Queens dream of glory in first final

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The Independent Online

The curtain comes down today on an extraordinary season for Scottish football with Queen of the South hoping to become only the second team from outside the top division to lift the Scottish Cup. East Fife did it in 1938, nobody since.

First Division Queens, from Dumfries, reached their first final in any competition by beating Aberdeen 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final to earn a berth at Hampden this afternoon against Rangers, who have lifted the Cup 31 times.

And on a form line through Aberdeen, Gordon Chisholm's men should be nothing like the 5-1 outsiders the bookmakers think they are to take the trophy home. Queens won against the Dons, who in turn beat Rangers 2-0 on Thursday.

More rationally, Queens have had four weeks' rest and a holiday in Spain since last kicking a ball in anger on 26 April. Rangers, in contrast, have played nine matches since then, and endured the agonies of losing the Uefa Cup final and falling at the final hurdle in the SPL title race, won by Celtic.

Rangers, through their natural superiority and resources, remain the favourites, but there could have been no better year for Queens to meet them in a final.

"If you're going to get to a cup final you couldn't wish for better circumstances, playing a team who played less than 48 hours beforehand," conceded Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, yesterday.

Players to watch for fairytale endings include Queens' Steve Tosh and James McQuilken, both Cup final losers on penalties with minnows Gretna two years ago, and Rangers' DaMarcus Beasley, 26 today, who is in line for a recall after a season of injury misery.

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