Allan Johnston heaped praise for his battling Doonhamers following Saturday’s narrow Scottish Cup exit at Kilmarnock.
Ten-man Queens fell to a 2-1 defeat at Rugby Park and were unlucky not to force a replay against the Scottish Premier League outfit.
Killie’s progression looked certain when Borja Perez doubled the hosts’ lead after Cillian Sheridan’s opener.
A brilliantly worked goal from leading scorer Nicky Clark with only a few minutes left set up a nervy finish for the Ayrshire team but they were able to see the result through.
Ex-Kilmarnock midfielder Johnston said: “I’m really proud of the players – I thought they were brilliant.
“We were always in the game and we created chances, which is always difficult when you’re a man less, and credit should go to the boys for that.
“We kept going right to the end and I think we caused them a lot of problems.”
The Dumfries men were forced to play with one players less for almost the full game after Stephen McKenna was given his marching orders by referee Mike Tumilty in the second minute.
Combative midfielder McKenna was shown a straight red card for a tough challenge on Perez, much to the frustration of the Queens boss.
Johnston said: “I thought it was a bit soft but I’m not a referee. It was frustrating.
“I thought it was a strong challenge where he won the ball.
“I have watched it on the video and, to be honest, if you’re going to send players off for that then they’ll be getting sent off every two minutes.”
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels, who was left aghast at a controversial refereeing decision against his own team the week before, also questioned whether McKenna should have seen red.
He said: “I’m at my wit’s end as to how it’s a sending off. The SFA must have changed the rules.
“I don’t know if it’s a directive to send people off for making a tackle but I couldn’t see anything wrong with the challenge.
“I’m trying to figure out why there wasn’t six or seven sent off today because there should have been under this directive.”
Queens captain Chris Higgins, who was left pleading with referee Tumilty as he pulled out the red card, added: “The referee said he went in with two feet, which he definitely didn’t. He was maybe off the ground but he didn’t go in with two feet – he got the ball and kicked it onto the player.”
■ See inside for a full report from Rugby Park.