The eagerly anticipated season opener finally arrived and there was an infectious buzz of excitement around Gamecock Meadows. The Queen FC came into this fixture on the back of a productive pre-season, consisting of some morale boosting performances. However, the professional preparations came at a cost for The Queen. Summer recruit James Mitchell has quickly become a regular performer and his impressive nine goal haul in pre-season speaks for itself. Unfortunately however, there will be a long wait before Mitchell's name is on the scoresheet once again as he suffered ligament damage just four days before the season start. He now joins fellow striker Danny Haines on the physio table.
In terms of teams news for the home side, there was to be an untested organisation to compensate for notable absentees. The reliable centre back, Scott Hunter, was fielded as a lone striker to spear head a new look attack including the pacey duo of Jason Parker and Jason Moxom. On the back of a solid closing friendly last Sunday, the defence and centre midfield remained the same.
In a frantic start to the game, The Queen took their time to settle and allowed AFC Burnham an early grip hold on the game. Despite this, the away side failed to create any notable chances, a match stat they would eventually live to regret. With twelve minutes on the clock, Gavin Howell stood over a dead ball twenty five yards from goal. His looping strike eluded the visiting goalkeeper but the unfavourable contact with the crossbar ensured the playmaker was denied a second long distance goal in consecutive games.
This chance then encouraged a relentless wave of orange pressure. Inevitably, this pressure was to result in jubilation for the home side. A sweetly delivered corner from Lewis Royal on the left side was expertly cleared by the visitors, only for Howell to smartly divert the ball back to the corner taker. Royal then swung an inviting cross into the box which evaded everyone and nestled in the top corner of the net. One nil to the home side and starting to look comfortable.
Four minutes later and Royal was once again causing havoc in the visiting penalty area with his expert delivery. His inswinging corner from the left wing found the leap of the makeshift striker Hunter who obliged and flicked the ball into the back of the net to give the home side a two goal advantage.
A continuous flurry of pacy attack play followed this second goal, but no more goals were to come and so the home side took a comforting two nil lead in to the break.
Two changes at the break for The Queen as injuries to Sean Cahill and Jack Illsley meant the defence would welcome Peter Bourne and Ben Humberstone.
The home side started the second half as they left off in the first. Some delightful wide play from Jim Jones and Jason Moxom created a simple headed chance for Hunter. Unfortunately he was not to be as prolific this time around as he nodded wide from six yards. Six minutes later a defence splitting through ball from Parker sent Howell racing through on goal who was to be denied by the on rushing goalkeeper.
The following ten minutes saw a reduction in pressure from the home side as they noticeably took their foot off the gas and allowed the visitors back into the game. A twenty five yard drive was expertly tipped over the bar by Queen goalkeeper Joe Stevens. Thats should have been a wake up call for the home side, but in a cruel turn of events the game took a quick change of direction. Another corner, another goal. This time the ball sat in the back of The Queen's net as the visitors closed the deficit and took the momentum in their stride. Eight minutes later the visitors made the hosts pay as they equalised in an untidy fashion. A strike from the edge of the box narrowly bypassed the unsighted Stevens. Two all and a complete scoreline reversal seemed inevitably.
In a true test of character, The Queen FC were forced to dust themselves off and look for a foothold in a game that was seemingly slipping away. Luckily for the home supporters the hosts excelled with their backs against the wall. Both Queen wingers combined in explosive fashion to ensure that the momentum was well and truely back with them. A precise cross from Moxom on the right was met at the back post by the grateful Parker who restored the home side's lead.
Six minutes from time, substitute Rob Stott ensured that The Queen would have three points on the board in spectacular fashion. Collecting the ball from the impressive Royal, Stott side-stepped one defender and curl an unstoppable shot into the net from twenty five yards. An early goal of the season contender from the impact sub.
A huge victory for The Queen today which they can now push on from for the rest of the season.