Alloa Athletic 1 Queen’s Park 1
Queen’s made it a magnificent seven unbeaten as they battled all the way to bring back a point from title-chasing Alloa.
Ross Millen finished off a fine flowing move to put the Spiders ahead in the second half, and although the home side did get the equaliser, Gus MacPherson’s men stood firm to the end.
The result on its own makes good reading, but what was even more pleasing on the eye for those in the QP camp was the way the team went about their business … and despite being a bit under the cosh in the latter stages, they fully merited the point which makes it five wins and two draws from the last seven outings.
We knew before kick-off that the Gaffer would have to make at least one change with Ryan McGeever sitting out because of suspension. The reintroduction of Scott Gibson , was entirely predictable, and in the end, Gus made one other change, bringing in Anton Brady for David Galt.
The changes in personnel did little to disrupt the formation, and Queen’s looked comfortable in the opening exchanges … on the field at least. The discomfort in the away section of the support could be put down to the bitingly cold wind, which had most huddling together for warmth. The one splendid exception was the hardy soul who sported his traditional shorts and a natty pair of sandals! Winter, what winter?
Those of you who have enjoyed (edured?) Gulliver’s reports over the years will have deduced that your scribe is no lover of plastic pitches, but that view was clearly not shared by the Spiders’ players as they began well, knocking the ball about confidently on the interestingly-named Indodrill Stadium’s artificial surface.
The measured approach was typified by one early move which saw virtually the entire team involved in a move which spread the ball the length and width of the pitch before Jamie McKernon got the chance to shoot. The final effort was lacking the accuracy of the build-up, but as a statement of intent, it laid down a good marker.
Queen’s then engineered a couple of decent crossing opportunities for Sean Burns, but the delivery wasn’t what we wanted.
We got the delivery right with the game’s first corner after 15 minutes, but Bryan Wharton couldn’t get the header right at the far post. It was a real opportunity, and one we thought might come back to haunt us, especially as our hosts immediately raced down the park and were only halted by the offside flag.
That set the pattern for the first period, with Queen’s enjoying the bulk of the possession, but Alloa looking menacing on the counter.
There were two former Spiders in the Wasps’ ranks, and one of them came close to opening the scoring after 20 minutes. Jamie Longworth found a bit of space at the far post and looped in a header which came back off the bar and was hoofed to safety.
It was an escape, and it certainly gave heart to the home side who then enjoyed their best spell of possession. Longworth shot over the top before Spence spurned two opportunities by straying offside when the break was on.
Wharton came to the rescue of the Spiders after 38 minutes when he produced a terrific intervention to deny Robertson as the home side had a three-on-two break.
Queen’s responded by winning a corner which the other former Spider Neil Parry had to punch over the bar as Burns’ got this delivery bang on.
Neither keeper was troubled in the remainder of the half which produced decent entertainment, but no goals.
Alloa Athletic 0 Queen’s Park 0
Alloa player-boss Jim Goodwin had spent plenty time in the opening period chirping away at referee Duncan, but whatever he said in the dressing room at the interval, it had the desired effect on his troops as they flew out of the blocks in the early stages. Queen’s found it difficult to get back into their routine, and the omens weren’t looking promising.
The home side took their efforts a bit too far, however, and earned themselves a spate of bookings. Robertson was first to receive an unwanted Christmas card from Duncan, and could have no arguments after he scythed down Brady in midfield.
That was after 48 minutes, and within 60 seconds, he was joined on the naughty step by Goodwin, who crudely took out Burns – and then Spence talked himself into a yellow card. With 52 minutes on the clock, booking number four arrived when Graham handled to prevent a through ball reaching Dario Zanatta.
In between all that activity, Millen produced a gem of a cross on the run, which Parry scrambled to clear, and then Gibson produced a stonking sliding block as Kirkpatrick threatened to expose our defence.
The back three/five earned their corn in the next few minutes as Alloa began to mount some pressure. Spence slipped at a crucial moment to let us off the hook and Kirkpatrick shot over the top after another speedy break.
Just after the hour, Queen’s took the lead with a goal that demands several more looks if it appears on the league’s tv highlights. The approach play was patient, the final through ball was precise … and the finish was perfection personified. Millen shared top spot in our goalscoring charts before this courtesy of his penalty duties. He’s now out on his own after a goal that must have had Gaffer Gus purring in the technical area.
It could have got even better five minutes later as Wharton rolled a gorgeous ball into the path of Zanatta. The lone striker turned Marr inside out and composed himself for the coup de gras, but instead of a killer blow, Dario’s effort was too tame and was easily taken by Parry.
Alloa tried to take full advantage of their escape immediately, and Willie Muir had to be alert to keep out a shot from Kirkpatrick, who was having far too big an influence on proceedings for your scribe’s liking.
And the same player was heavily involved in the home side’s equaliser after 69 minutes, finding space and time to get a cross in that couldn’t fail to produce a goal. Spence was the man to oblige, tapping home from the type of range that even Chris Iwelumo couldn’t miss from.
It was a different game now, with the Wasps doing their best to grab all three points, and Queen’s relying heavily on counter attacks to produce a sting in the tale.
Adam Cummins became our first player booked after 70 minutes, following a corner for the Spiders! We failed to test Parry enough from the cross, and Adam then “took one for the team” as he tugged back the breaking Spence.
Gus made his first change of the afternoon moments later, replacing Brady with Aiden Malone. The switch saw Zanatta drop back, but he wasn’t alone in that respect as we had to work hard to ensure we didn’t ship a late sickener.
Wharton twice produced vital tackles to keep us on terms, but although we were under pressure, we still looked composed on the counter and tried to play the ball out whenever possible. We thought we had done that to perfection after 82 minutes when Millen planted a cross on Malone’s head and he planted the ball past Parry. The celebrations died as quickly as they had begun when the officials ruled it out for offside.
Burns then tried to take a leaf out of his defensive colleagues’ books with a tackle on Robertson, but sadly, Sean was just a tad late getting there and was probably glad to see yellow rather than the red the home fans were baying for.
Muir showed his worth in the dying seconds when he clutched a header from Graham, and the whistle sounded almost immediately.
The home side will argue that their pressure showed have earned them the three points, but Gulliver would have to disagree. There were long periods of the first half in particular where Queen’s were by far the better team and played some neat stuff. OK, we didn’t make Parry work hard enough, but we did produce some lovely football, and every member of the team wanted to get on the ball.
Gus MacPherson will have enjoyed many aspects of the performance, but now has a dilemma on his hands for the visit to league leaders Livingston next Saturday. Ryan McGeever has been a rock in defence during our winning run, but it would be pretty harsh for anybody who brought back this point to get hooked to allow the big man to return. Still, isn’t it a nice problem to have when there’s real competition for places in your starting XI?
Today was a tough test, which we passed with flying colours. Next week promises to be even more demanding, but our early winter heroics mean that no matter what the outcome is on Saturday, we’ll spend Christmas looking down on at least four other teams.
That’s a nice thought. Keep the Faith!
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Scott Gibson, Jamie McKernon, Bryan Wharton, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Gregor Fotheringham, Dario Zanatta, Anton Brady (Aiden Malone), Sean Burns. Subs; John Carter, Conor McVey, Craig McLeish, Liam Brown, William Mortimer, Ewan MacPherson.
Highlights from behind the goal
Ross Millen opens the scoring
Aiden Malone scores but it’s offside.