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Palmy derby showdown

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By Euan Maxwell and Zac Hannay
Annan and Eskdale
Palmy derby showdown

COMPETITIVE football has finally returned and the first serving is a tasty derby cup tie between Queen of the South and Annan Athletic.

After six or so weeks getting ready for the big day, both Queens and Annan will go head-to-head in the first Premier Sports Cup match at Palmerston Park this Saturday.

Wullie Gibson’s League One side have been impressive during their pre-season programme with two victories against Championship duo Raith Rovers and Hamilton Accies.

Now begins the real stuff, with the Doonhamers hosting the Black and Golds on Saturday before travelling to Somerset Park on Tuesday night for their second group match.

Queens assistant Grant Murray admits it’s going to be a tough group, which also includes top flight St Johnstone and Elgin City, but insists going up against a local rival is a tremendous way to start the season.

He said: “It will be a tough game and it’s the first competitive one. Everyone wants to start the season well and set their stall out. The league is most important for any team but you want a good cup run. Everyone wants to progress and we’re no different.

“It’s got that slight edge because it’s a derby. It’s a great game to start the season with. We respect Annan, they are a very good side. We know at this time of the season that anything can happen in games of football because of who’s available for you on the day. Annan have had a hard pre-season and they’ll be wanting to start the season well.

“We don’t underestimate the group, we’ve got some tough games, starting with the derby against Annan then Ayr during the week, then facing a Premiership side in St Johnstone and then the journey to Elgin. It’s tough, tough games but they are ones we want to win and try to progress. It builds momentum if you can win cup ties as well.”

The number two hopes strikers Gavin Reilly and Michael Ruth will feature after missing their last two friendlies and also revealed that Iain Wilson and Euan East are due back to training next week.

Murray added: “We should have every player back on the training pitch on Monday, touch wood.

“Iain picked up a slight calf injury early on in the first week of pre-season so we’ve got to be careful how we manage stuff nowadays as we don’t want to push players so hard that they end up missing a lot more than they should.

“Euan suffered some blisters slightly and he had an ongoing foot injury that carried on from last season.

“He’s done a wee bit of training in the first week but he’s missed a wee bit. But they should be back in some kind of training by Monday.”

Meanwhile, Athletic boss Peter Murphy believes his League Two side will be relishing the prospect of Saturday’s derby.

It has been a stop start pre-season for the Galabankies as they have been unable to get their full squad together for the majority of their preparations. Although, this did not stop them from coming away with a draw against a Greenock Morton and putting in a strong performance against Atherton Collieries, despite losing 2-1.

CONFIDENT . . . Annan boss Peter Murphy

Murphy said: “It was a great run out for our players against very strong opposition in Atherton Collieries. We finished pre-season with a strong performance and are now looking forward to the cup games.

“We have had a stop start pre-season regarding our group of players due to holidays and weddings.

“Everyone associated with Annan Athletic would like to wish a big congratulations to Mr and Mrs Hooper on their wedding.

“Now that we are all back and raring to go, the first game is a tough local derby. I’m sure all the players will be relishing getting back to competitive games.”

The clubs have met twice before in the cup competition, last season Queens ran out comfortable 3-1 winners at Galabank. However, the last time the sides met at Palmerston the game finished 3-3 with the Dumfries side edging the penalty shoot-out.

Prices for Saturday’s game are adults £12, all concessions £6, under 16s free, all accessible tickets £6 (including carer)

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