March 21, 2009 – Palmerston Park, Dumfries
I’m biased, of course, but there can be few teams at any level, anywhere in Scotland, serving up as much ‘value for money’ in terms of goals than Livingston at the moment.
After the epic 4-4 draw with Airdrie United a few weeks back, today’s visit to Palmerston saw another glut of goals, including a couple of late ones which salvaged a draw.
Unlike the Airdrie game, Livi were the side to come from behind on this occasion, just as it looked as though Queens had wrapped up a victory to ease their worries of relegation.
The Doonhamers actually went into a 3-1 lead with only six minutes left to play, when some really slack defensive play allowed striker Stephen Dobbie all the room in the world to pick up a pass and curl the ball across goal and into the top corner.
It looked like game, set and match at that stage, especially given that Livi had been less than clinical in front of goal throughout the match.
However, they surprised everyone by getting a scrambled second goal before winning a penalty to force the draw, which was coolly put away in injury time by teenage top goalscorer Leigh Griffiths.
It was Griffiths’ 20th goal of the season, quite some tally considering that he sat out a couple of months of the season due to two knee injuries.
As far as young players go he is quite special and while I hope it doesn’t happen, I’d be very surprised indeed if he doesn’t move onto a much bigger club north or south of the border this summer.
In addition to the penalty, Griffiths got the first Livi goal midway through the second half by which time Queens were already two goals to the good.
After a rocky start the home side got ahead thanks to a peach of a strike by Barry Wilson, a midfield veteran who wore Livingston colours during the ‘good old days’ when the club finished third in the SPL and experienced European football.
That was the only scoring of a topsy turvy first half in which Livi dominated for about half an hour until Queens made a tactical change and got that first goal.
Their second came shortly after half time with Dobbie getting the first of his two goals on the day.
In some respects, it was a game of two strikers, with both Dobbie and Griffiths getting two goals apiece. Not only that but they looked to have that little bit of extra quality which set them apart from the rest of the players on the field.
Interestingly, they both had on the same bright lime green boots but that’s where any similarity ended.
Griffiths is fast, direct and spontaneous, a rough diamond still at an early stage of his football development.
The older and more experienced Dobbie is a totally different animal, but is just as effective.
He’s stocky, almost to the point of looking overweight, and rather than sprint and cause panic like Griffiths, he prowls around ready to make the most of any opportunity.
Having played at the top level fairly regular with Hibs in the past, he is an intelligent operator who holds the ball, passes and finishes well. Like Griffiths, I reckon he is better than the Scottish First Division.
That shouldn’t be read as a slight on the First Division though. In fact, this was another very decent game of football, unlike many of the ones I’ve seen recently at ‘higher levels’ recently, both live and on television.
It was a very enjoyable afternoon overall, with the fact that Palmerston is one of my favourite Scottish grounds adding to the experience.
It’s a ground which combines old and new beautifully.
Like the rest of the Livingston support I was accommodated in the newish ‘Galloway News’ stand which was built about 15 years ago. Containing a couple of thousand blue plastic seats and not a lot else, it’s the kind of thing you find in new or rebuilt grounds up and down Scotland like Dumbarton, East Fife and Stirling.
Unlike those others, the remainder of the ground is packed with character. To my right was a bank of open terracing, no longer used for ‘safety reasons’, while the older Standard Grandstand sat directly opposite.
It has hardly changed at all in the twenty years or so since I first visited Palmerston, apart from a fresh lick of paint. The large ‘Queen of the South FC’ sign which sits at the back of the paddock has been around for generations.
My favourite part of Palmerston is the deep Portland Drive terrace, where I had the rare pleasure of standing when I went to see Queens play Linlithgow Rose in the Scottish Cup last season.
With a roof that only stretches halfway over the terrace, old fashioned crush barriers, and a wee food hatch at the back, it can be considered rudimentary by current stadia standards but it’s everything an ‘old skool’ supporter like me looks for.
The piece-de-resistance is the old clock which sits on a gable in the middle of the roof, just above an advert for the Hole I’ The Wa’ Inn, in Dumfries town centre.
Together with the big floodlight pylons, which lurch menacingly over the pitch, the Portland Street terrace gives Palmerston a uniqueness which is missing from most football grounds these days.
Adding to the sense of tradition given over by the ground, this game also marked the 90th anniversary of the founding of Queen of the South FC, and many of their most revered former players were given the chance to take a bow at half time, to enthuasistic applause from the home support.
It was difficult as a visiting fan to appreciate the contribution of these guys to Queens, but you couldn’t argue with some of the stats trotted out by the stadium announcer.
In the modern era players just don’t play 700+ games for one club as one of the Queens heroes present had.
Whereas ‘the greats’ from other similar sized clubs would have stepped out at brand new stadia for similar celebrations, it was apt that the Queens players of yesteryear could go out onto the very same turf on which they performed because they certainly don’t make them like Palmerston anymore.
Scoring – 1-0 Wilson (35), 2-0 Dobbie (54), 2-1 Griffiths (67), 3-1 Dobbie (84), 3-2 Winters (88), 3-3 Griffiths (90, pen)
Attendance – 2487
Admission – £15
Programme – £2
Ground – 8/10. Charming mix of old and new, one of my favourites
Game – 7/10. Dramatic finish to decent game
Overall experience – 7/10. Good ground, good weather, good game
Match Report links
LiviNews.co.uk – Queen of the South official website