Aug 3 2012 by Andrew Burns, Dumfries Standard Friday
Allan Johnston’s Queens - a tactical analysis
DOONHAMERS boss Allan Johnston said he wanted to bring the magic back to Palmerston. Famous for his attacking qualities throughout a glittering playing career, Johnston now wants to stamp this on his new-look Queens team. Here, Standard reporter ANDREW BURNS analyses how the side is shaping up and what supporters can expect on the pitch this season.
THE KEY term used above is "new-look" and this is something that could easily be challenged.
For example, eight of last weekend’s starting eleven were at the club last season, not to mention three on the bench and four in the stands.
That’s 15 of last season’s ill- fated squad that succumbed to relegation from Scottish football’s second tier.
There are plenty of familiar faces in the Doonhamers’ squad but it is the approach to the game that allows this group of players to stand out from last season.
Last Saturday at Dumbarton, as Queens got their campaign off to a win in the Ramsdens Cup, the Dumfries team’s desire to play the ball on the surface was evident from the outset.
Star keeper Lee Robinson, when alleviating pressure from the back, always looked to find a teammate in space, with Danny Carmichael and Willie Gibson regularly coming short for the pass.
This resonated from back to front, with forwards Nicky Clark and Kevin Smith often looking to take the ball into feet and create space for a forward-thinking midfield player.
That’s not to say that Queens won’t lump it when required – with Smith very capable of holding up the ball – but the lack of a Tom Brighton or Sam Parkin figure further limits this option.
Some may argue otherwise, but this is not necessarily an advantage, and Queens’ impotence at set-pieces was clear at the Rock last weekend.
Under Gus MacPherson, Queens rarely scored from a dead- ball and it is difficult to see Smith, Clark and Carmichael winning many headers against six foot- plus second division defenders.
Clark, Smith and teenager Gavin Reilly will score plenty of goals this season but will that be enough to fire the team to promotion?
The pace and trickery is there and this will cause problems for many but Johnston will still be hopeful of injecting some presence and mettle into his attacking options.
It is difficult to see anything other than Carmichael and Gibson on the wing for Queens this season and this will undoubtedly be a feared pairing in the second division.
Stephen McKenna, while consistently picking up bookings, is a combative and energetic central midfielder and his drive will be the heartbeat of the Queens side this season.
With Johnston switching between the pitch and the dugout, the centre of the park is somewhere that still needs strengthening, with trialist Derek Young filling the gap last weekend.
At the back, a settled back four is essential for any title aspirations regardless of what league you are playing in.
New signing Mark Durnan earned the praise last week while newly-appointed captain Chris Higgins was one of few players to impress in the second half of last season.
It is likely that these two will form the centre-back pairing, with able back-ups in Ryan McGuffie and Steven Black, while Dumfries teenager Kevin Holt has made the left-back spot his own.
Right-sided full back Chris Mitchell was brought in last week but it would be fair to say the position is up for grabs.
McGuffie performed well in this position last week, with Black also very capable in the role, and both will be looking to stake their claim for a starting berth, especially given that Mitchell has not played competitively for a number of months.
Lee Robinson was one of the best goalkeepers in the first division last season and he will prove crucial as Queens aim for promotion.
On top of the regular first-team starters, Johnston also has strength in depth in youngsters Dan Orsi, Ian McShane and Patrick Slattery, and each could play a vital role this season.
It is clear that the Doonhamers are looking very strong for this coming season and new manager Johnston is building an exciting attack-minded side.
More names are expected through the doors at Palmerston but the spine of the team is there and is looking very promising.
Whether this will be enough to match title rivals Ayr United, Alloa Athletic and Arbroath remains to be seen – but Queens should certainly be there or thereabouts come May next year.
We are strapped in for the ride – hope you will be joining us.