Today’s trip to Dumfries was the last of the ‘far away’ trips that I was hoping to do early in the season.
The early start combined with torrential rain made for a miserable walk to the train station, and left me soaked for a large part of the journey.
It is common, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced, for games to be called off as winter approaches. Whether by rain, wind or frost there have been plenty of examples of all of the above in the last few seasons.
For someone trying to visit all 42 grounds in a season this can present a problem. In some cases it might be possible to go to a different game in the event of a call off. On a day like today, bound for remote Dumfries, there would be no alternatives. Thankfully the game was never in doubt, but the weather forecast is certainly something I will have to be mindful of as the season progresses.
At this point, it’s probably worth declaring a slight conflict of interests.
Growing up as a Stranraer fan, Queen of the South was our derby. It was the game we wanted to win above most others (when it happened). Whether that feeling or not is reciprocated, I’m not sure. Not that it mattered to me.
I have been at Palmerston a few times. When Stephen Payne rattled a volley off the cross bar in a relegation battle in the First Division or Frank McKeown headed Stranraer in to the lead a few seasons ago, I was there.
This rivalry means that I’m not the biggest Queen of the South fan, although of course any dislike is just a bit of fun.
I was happy to put that to one side ahead of today’s game.
In all previous visits I had been in the away end, so I was looking forward to a different vantage point today.
Indeed I had timed my visit well. Queens are performing exceptionally in the league this season and until today they have looked like a genuine challenger at the top of the table.
Stephen Dobbie has been capturing all of the headlines recently, and it’s no wonder. He is certainly one of the top players in the division and his goal tally of 6 goals in 8 league games is impressive. He has played a big part in the Doonhamers success so far.
Today’s match was against Morton.
At the start of play they were sixth in the league, three points behind Dundee United. I have seen Morton play already this season and I was looking forward to seeing Jai Quitongo again, a player that was very impressive against St Mirren on the opening day of the season and has been getting good reviews since.
As I walked towards the ground I stopped for food at a café. Behind the counter I noticed a newspaper clipping celebrating the 5000 calories in the ‘breakfast munchy box’ they offer. As appetising as that may sound, I went with a chicken sandwich.
The first thing that caught my eye at Palmerston was the ‘Queen of the South Arena.’ This was a large building, hosting a café, the ticket office and a large artificial pitch, presumably available for hire and used by some of the club’s youth teams.
This seems like a great idea. It gets people spending money and given how many small groups were sitting around tables, it adds an extra social dimension to the matchday experience.
At just £9 the student ticket is fantastic value, but even the £16 adult ticket is among the cheapest in the league.
Palmerston is an impressive stadium that mixes the traditional with the new.
It has two seated areas, the stand split between supporters looks modern whereas the main stand looks slightly older.
There are also two terraced areas. One is closed off, but for the biggest of away supports, and the other is where a decent number of the home support stand. This big, enclosed terracing behind the goal goes is probably one of the best examples of terracing in the SPFL. It is a tall and impressive stand which could fit several thousand fans comfortably.
I found my spot for the afternoon and got ready to watch the game. With the home side flying in the league it was no surprise to see a large crowd through the gates and those around me were confident that the home side would get a result.
Queen of the South started brightly, passing the ball well and creating half chances.
The positive mood in the stand lasted all of five minutes before Ross Forbes curled in a left footed shot from the edge of the area. It was a fantastic goal, with the execution of the shot perfect. The plaudits from his teammates that followed were well deserved.
From that point on Morton were dominant.
Jamie McDonagh and Gary Oliver all but finished the game with goals on in the 33rd and 36th minutes.
With a 3-0 lead Morton looked relaxed and they passed the ball comfortably and were happy to run with it in the final third.
One memorable moment came just before half time when Morton’s left winger took the ball past two Queens defenders with brilliant skill, only to be chopped down by a third.
At half time a few of the home supporters left to pubs or to go home. It wasn’t looking promising.
They didn’t miss anything. The Dumfries side were very disappointing and did not look like a top of the table side. Their strikers barely had a sniff at goal and when they did they rarely troubled Derek Gaston.
Quitongo posed a threat all day and he got the goal he deserved in the 64th minute before Thomas O’Ware added a fifth goal in the 72nd minute.
The home side were booed off at full time and their fans have every right to be disappointed. Their performance was poor, even against an impressive Morton side.
Those same fans will know how well their club has been run in recent years and their turnaround since being relegated to League 1 in 2012 has been remarkable.
They have improved a lot since then, with the work of consecutive managers and work off the field now meaning that, barring too many performances like today, they look like a club capable of challenging at the top half of the league.
Queen of the South 0 Morton 5