Edinburgh City 2 Queen’s Park 0

One look at the stats from today’s encounter at Ainslie Park might suggest it was a dirty game with tackles flying in from both sides. The final tally saw 35 fouls awarded and the yellow card flashed eight times; one of those bookings resulting in Alan Gow’s afternoon being cut short as his second yellow brought the mandatory red.

The reality lends truth to the old adage about “lies, damned lies and statistics” as there wasn’t a really malicious challenge in the game.

What supporters actually witnessed was a pretty poor, stop-start affair, with the windy conditions and the almost constant sound of the referee’s whistle destroying any chance of flowing football.

But it had all looked promising as the Spiders’ faithful arrived in the capital. After last week’s miserable sojourn to Annan, spirits were raised by the bright sunshine that greeted us. That delight was, however, tempered when we got pitchside and realised that the wind gusting across the park was again going to have an influence.

Gaffer Mark Roberts had spoken in the build-up about the difficulty of the task against title-chasing Edinburgh City, and the cause wasn’t helped by the continued absence of Gerry McLauchlan. He was joined on the sidelines by Billy Mortimer. The good news was that Scott McLean was fit again and he replaced Billy, while Gow stepped up from the bench with Kieran Moore swapping places.

The only notebook entries in the first 12 minutes were for free kicks to both sides, none of which brought either goalkeeper into action.

That changed a minute later when Ciaran Summers led a nice break up the left and forced Antell into what was a routine save.

Queen’s continued on the front foot and Calvin McGrory shot wide following another decent attack.

As the clock approached the 20-minute mark, we enjoyed our best spell of the game. David Galt and Kurtis Roberts exchanged passes before DG was a fraction strong with his final ball to Lewis Hawke. Then Summers saw his cross-come-shot rebound of the bar before Roberts had the follow-up blocked and then Hawke was a shade too high with the final attempt.

Dom McLaren was next to try his luck following a corner, but the ball wouldn’t come down for the big man and the danger was cleared.

Those of us who have followed Queen’s down the decades know that we are at our most vulnerable when we appear to be getting on top … and that was again the case today.

With the first third of the game almost over, the home side took the lead – with what was their first meaningful attack.

McLaren and the goal-hungry Blair Henderson had been having a good old battle, with no quarter asked or given. It looked to most that Dom had won another round as he rose powerfully to head clear from the striker. Referee Peter Stuart saw things differently, however, and not only awarded the home side a free-kick, he also booked McLaren into the bargain.

Needless to say, as the ball was swung into the box, Queen’s failed to clear and the City striker had a simple task to open the scoring. In defence of the Spiders’ players, there were strong claims for a City handball in the stramash that followed the first ball in, but the officials failed to spot anything amiss and the Spiders found themselves a goal down.

That was the last of the goalmouth action in the first period, which fell back into the pattern of niggling fouls and misplaced passes. Henderson raised the temperature in the stands by doing a “Big Dom” on the QP defender. Stuart did give the foul, but took no further action.

Half-time

Edinburgh City 1 Queen’s Park 0

There was a blow for  the Spiders at the start of the second period as Summers failed to resume after he’d suffered a leg knock. James Grant took his place.

Although the elements were slightly in favour of the Spiders now, the game again failed to ignite. Once more there was nothing in the notebook other than fouls … and then the whistler made his most telling intervention of the afternoon.

Ten minutes in, Gow was booked for what Stuart deemed dissent. Two minutes later, the veteran was a shade late with a challenge on Liam Henderson and there was never going to be any outcome other than a second yellow card – and an early bath for the Queen’s playmaker.

It was also the end of the afternoon for Liam Henderson and Black as they were replaced by Shepherd and Rodger.

Tempers were now getting distinctly frayed in the visiting camp and skipper Gibson was the next to go into the book. Typically of the way the afternoon was going, he was carded for dissent after being fouled by Blair Henderson. The striker seemed to kick-out in the melee, but Stuart deemed yellow to be the appropriate colour for his card as well.

As we entered the final quarter, Hawke was replaced by Moore. Henderson was also swapped for Diver soon after.

Queen’s were now taking more chances in their attempts to salvage a point, and Hart had to look lively as the last home sub broke clear. Jordan stood tall and the only punishment for Queen’s was a corner that was cleared with ease.

The bookings continued to mount up as the clock ran down. Kurtis Roberts found that “veritas” was no defence when he tried to dispute one of the whistler’s decisions. The midfielder was soon joined in the book by Moore for a challenge on Balatoni.

The home subs took centre stage in the dying minutes. Firstly Rodger was booked for a foul on Moore and then with five minutes left, City killed off any hopes we had of a comeback. Diver was clear at the far post to tap in a cross from Watson after more untidy defending from the visitors.

With the game now dead, the Gaffer gave Galt a wee rest as he brought on the promising Steven Bradley for some useful game time.

Referee Stuart hadn’t won many friends throughout the game, but he earned unanimous approval as he blew the final whistle and brought a miserable afternoon to an end.

How do you sum up an afternoon like this? Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said is that Queen’s are capable of playing much better.

And while Gulliver would never criticise an official, it’s hard not to sympathise with the feeling of injustice in the away dressing room. To a man, the squad felt the big decisions had gone against them. What makes it even more frustrating, is that the boys put a huge amount of unpaid effort into training and preparing for games … and those efforts can be undermined by one toot of the referee’s whistle.

Having said all that, the boys are honest enough to admit that they are shipping too many sloppy goals, and not converting chances … and that’s not down to anybody but themselves.

Next up is another away trip to Berwick where we will face a side fighting for league survival, and desperate to make amends for the Hampden drubbing we dished out to them a few weeks ago.

It’s not been a good day, but the eternal optimist that is your scribe can’t help but leave you on a more positive note.

After last Saturday’s defeat at Annan, we were eighth in the table, two points behind Cowdenbeath. On Friday night, without kicking a ball, we were two points better off as the powers that be awarded us a 3-0 victory over Clyde in the game that actually finished 1-1 after the Bully Wee were punished for fielding an ineligible player. You couldn’t make it up.

Keep the Faith!

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