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Cup coverage focuses on Queens
Discounting the Lichties
From the Sunday Herald Ibrox winners' eyes now on prize
The Second Division leaders enjoyed a famous win over Rangers in the quarter- finals, sending their hosts tumbling out on penalties after an injury-time goal levelled the tie at 2-2, taking it to extra time.
It was a victory much celebrated by the Dumfries club's fans, but it was a result that went unadorned by silverware. To get their hands on the trophy, Allan Johnston's men must overcome two further hurdles, starting with Arbroath in the last four in the comparatively humble surrounds of Palmerston Park this afternoon.
A 6-0 thumping of the visitors there in the league just last month will disperse any nerves about the occasion and, indeed, Queens have rarely been made to feel uncomfortable this season, their only defeat to date coming in the Scottish Communities League Cup against Dundee United.
They would see progress to the final of this competition as at least partially fulfilling the expectations that have grown since Allan Johnston took over as player-manager at the end of last season. The main focus remains fixed on the league title after the club's board agreed to stay full-time despite suffering relegation from the First Division last term. The revenue generated by the tie at Ibrox will have alleviated some of the financial pressure that has created, but Johnston will remind his players not to relax their standards.
His appointment has proven to be a shrewd one, as has his decision to allow the prominent talent in Queens' youth system to stretch their legs in the first team. Teenager Gavin Reilly's goal forced extra time against Rangers, while the rangy Kevin Holt has grown into a stalwart of a defence that has conceded just three times at home all season.
"The young boys at the club have done really well, although they are not really classed as young boys any more," said Ryan McGuffie, who converted the decisive penalty at Ibrox.
"They are all pushing for places in the first team and they are earning the right to play. This has just been another week for us. Training is easy when you are winning games but it is always done at a high level."
With captain Chris Higgins suspended this afternoon, McGuffie is expected to fill the gap at the centre of the Queens defence, where he will come up against former Palmerston team-mate Derek Holmes.
The brawny Arbroath striker could not get the better of his former side last month but McGuffie is only concerned about reaching the final of this tournament with Queens for the second time in three years
"I don't think [the 6-0 win] has means anything for Sunday's game," the 32-year-old said. Even so, a similarly dominant display would most likely allow Queens a chance to stare into the shiny surface of the trophy at next year's final, where they would face a First Division club, with Cowdenbeath and Partick Thistle contesting the other semi-final later this afternoon.
That would prompt Queens to reprise their role as underdogs. It is a collar which did little to restrain them in the last round.
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