Oct 5 2012 by Andrew Burns, Dumfries Standard Friday
ALLAN Johnston has warned that the best is yet to come from high-flying Queen of the South.
The Doonhamers are sitting pretty at the top of the Irn-Bru Second Division with a 100 per cent league home record.
On top of this, the Palmerston men, who are unbeaten in the league so far, have dumped Rangers, Hibs and Morton out of the domestic cup competitions.
And ahead of this weekend’s south west derby at Stranraer, Johnston insists his team can still improve in the months ahead.
"Our players have been magnificent over the past few months," he told the Standard.
"It’s all been a bit hectic with all the midweek cup games but the boys have managed so well.
"We have played with such high energy and commitment and I can’t fault the players.
"But I don’t think we have seen the best from this squad yet.
"It’s a relatively new group and there are still a few guys finding their feet and others knocking on the door to get in the team.
"We have a good group of players and every one of them wants to play – the key is competition.
"All the guys know that if they are not performing then someone is waiting to try and take their place.
"There will be games where we won’t play well but we can’t let our energy and commitment levels drop.
"And already these players are developing a winning mentality and that will be hugely beneficial as the season goes on.
"Look at the Rangers game – they knew they could win it and didn’t give up, even with seconds left.
"Then there was the game at Ayr United and against Alloa at the weekend – we didn’t too play well but the boys knew they were capable of getting the three points."
Queens make the trip along the A75 to Stair Park on Saturday in a top-versus- bottom clash at Stranraer.
The Dumfries men haven’t won at the home of their local rivals since March 2002, when both sides were in the Scottish Second Division.
Hundreds of Doonhamers are expected to travel to Stair Park for the first league meeting between the sides since 2006, with Queens odds-on favourites to continue their run.
Keith Knox’s basement team fell to their third successive defeat at the weekend, losing 6-2 at home to East Fife.
But Johnston, whose team lead Stranraer by 14 points after only seven games, is well aware of the test that his team will face in the derby clash.
He said: "Stranraer will be desperate to bounce back after the East Fife game and we must be prepared for that.
"On the back of that result and with it being local derby, Keith Knox will have them fired right up for this game.
"They’ve not had much luck this season, and just had one of those days last weekend, but I know a few of their players and they are a good team.
"But we will go there in good form, with plenty of confidence and a big crowd behind us.
"I know that the Queens fans will be travelling in their numbers yet again.
"It has been great to see so many fans turn out to the games in recent weeks and I have no doubt that they will be up for the derby on Saturday."
Queens will be without Kevin Smith for a few more games after the striker underwent another operation recently to try and cure a long-standing groin injury.
Smith, who has played once and scored once for the Doonhamers this season, is expected to be out of action for one month.
Johnston added: "Kevin’s operation seemed to go well and hopefully this can be a fresh start for him.
"He struggled a lot with injury last season and had the operation earlier this year but I don’t think that was very successful.
"He should miss around four weeks but hopefully this can bring an end to his injury troubles and we can get him back in the squad.
"Kevin is a quality player that will bring more competition up front and that is never a bad thing."