Annan Athletic 2 Queen’s Park 1

If travel broadens the mind, then those of us who follow the Mighty Queen’s ain’t half getting a good education this season. On Tuesday night, we were halfway to Shetland to witness our depleted squad take a point off Elgin. Today we’re heading almost halfway to France to see if we can bring anything home from our game against Annan.

Just as it was in midweek, the trip will test our reserves as we will again be without the defensive solidity of Gerry McLauchlan and as if that’s not enough,  we’re facing a team that’s bang in form, having won their last three matches – and haven’t tasted defeat in their last 10 outings. Contrast that with the Spiders’ form on the road, where we haven’t picked up full points since that glorious run in October when we won three away games on the bounce.

No wonder Mark Roberts warned pre-match today that we would have to be at our best to take anything from our journey south.

The Gaffer had been encouraged – like the rest of us – with much of what he saw in our last two outings against Clyde and Elgin. However, he knew that we would have to cut out the silly mistakes if we were to get back to winning ways.

He might have been tempted to stick to the team which had lined up at Borough Briggs. Unfortunately, he was denied that opportunity by the absence through injury of Scott McLean who has looked like a player revitalised since moving to the wing-back position. So Mark made one change, replacing McLean with Billy Mortimer.

Apart from the difficulties presented by our opponents, there was another challenge for both teams as the forerunner to Storm Freya brought driving rain and a howling gale to the south of Scotland. Indeed, there was some doubt pre-match as to whether we would even get started as the wind made it almost impossible to get the ball to stay still on the plastic surface.

However, we did get underway as planned and not surprisingly, the home side chose to have the elements at their back in an effort to pile on the pressure from the off.

But it was Queen’s who settled better and we might have made more of a couple of early dead-ball opportunities. David Galt had our first genuine effort, but his left-foot shot drifted wide after 12 minutes.

We stayed on the front foot in the first quarter and Kieran Moore almost gave us something to warm the hands when he went close with a header from another corner.

Annan had their first concerted attack as we passed the 22nd minute, and there was no surprise when it was a long, wind-assisted shy that caused us anxiety before the ball finally went behind for a goal kick.

Far from being the end of our problems, however, that was just the start. As Jordan Hart went to take the kick, the ball rolled off its spot. Going by the letter of the law, referee Cook made him retake the clearance – with the almost inevitable result. Hart’s kick was picked off in midfield and fed wide to Johnston. Our first error was letting him get a cross in; our second was failing to pick up Wallace in the box and he had the simplest task to nod home from point-blank range.

It was a situation we’ve all seen before; Queen’s on top – not making the most of our opportunities – and then conceding a silly goal. No wonder Mark Roberts looked as dark as the clouds over Galabank as his side trooped upfield for the restart.

It was going to be tough to get back on terms against an efficient Annan outfit, and the task got even tougher just after the half hour. Smith was penalised for barging into Mortimer, and it was immediately evident that the Queen’s wingback was in real discomfort as he fell awkwardly. He was immediately tended by the QP physio team … but unfortunately it took longer than was ideal for any stretcher to appear and Billy had to be helped to hobble of the park and wait on the touchline for the first aiders to finally appear. It didn’t look good as the youngster left the pitch on the stretcher with his leg in a brace.

James Grant came on to replace Mortimer, and the Spiders continued to seek a way back into the game. They almost found one nine minutes from the interval when Lewis Hawke got clear, but his first touch took him just a tad wide and his effort back across goal was scrambled clear.

Neither keeper was troubled in the remainder of the first period and the half-time whistle sounded with the score:

Annan Athletic 1 Queen’s Park 0.

With the wind at their backs, Queen’s might have been expected to apply early pressure on their hosts. Unfortunately, it was the opposite that happened and Annan began the second period in menacing mode.

They took control of possession and Hart’s defence had to look lively as they faced a number of corners and free-kicks. Jamie McKernon kept us in the game with a timely interception to deny Wallace as the home side searched for what they hoped would be a killer second goal.

Annan also made a couple of substitutions as they pressed forward, replacing Nade and Bradley with Muir and Moxon. They almost made it two when Scott Gibson threw himself bravely in the path of a goalbound shot. He cleared the effort at the expense of a corner … and a very painful blow to the head which saw him needing prolonged treatment. Thankfully, he was able to continue.

Moxon was then involved in one of the game’s more bizarre incidents as play was held up by Cook for more than two minutes to allow the sub to try to tie his boots. It was bad enough that the hardy souls in the crowd had to endure the wind and rain all afternoon, but for that to be prolonged by a player who couldn’t do his laces, merely added insult to injury.

And a bad afternoon soon got worse as Queen’s conceded another goal that will have the Gaffer shaking his head in disbelief. This time it was Hooper given space to get in a cross from the right and Wallace was again free to head home from close range.

Now 2-0 down, the Boss made his second change of the afternoon, bringing on Alan Gow for Moore. And within a couple of minutes, we were back in the game as Galt picked up a loose ball and drilled a curling shot into the corner of McAdams’ net.

Queen’s made their final change with 13 minutes left on the clock, bringing on Steven Bradley for Kurtis Roberts. The contrast between our last two subs couldn’t have been more stark as Gow made his senior debut more than a year before Bradley was born in 2002.

The youngster was certainly not overawed by the occasion and his first involvement was a clattering challenge in midfield … much to the delight of the visiting support.

The Spiders battled to get back on terms, but never really put McAdams under serious pressure until deep into injury time. Hawke chased down a ball on the left and managed to get it across to Gow. It looked as if Alan’s drawback had given him space for the shot, but his effort was blocked right at the death and our last opportunity was blown away.

The final whistle sounded soon after, bringing the curtain down on a disappointing afternoon. Queen’s yet again looked decent in patches, and more than matched their opponents in terms of possession. But if you’re struggling to convert chances when you make them – and conceding silly goals at the same time – then you’re not going to move up any league table.

The positive side of things is that the introduction of teenagers like Bradley suggest the QP youth conveyor belt is still churning out the talent. That will become an even more vital requirement when we no longer have the lure of Hampden to tempt more seasoned players to join the ranks of this famous club.

So that’s us travelled to Peterhead, Elgin and Annan in recent weeks … and we’ve still got a midweek trek to England to face, along with a journey to the Capital, before we once again sample the delights of our Hampden home. All anybody in the camp will be wishing for is that at least one of those awayday jaunts brings us three points.

Keep the Faith!

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, Ciaran Summers, Dominic McLaren, Jamie McKernon, Scott Gibson, William Mortimer, Calvin McGrory, Kurtis Roberts, David Galt, Lewis Hawke, Kieran Moore. Subs : Alan Gow,  Euan East, Josh Peters, Steven Bradley, James Grant, Lewis Magee, Kieran McDougall.