topsy-turvy affair and for most of the first half there was little inkling that Brown would find himself conducting such a sombre post-mortem.

Although under pressure at times, there was a robust confidence about Dundee’s play, fuelled by an early breakthrough goal courtesy of a delightfully-placed curling shot by Peter MacDonald.

Yet for the effort they had invested in the opening 45 minutes, the hosts’ equaliser on the cusp of half-time had a sense of justice to it and for Derek Lyle, who was taunted mercilessly by the visiting fans for his past connection with Dens Park, it was sweet vengeance. A set-piece was hoisted into the Dundee box and having been allowed to drift clear from his marker, Lyle conjured up a powerful downward header that was enough to beat Kyle Letheren.

If there was a question over which team we would see the most telling response from in the light of this goal arriving at such a psychologically important time, it was quickly and emphatically answered by Queens, who simply blazed out of the traps in the second half.

The visitors were blown away by the rapid trio of strikes, the first of these arriving from the penalty spot from Ryan McGuffie after Iain Davidson needlessly tugged Stephen McKenna in the box. Well-struck goals by Iain Russell and Michael Paton followed shortly afterwards.

“We expressed to the players at half-time that although we had created good goalscoring opportunities in the first half, we hadn’t passed it as well as we can. Every one of them picked it up and I thought we were devastating for that spell,” reflected a delighted Queens manager, Jim McIntyre.

His men were so dominant that they allowed themselves to fall prey to some risky complacency and they came close to undoing all their good work as Dundee’s two late efforts by Declan Gallagher and Davidson left Queens hanging on unnecessarily anxiously in the closing minutes.