Result: Queen of the South 1-2 Queen’s Park (Scottish Cup 3rd Round)
Venue: Palmerston Park (Saturday 23rd November 2019, 3pm)
It’d been some time since I’d last ventured north of the border – almost two years, in fact – with a visit to Celtic Park in the Scottish Cup having provided the entertainment on that day. As coincidence would have it, this very trip would also see a game in this competition, albeit in some rather different surroundings. Palmerston Park is rather juxtaposed against its Glaswegian counterpart in many ways, it still remaining a hark back to times gone by, with sprawling terraces remaining, rather than shiny, new seat-laden constructions seen in many parts of Britain as a whole. Anyway, enough about the ground for now – let’s get on with the day at hand.
I caught the train to Warrington, before heading across to Bank Quay for the service onwards towards Glasgow, though I’d be disembarking just before the border crossing on this occasion. My connection over to Dumfries was made at Carlisle in easy time, the journey up and wait largely taken up by writing the majority of my Yorkshire Amateur blog, and I was soon passing into Scotland, arriving into Dumfries around 40 minutes later. With the clock still ticking through the last minutes of a dull Saturday morning, I headed to the far side of the town, the plan being to pass by Robert Burns’ house as I went full-on tourist for a short while, prior to visiting a few of Dumfries’ finest hostelries.
All the above went nicely to plan, albeit the first few pubs seemed to be closed (either temporarily or more long-term) despite being stated as open on Maps, and so I instead made my way into the centre of town with the intention of paying a visit to another tourist hot-spot, the Globe Inn – the favourite haunt of Burns in his day….and perhaps still….spooky. Even more spooky was the fact that this was still closed too as I arrived, and I began to wonder if I’d attained some kind of poor reputation with drinking holes that I wasn’t aware of! Eventually, my fears were allayed by the scaffold-covered Barrel pub, a small, unassuming place I happened to stumble upon rather by accident. Inside, I found it to be a rather local-centric place, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a friendly enough pub to partake a pint in, a Tennents (£3) did the job this time around, as per the usual first pints in these parts!
From there, I opted to try my luck with the Globe again, and this time my luck was in. It was up and rocking and rolling, and I was soon in possession of another pint of Tennents (£3.65) and was directed to the small snug bar and given the Wifi passcode without even asking, which was a nice touch on both accounts. The snug really is a snug too, with space for only – and barely – the two tables within. Anyway, I soon polished that off and continued my tour of Dumfries’ pubs with a stop off in the Hole I’Th’Wall, a pub which looks a far smaller proposition from the street than it actually is when you reach the end of the entry way. In here, I thought I’d switch it up somewhat and get adventurous….so had a pint of Amstel (£3.50) as I went all continental (I know, how brave!) before going slightly off the beaten track, just around the corner in fact, where I would find the Tam O’Shanter as instructed, albeit another decked out in a steel skeletal frame. I was somewhat intrigued by Stowford Press’ Mixed Berry (£3.10) offering (having not been able to recall seeing it before, and definitely not tried) and so that would do the job of a swift one, whilst I made friends with the pub dog, via head-scratching means.
From there, I continued on towards the river and to a pub by the name of the Ye Olde Friar’s Arms, another which seemed the more interesting of the group in this area from the outside and so another Tennents there preceded my crossing of the river; which sounds a fair bit more dangerous if I leave it there, and not include the footbridge across, no?! Anyhow, once clambering onto the other bank and dry land (definitely a true account of things), I came across another trio of close-knit pubs, these namely being the “other” Globe, the Salutation, and the Spread Eagle. I had time for one pint or a couple of bottles, I figured, as I still had to get to the ground in good time as to sort out a ticket from one of the offices around Palmerston Park. Of course, wanting to spread the love as much as possible, I opted for the latter, and got a Holsten and a Bud (both £2.50) in the latter two respectively, whilst leaving the Globe until after the game, along with the Cavens Arms and the Wetherspoon’s, which is named Robert the Bruce. No idea who that is….
Dumfries is a market town and former royal burgh within the Dumfries & Galloway council area of Scotland. It lies upon the mouth of the River Nith that runs out into the Solway Firth, and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the county town of the historical county of Dumfriesshire. It’s name is possibly derived from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Phris (“Fort of the Thicket”) or Brittonic Welsh Gaelic Din Prys (as it’s possibly mentioned in a Welsh awdl (poem) as Penprys (“pen” meaning “head”)), though the actual reason is unknown, as is the era around when Dumfries itself actually came into being. Some mention settlements around Roman times and if so, it’s likely that the area would have been a defensive Selgovae military complex which revolved around a castle – and is certainly possible as it ties into the naming involving a fort. What isn’t disputed, however, is that the wider area around Dumfries, all once a part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, was inhabited by the Romans and was deemed rather important by them, what with having to defend from the wilds up north! The Romanised natives and Caledonian tribes were given rights to lands by Emperor Antoninus Pius, prior to the Romans’ departure around the 4th century.
King Arthur’s Battle of Tribuit is said to have occurred around Dumfries (though it’s not exactly one to state as fact), but battles that are definitely known to have taken place between the Picts, Anglo-Saxons, Scots and Norse ended with a decisive victory for Gregory, King of the Scots, over the native Britons in 890AD. Later, the Norman invasion led to Malcolm Canmore and William the Conqueror holding a conference regarding Edgar Æthling’s rights to the English crown at a place at the mouth of the Nith named Abernithi which some state must have been a port at Dumfries, then a part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, though it’s up in the air if this is the case. It gained royal burgh status off William the Lion in 1186 and quickly grew as a port and market town, whilst Alexander III – another Scots King – visited Dumfries as part of his planning ahead of an expedition to the Isle of Man, which had been held by them prior to being conquered by the Norwegians.
This came and went over two decades after Alexander’s death ended the Augustan-era for Dumfries, whilst Castledykes Park used to be the place of a royal castle, where fleeing English forces were left facing a steadfast door, prior to being massacred by William Wallace’s forces. Edward I of England later took the castle anyway, before continuing on into Galloway before a treaty of ceasefire, ordered by the Vatican after Scottish requests, was signed. Peace didn’t last though, and after the Red Comyn was killed by Robert the Bruce at Greyfriars Kirk in the town in 1306, he was excommunicated and so began his quest for an independent Scotland, defeating the English garrison at Dumfries and culminating in victory at Bannockburn as King of Scots and later securing independence for the Kingdom of Scotland, with Bruce recognised as Robert I.
During the 18th century, the Stuart throne claimant Bonnie Prince Charlie had his HQ and stayed for a short time in the town in 1775 before departing with rumours swirling of the Duke of Cumberland’s forces imminent arrival. The steamboat engine was also first demonstrated here by William Symington, which confirmed it could work on said boat. For WWII, a small nearby airfield became RAF Dumfries and became a largely maintenance and training centre, although a German Dornier Do 217 bomber crashed nearby – the pilot interred in the town after being killed in the accident. Meanwhile, a British Vickers Wellington also would go down short of the runway in 1943. The bulk of the exiled Norwegian army took up residence in Dumfries during the Nazi occupation of their homeland, along with many foreign-Norewgians having volunteered to see service against the Nazi forces back in Norway, harking back to their historic Viking settler routes in and around Dumfries.
Alumni, either native or schooled, from the town include the aforementioned, celebrated poet Robert Burns, Henry Duncan (opened the first commercial savings bank), Sir James Anderson (captain of the SS Great Eastern on transatlantic cable-laying voyages), Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, Titanic orchestra member John Law Hume, W.C. Wells (predecessor of natural selection theory pre-Darwin), F1 legend Sir Frank Williams, DJ Calvin Harris, along with many footballers, i.e. Dominic Matteo, Barry Nicholson and Grant Hanley. Other sporting names include Le Mans champ (and former Toyota F1 driver) Allan McNish and golfer Andrew Coltart, whilst journalist Kirsty Wark also hails from the town. Dumfries names VC recipients J.E. Tait, William Robertson and Edward Spence amongst its sons, too.
I was soon out of bottled beer to round off my pre-match boosting of the economy, and so headed off to Palmerston, making sure to take in the exterior murals as I did so. I eventually rounded the ground and found myself at the main entrance of the neighbouring leisure centre-type place, where a desk is located and serves as a ticket office, which soon relieved me of £14, and I was soon a further £3 lighter after exchanging them for a programme. After locating the food bar right up at the back of the terrace stand, interestingly, via the aid of a steward, I was soon on the scran of a steak and kidney (or was it just steak?) pie, peas and gravy prior to the teams entering the pitch and the evermore chilly air. Queen of the South’s home is a true beauty of older times. Its dominant floodlights tower above the surrounding areas, whilst its old-school main stand, complete with flanking and frontage terracing gives it that traditional feel. Opposite, the raised seating of this stand is a more modern cantilever-style stand which is, again, all-seater, with the far end opposite the larger home-end, covered terrace being home to a smaller set of open steps. That’s the ground in short order, and this is the story of the Queen of Dumfries….
Queen of the South Football Club was founded in 1919 and takes its name from the town of Dumfries’ nickname, that was bestowed upon it by a local poet; however they are unconnected to an earlier side, QoS Wanderers, who folded in 1894. It was formed by locals to bring football back to the town after World War One but, not only that, they wanted a side at a higher level. As such, local sides Dumfries F.C., 5th King’s Own Scottish Borderers and car manufacturer works team Arrol-Johnston were invited to talks revolving around a possible merger to meet this goal and, despite Dumfries pulling out, the other two clubs agreed to the amalgamation. Thus, Queen of the South United came into being and after quickly dropping the ‘United’ suffix, originally competed in the local leagues at the already established Palmerston Park ground. Within the Southern Counties set-up, the club saw regular silverware attained and after finishing as Western League runners-up in 1922, would go on to lift the title the next year, whereupon the club were third-time lucky in their application to join the Scottish Football League, taking a spot in the newly-formed Third Division.
They finished their first SFL season in 3rd place, and also lifted the Scottish Qualifying Trophy of 1924, before going one better and finishing runners-up the next season to achieve promotion to the Second Division. 1926-’27 saw Queens take eventual winners Celtic to a replay in the Scottish Cup, whilst the 1932 edition saw the club record their record win, an 11-1 thrashing of local rivals Stranraer. This gave an inclination of the strength of the Queens side at that time, and they built upon this by ending up as the Division 2 runners-up in 1933 to secure a spot in the top-flight for the first time. This would start a period where, through to 1959, Queen of the South would spend just one sole season outside Division One. Meanwhile, their first game there yielded a 3-2 victory over the green-and-white-clad Glaswegian giants, as the Doonhamers went on to finish 4th come the end of the season – their highest league finish to date.
The club took part in a pre-season competition in French-colonised Algeria in 1936 and recorded a Scottish Cup win over the other Old Firm side Rangers in that coming season’s competition, before condemning them to a first league defeat at Queen’s hands the following season. They briefly held top-spot during Season 1938-’39 before eventually finishing up 6th, whilst the next season would be cut-short due to World War II’s outbreak. Upon this, the Doonhamers joined the wartime West League for the remainder of 1939-’40, finishing as runners-up to Rangers, but wouldn’t play another league fixture until the end of hostilities. In 1950, the club reached the Scottish Cup semi-finals, losing out at Hampden Park to the regular foes of Glasgow Rangers, the only time in the century that QoS managed to get beyond the quarter-final stage. However, this cup run wouldn’t be mirrored in league form, as Queens were relegated that season to the Scottish ‘B’ Division, though were immediately back in the ‘A’ Division at the first attempt – as champions – whilst making the Scottish League Cup semis to crown a strong campaign for the side. They would briefly lead the way again in 1955-’56, but would eventually finish 6th once again, just as before.
However, their strong run ended in 1959 with relegation, although another League Cup semi-final run would be achieved two years later, though QoS have never repeated the feat to date. Promotion back to the top-tier was attained again in 1962, though their return was brief, the drop again being suffered in 1964, with Queens never managing to return to the top-flight. A runners-up placing in 1975 didn’t see promotion due to restructuring of the divisions, though they would soon be in the third of the SFL’s three divisions, although did end as that division’s runners-up in 1981, though were relegated after a sole season, which led to a further four-year stay in the bottom division, before another promotion was achieved in 1986. However, the dreaded drop wasn’t too far away, and Queens dropped back into the lowest tier come 1989. December of 1993 saw Tommy Bryce net a place in the Guinness Book of Records, as he netted a hat-trick in just over 100 seconds, and repeated the trick somewhat just two months later, as he scored three in 3-and-a-half minutes – going on to score four on both occasions.
After improved stadium facilities and pitch conditions were implemented, 1997 saw the club make the Scottish Challenge Cup Final, where the Second Division side lost out Falkirk by a single goal to the good. Relegation would have been suffered in 2000 had it not been for a points deduction applied to Hamilton Academical, and this led to the Doonhamers winning the Division 2 title just two years later, prior to taking the Challenge Cup of 2003, defeating Brechin City 2-0 to lift the cup. They finished up 2004-’05 in fourth place and 2008 saw them make the Scottish Cup Final, after overcoming Aberdeen 4-3 in a breathless semi-final contest, they went down, narrowly, to Rangers in the Final, by three goals to two. However, this run did allow Queen of the South into the UEFA Cup for the next season, though they did bow out, over two legs, to FC Nordsjælland of Norway. They finished 4th in Division One again in 2010, though were defeated finalists in the Challenge Cup the next season, being on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline at the hands of Ross County; however, their league form soon took a turn for the worse, and relegation was again suffered in 2012.
Despite this, as so often seems to happen, the club again returned at the first attempt, taking the Division 2 title and adding the Challenge Cup to this to secure a double, and after yet another 4th position was secured upon their First Division return, the club were defeated in the play-offs by Falkirk. This fate was suffered again the next year, this time at the hands of the recovering Rangers and the club have remained in the division through its name change to the Scottish Championship in 2018, with last year’s centenary season seeing Queen of the South finish up 9th, and winning the semi-final stage of the play-offs versus Montrose and Raith Rovers respectively to maintain their status in the division for this season.
The game got going with the hosts seeing the first chance of note come their way – Andy McCarthy having a sight of goal, only to spoon horribly over the bar. The home Queens had another golden opportunity to grab the opener shortly afterwards too, when Gary Oliver was able to skip around the Queen’s Park ‘keeper Willie Muir, and though he was forced wide, his pull-back found Stephen Dobbie, only for a defender to pull off a fine block. As the clock ticked towards the first quarter-hour of play, it was the visiting Queen’s from two divisions below who grabbed the first goal when the hosts’ former striker Salim Kouider-Aïssa took advantage of some slack defending to glance a header across goal and in. 0-1, and a cup shock was on the cards!
Oliver was then well denied by Muir down the other end, as the Doonhamers looked to respond immediately and Dobbie fired just over the angle of bar and post soon after, but it would be the Spiders who would continue on their road to an upset. Just after Salim had this time seen his header brilliantly tipped onto the upright by Robby McCrorie, they embarked on a swift counter-attack that led to the ball being out on the right-flank. The resultant ball in ended up at the back post and the feet of full-back Ciaran Summers, who teed up Salim on the edge of the area to fire home. 2-0 to Queen’s Park.
As we continued on towards the break, Queen of the South continued to waste some great chances to get back into the contest, a ball to the back post was guided back from where it came, only for the resulting header on goal to somehow be directed over. But, the Doonhamers almost got themselves back into the contest on the stroke of the break, when a corner was swung in and met by the head of centre-half Darren Brownlie, whose header looked destined for the net – only for the defender on the post to hook it away to safety. Half-time, 2-0, and after an uneventful, if rather chilly interval, we were back underway.
Understandably, the second half was a little less hectic, as Queen’s Park looked to protect their advantage and Queen of the South, surprisingly, struggled to really break them down to any threatening level. Indeed, it took a good while for the first true chance of the half to come around, and even then it came the way of the visitors and the dangerous Salim, who looked to lob McCrorie which looked the wrong option at the time – and this was proven milliseconds later as the gloveman grasped the ball comfortably. Would the Spiders be made to pay for that miss, you wondered?
In short, the answer was a rather resounding no. Even with the likes of former Premier League man Dobbie leading the attack, the hosts never looked like getting out of their predicament and only an effort by Dobbie that saw Muir given the easiest of easy saves came anywhere close to being considered a chance. That is until what was pretty much the last meaningful kick of the game, when a free-kick was only half-cleared, with the ball falling at the feet of Connor Murray, who fired a lovely drive over Muir from 20 yards – to which the ‘keeper smartly booted the ball into the stands. A worthwhile yellow in the wider scheme of things! It mattered little though and the boos rang out from the home ends as the small band of Spiders fans who’d made the journey down from Glasgow could celebrate a fine performance from their side – though it has to be said they were helped out by a….derisory effort from the hosts. Full time, and the bragging rights went to them in the Clash of Queens.
Post-match, I returned, as I said a little earlier on, to the Globe, another local-centric pub whose punters were understandably looking at me like “Who’s this half-pissed fool?!”, for a swift Corona, before popping into the Cavens Arms for a Desperados (both £3), as time wasn’t exactly on my side. At least, that’s what I thought at the time….anyway, the ‘Spoons was a brilliant offering, and although I was somewhat forced into a Hooch (£2.29) what with only having about 15 minutes until I had to get to the station to ensure I caught the train back to Carlisle easily, I very much enjoyed my brief visit into, what must be, one of the chain’s more striking pubs. Back at the station in decent time, I boarded the train and headed back to Carlisle and onwards to Manchester with no issue….is what I really wish I could stay.
Alas, I wouldn’t be so lucky. Despite putting on not one, but two alarms, things conspired to make me miss Carlisle (despite only nodding off somewhere beyond Annan) and by chance, I was awoken by people preparing to get off at somewhere beginning with a ‘B’. This was Brampton and, it conspired, it was only a couple of stops and 20 minutes beyond Carlisle, so far from disaster, as a train back would get me in the border city in good time for the last train to Manchester. Well, it should have done. A 30 minute wait at a station a fair way from any kind of civilisation began and only conspired to worsen as I updated my parents on my predicament. “Disruptive Passengers” were an issue and the 20 minute window I had to the train at Carlisle was wiped out in an instant. Lord, have mercy!
If there are train Gods, they were having all my prayers and offerings at this point, and luckily the train eventually arrived with not further delay and, by some divine intervention (or more likely just the usual poor timekeeping), the connecting train I required was then delayed by a few minutes, enabling me, and a guy directly in front of me in a similar predicament, to catch it fairly comfortably in the end. The journey back also allowed for the scene of a drunk guy – bottle of Jack in hand – muttering away to himself so much that, towards the end, he’d clearly infuriated himself to he point that the chair back in front of him was getting assaulted. I shared a look with the couple of lads across the way from me shared a look as if to say “Can’t people behave and get home easily?!”. I daren’t mention my own indiscretions!
So that is that. Palmerston Park was done and I was back home in one piece and without having to pay out further issue, though Northern Rail would see that they did their level best to do so by giving me a penalty fare the next week, despite me actually trying to go on through to Congleton and having money out to pay at the desk – having been told to get on the train at my point of departure when actively purchasing (running out of time through no fault of mine, mind you) by another of their employees. Absolute clusterfuck of a company. Anyhow, that’s a story for next time. Dumfries had been decent and the ground is superb – a must visit if you haven’t gotten there as yet. The game was decent enough and a cup upset is always welcome in my eyes, though I’m sure the home Queens fans don’t quite agree with that sentiment! Scotland was great as always and, I’ll continue to be nice to them, as I should hopefully be eligible for a Scots passport, should all these Brexit, Scots-free (you can have that one SNP) come to fruition. Back there next round? Why not….?!
Value For Money: 8