Queen’s went into this one with a hat-trick on the cards. If you were a Spiders follower of the glass half-full variety, you looked to the visit of the league leaders as the chance to take points from Livingston for the third time in three attempts. If, however, your glass is always half-empty, then you were dreading a third defeat on the bounce after the boys lost out against Alloa and Brechin.
Given the fact that Livi have started to put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in League 1, the latter seemed the likelier outcome, but when did Queen’s Park ever conform to the likely scenario? In the end, they produced a gutsy performance, with no little skill thrown in – and more than deserved their draw.
Everybody knew beforehand that a big performance would be needed from Gus MacPherson’s men if they were to put the disappointment of Tuesday’s jaunt to Brechin to bed.
The Gaffer made a couple of changes from Tuesday. Paul Woods was dropped from the squad, with his place in the starting XI taken by Kalvin Orsi, while Conor McVey came in at the expense of Dominic Docherty. So the rather unexpected Queen’s line-up was: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Bryan Wharton, Adam Cummins, Ryan McGeever, Sean Burns, Jamie McKernon, McVey, Anton Brady, Dario Zanatta and Orsi. Docherty was joined on the bench by David Galt, Aiden McIlduff, Liam Brown, Gavin Mitchell, Willie Mortimer and Ewan MacPherson.
The early stages were pretty drab, but Queen’s won the first corner after five minutes. Wharton got his head to the ball, but his effort was quickly cleared.
Livi responded and Buchanan found a bit too much space for your scribe’s liking. The long legs of McGeever came to the rescue.
The visitors took the lead after 10 minutes with a goal that owed as much to Queen’s failings as the visitors ingenuity. Muir raced from his goal to clear, but his effort was half-blocked by Mullen. He chased the rebound out wide and played the ball back to Longridge. He had time to measure a low cross which was flicked on by De Vita and touched in at the far post by Pittman as the Spiders appealed in vain for offside.
Queen’s won a dangerous foul of their own from the restart and McKernon’s delivery caused an anxious moment in the Livi rearguard, before an unlucky deflection off Cummins gave the visitors a goal kick.
The Spiders were putting plenty into the game, and definitely shading possession as the first quarter of an hour came and went. However, our main goal threat looked like coming from set pieces – while Livi had menace all over the park.
Naturally, the next time Queen’s attacked, they were back on terms … with a goal that had nothing to do with set pieces. Zanatta capitalised on some strong play by Orsi to gain possession just outside the Livi box. Dario drove across the field, waited his moment … and then battered a low shot into the corner of the net. Nineteen minutes gone and it’s 1-1.
Queen’s had to settle again, but were back on the defensive as the visitors won a corner and Lithgow headed narrowly wide.
McGeever and Wharton then got us out of a tight spot at the midway point in the half, combining well to snuff out the livewire Buchanan.
The first flashpoint arrived after 25 minutes. Brady took off on one of his runs which came to and end when the wee man ran into the large frame of Lithgow. The pair had a spot of wrestling, Orsi came in to act as peacemaker … and got booked for his trouble along with Lithgow.
Mullen fired a shot wide as the football restarted.
Longridge went into the book on the half hour as he disputed a decision a bit too forcefully for Mr Newlands’ liking.
Brady was again at the heart of things as Queen’s burst from defence, making acres of ground before playing in Millen. His cross was hoofed clear and the visitors were quickly in our box. They couldn’t make the most of the opportunity, however, and the danger was cleared.
Zanatta won the Spiders a corner as the clock passed 41 minutes, but McKernon’s delivery was just overhit and the ball glanced of Dario’s head and behind for a goal kick.
It was the last action of what had been a decent first half, with Queen’s showing they were – as always – up for the fight.
Queen’s Park 1 Livingston 1
Neither side made any changes at the interval, but the visitors were out the traps quickly, pinning Queen’s back from the off. Three minutes in they had a big penalty shout as Millar’s cross appeared to strike Cummins’ arm as it was deflected behind.
A corner was the outcome which was clutched by Muir and his throw released Burns, who fed the overlapping Millen. His cross was headed for a corner by Lithgow, but nothing came of that either. Fifty minutes gone, and the pattern is still very much as it was.
The visitors looked to have taken the lead on 57 minutes when Halkett eased Cummins out of the way as a cross came in, and headed towards the far corner of the net, but Muir flew across the goal to pull off a special save.
However, the Spiders were under the cosh a bit and finding it ever harder to get out of their own half.
On the hour, Burns led a charge that for a moment saw Queen’s have four against three. It ended with Burns being fouled and Zanatta curling the free-kick just wide from the edge of the box.
Byrne then went into the book for taking out Zanatta right on the edge of the box. With the defensive wall only eight paces away, it was little wonder that McKernon’s effort was charged down.
The first change of the afternoon came after 66 minutes when Galt came on to replace Orsi, who had covered a lot of ground supporting his strike partner.
Livi made their first swap soon after when Josh Mullin replaced Byrne, and the sub almost made an instant impact, during a mad melee in the Queen’s box, but his shot skewed wide and with 17 minutes to go, it remained all square.
Galt won a corner for the Spiders, but before it was taken, Todorov replaced Buchanan. The corner from McKernon produced panic in the Livi area, but nobody could force it over the line and from the clearance, Muir had to get his handling spot on to clutch a cross from Todorov.
There were a lot of weary legs in the home ranks as we entered the final 13 minutes, but the determination to get something from the game was driving them on.
Zanatta almost snatched a dramatic goal as he burst onto a great through ball from Galt. But with the defence catching him, his shot from a wide angle drifted agonisingly wide.
Todorov became the sixth player booked when he handled the ball in full view of the officials … and the entire crowd.
Muir was almost caught out with a longe-range speculative effort, but regained his ground to tip it away for a corner. The ball in seemed to be headed behind by the big Livi sub, but Newlands saw it differently and gave another corner. The delivery was again menacing, but the final shot flashed wide and we could breathe again … with just five minutes left.
The visitors took the chance to make another change, replacing De Vita with Cadden.
It was almost one-way traffic now and the visitors earned another corner in the 87th minute. Cummins headed it away at the expense of yet another one. This one produced no threat as Muir was fouled.
Thirty seconds from time a long shy into the box almost produced a heartbreaking finale as the ball hit Mullen on the shin and rolled goalwards. Muir pounced again and we were past the 90-minute mark.
Another couple of wee scares failed to deny the Spiders a hard-earned point as Newlands finally blew the full-time whistle.
The result keeps Queen’s in sixth spot – a point off the promotion play-offs – and five clear of the other type of bun fight that we want to avoid.
Next week will be a huge one when we travel to Stranraer, but regardless of the outcome, it’s getting close to the time when you have to fasten the seatbelts as the rollercoaster takes its final few twists and turns.
Keep the Faith.