Queen of the South v Saints preview
Saints are playing in England at the weekend but they're making one final stop before they cross the border tomorrow night when they face Queen of the South in Dumfries.
This should be a decent test for us – although Saturday was as well and didn't go particularly well. Queens won the second division at a canter last season and also lifted the Ramsdens Cup, beating Rangers and Partick Thistle along the way. They also managed to put Hibs out of the League Cup - the first half being the only game time the horrific Pa Kujabi saw all season. They've lost a few players - and a manager - since then but will still be tough opponents and will give us a good workout. On a personal level, I'm delighted with this friendly as I live a 20 minute walk from Palmerston!
This game comes with something we've not had to deal with for some time - a plastic pitch. A 3G surface has been installed at Palmerston over the summer months and this will be one of the first games on it. We haven't played a competitive game on plastic since we faced Hamilton in the first division back in 2006 and it's a fair bet the technology has come on a great deal since then. It surely can't be a worse pitch than Accies back then and, as Queens are getting used to it as well, it shouldn't have too big an impact.
Instead, we need to worry more about our team. Saturday may have been the Renfrewshire Cup Final but it was still only a friendly. However, it seems to have got many people rather worried about the lack of numbers in the squad – and the quality of the players we do have. We've shipped four goals in each of our last two friendlies and another goalfest by the opposition will surely force the management and the board to bring in some reinforcements. Hopefully that won't happen as our frail defence and our new keeper could do with a bit of a confidence boost.
We'll still be without David Barron at the back but David van Zanten will hopefully be available after taking a knock at the weekend. Kenny McLean is out long term but that's about it – still quite a lot at this stage of the season considering our small squad. Hopefully Thomas Reilly will get a decent run out and show that two strikers in a more orthodox formation is the way forward.
It should have been a relatively straightforward summer for Queens as they got ready for life back in the first division, having been relegated last year under the stewardship of former Buddies boss Gus MacPherson. It certainly didn't look like manager - ex Saint Allan Johnston - was going anywhere after he signed a new contract. However, he decided to take the Kilmarnock job when it came up and suddenly the Doonhamers were scrambling for a new manager. In the end they went for Jim McIntyre, who previously took Dunfermline to the first division title before being booted during their horrific year in the SPL. A promotion push might not be out of the question, especially with play-offs, but McIntyre's late appointment will make things difficult.
He's not the only loss Queens have had to deal with either. Nicky Clark scored a ridiculous 41 goals last season and then made the even more ridiculous decision to move to Rangers rather than play in the first division or even chance his arm in the SPL. It would be hard for any team to cope with losing that number of goals from the side and time will tell if Livingston's Iain Russell is the man to replace Clark, with Derek Lyle and Gavin Reilly other options. Dan Carmichael and Michael Paton are threats from the wings, while Paul Burns knows where the net is as well.
Completing the trio of high profile departures was Lee Robinson. The eccentric goalie, whose antics in the Ramsdens Cup final penalty shoot-out were most amusing - opted to move to Sweden rather than stick it out with Queens. He's yet to be replaced, although Hibs' goalie Calum Antell has featured as a trialist in recent weeks. McIntyre has brought Andy Dowie - who he worked with at Dunfermline - into the defence that was already fairly strong with Chris Higgins, Ryan McGuffie, Kevin Holt and Mark Durnan.
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Source: Mirren MAD
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