Queen’s Park 2 Albion Rovers 0
JUST four games left until the regular season ends, and Queen’s Park are still in contention for promotion to the Championship.
You should read that paragraph again, ever so slowly, and then pinch yourself.
Our splendid, hard-fought win over Peterhead last week kept us in touch with the three teams above us all fighting for a promotion play-off place, and just three points cover Queen’s, Airdrie, Brechin, and East Fife, with champions Livingston and Alloa out of our sight.
It will take a continued colossal effort from our young squad to keep our season alive beyond the 36 games — with visits to Livi and Airdrie sandwiching a home game with Stenny to complete our schedule — but nothing should detract from what will be a magnificent achievement just to stay in League One as a promoted amateur club.
Of course, today’s visitors Albion Rovers will not have given up the play-off chase, either, being just a point behind Queen’s, but Homer suspects that like us their primary aim this season would have been to avoid the anguish that is currently being endured below us.
Rovers are coming off an impressive 3-0 home win against Stranraer, and it was only a fortnight ago that Queen’s needed a late-late Anton Brady goal to win us a midweek point at Cliftonhill, our first two meetings having ended in one win apiece.
For the second last game of the regular season at Hampden Park, head coach Gus MacPherson could call on two midfielders who missed out against Peterhead.
Jamie McKernon returned from suspension and went straight into the team, while Conor McVey had recovered from injury and was on the bench. McKernon’s inclusion meant Dominic Docherty dropping to the bench in the only change from last week.
And Queen’s fans would not have been unhappy to see that former Spiders stalwart Mick Dunlop was missing from the Rovers backline, as was fellow-defender Alan Reid, as both served a ban.
It was a bright, clear day but with a bitingly cold wind, and the Hampden pitch looked immaculate having just been cut in glorious Hoops as Rovers kicked off defending the away end.
There were 82 seconds on the clock when Queen’s missed a chance to take the lead. Zanatta won a free-kick after a challenge by Ross Dunlop and McKernon’s kick picked out Cummins completely on his own eight yards out attacking the near post, only for the defender to head over the bar.
Almost a glorious start to a special day – 50 years exactly since Scotland dumped the world champions at Wembley!
Back to reality, and McCann was booked four minutes for taking out Zanatta before Queen’s almost committed hara kari three minutes later.
Last man McKernon was caught and dispossessed by Willis, who broke clear into the box. He was just about to pull the trigger when the galloping McGeever used his long legs firstly to catch the Rovers man and then knock the ball away in a powerful but fair sliding tackle.
As usual against Rovers it was quick and it was competitive (ie: frantic) and there was nothing between the teams in the first 20 minutes, although Homer’s black and white blinkers had Queen’s ahead on points.
That could (should?) have changed in 26 minutes, and again it was Cummins heading wide from a McKernon cross eight yards out, and then two minutes later McKernon himself shot wide from a tight angle on the edge of the box.
Sean Burns had set up Zanatta’s goal last week with a superb pass and in 34 minutes here he produced another crossfield gem to release Mitchell, who got to the byeline but saw his cutback cleared before it could reach MacPherson.
Queen’s had been making some uncharacteristic mistakes at the back and another in 38 minutes caused panic, if not in the defence then certainly in the stands. Burns’ attempted pass across his own 18-yard line went straight to Willis but thankfully he was crowded out before he could do much damage.
But Queen’s did manage to do some damage when they took the lead with a crucial goal in 41 minutes.
It was all thanks to the tenacity of young MacPherson, who hustled Gilmour into a mistake as they chased a McKernon pass into the Rovers box, then took the ball round the defender before calmly sidefooting wide of stranded keeper Stewart. Well done, young man.
And if that was good, it could have got even better two minutes later, as Galt was first to a Burns cross at the near post and agonisingly sent a header off the upright.
Still, a good first-half from the Spiders. Keep it going.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 Albion Rovers 0
The half-time cuppa took on surreal proportions when we realised results elsewhere put us currently third in League One! Time up, ref!
Could it get any better? Yes, it could, and after just 14 seconds of the second half, it did.
It was a Galt special, with MacPherson claiming the assist, a slipped pass and from 25 yards Galt thundered a trademark right-foot rocket off the bar and down behind stunned keeper Stewart. If they could bottle this feeling, even Kim Jong-un would feel nothing but love for The Donald.
Rovers made a double substitution in 59 minutes, McBride and Archibald being replaced by Shields and Ferguson.
And on the hour young scorer MacPherson went off to cheers after his usual selfless shift, to be replaced by the equally energetic Orsi.
Galt was torturing Rovers, and his fans. From a similar position in 65 minutes, this time he turned on his LEFT foot and rattled a shot just wide of the diving Stewart’s right-hand post.
Mark Ferry, yet another ex-Spider in the Rovers ranks, was booked in 69 minutes for a late foul on Galt, then Davidson followed for dissent.
In 72 minutes, McGeever was booked for taking down Davidson as Queen’s kept a high line and continued to force the play.
Rovers made their final change in 78 minutes, Lightbody replacing Ferry, and four minutes from time Zanatta ended a productive shift – in defence and attack – when Docherty came on for him.
Ross Dunlop, no doubt missing big bro Mick, saw yellow when he tried to swap shirts with Orsi, with two minutes still to play.
The final whistle was greeted by a standing ovation for a superb display – and the frankly absurd realisation we were indeed third in League One! Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Gavin Mitchell, Cameron Foy, Jamie McKernon, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, David Galt, Anton Brady, Ewan MacPherson, Dario Zanatta, Sean Burns. Subs: William Mortimer, Dominic Docherty, Liam Brown, Bryan Wharton, Aiden McIlduff, Kalvin Orsi, Conor McVey.
Albion Rovers: Ross Stewart, Kevin McCann, Scott McBride, Ross Dunlop, Gary Fisher, Ross Gilmour, Mark Ferry, Ross Davidson, Paul Willis, Theo Archibald, Ryan Wallace. Subs: Kyle Turnbull, Jamie Gallacher, Daniel Lightbody, Connor Shields, Daniel Potts, Calum Ferguson, Paul Archibald.