Queen’s Park 2 East Fife 1
IT’S not easy staying positive when you’re bottom of the league, but Homer is taking his cue from the Queen’s Park players.
Despite our predicament — and four league matches without a point or a goal is certainly a predicament — the heads have resolutely stayed up.
In fact, for much of the action at Stark’s Park last week we were a spirited match for title-chasing Raith Rovers. But I don’t remember us having a shot on target.
That’s been the case in a few games this season, where we’ve matched the opposition but failed to convert our chances.
Only nine goals in 14 league games highlights a long-standing problem at Hampden. If we are lucky enough to unearth a regular scorer, we know we’ll have his goals for only one season.
Take Dario Zanatta. The young striker played a large part in keeping us in League One last season on his loan spell from Hearts.
But the Canadian has moved onwards and upwards, or in his case Kirkcaldy, and in the end his goal and assist at Stark’s Park last week proved the difference between us and Rovers.
Meantime it’s Lena Martell (ask any pensioner) football, one game at a time, as we try to chip away at that four-point gap between ourselves and Forfar.
And today it’s East Fife who stand between Queen’s and that first Hampden league win of the season.
Sadly, they will not be venturing south with their tails between their legs. No, it will be the exact opposite, in fact, after last week’s remarkable 6-1 thumping of Airdrie. And they even conceded that goal in the first minute.
And in their ranks is another former Spiders loan striker, Chris Duggan, currently the top scorer at Methil on seven goals.
The Fifers are outside the play-off spots only on goal difference, but we managed to beat them 1-0 at Bayview in September — a Ross Millen penalty after David Galt was brought down. That is one of only two away wins for us this season, the other being at Albion Rovers.
Coach Gus MacPherson made three changes from Kirkcaldy, with Jack Iredale taking over from Adam Cummins in defence alongside 17-year-old Lewis Magee, Luke Donnelly replacing Chris Duff, and Billy Mortimer coming off the bench to swap places with his young striking pal James McLennan.
The Fifers, not surprisingly unchanged from their Diamonds demolition – and in a very fetching jersey of thick red and white stripes – kicked off into the home end on a calm, far from baltic afternoon.
The initial sparring, at least in the first seven minutes, took place largely in the visitors’ half. Then Docherty, on Smith’s pass, had the first shot of the match, an effort that lacked pace and was held comfortably by White.
Galt’s free kick on 10 minutes, from wide left, certainly didn’t lack pace as Duggan’s head deflected the ball high into the air in the six-yard box before Hurst held it.
So, not much to report in the first 14 minutes, but it soon changed with another poor goal conceded by Queen’s.
There looked little danger as Dunsmore fired a hopeful ball forward, but keeper White chose to race from his line only to lose the race with Duggan, who lobbed the ball over the Spider and into the empty net.
But again, the heads didn’t go down, and Queen’s fashioned a splendid equaliser just two and a half minutes later.
Donnelly had earlier failed to get the ball out of his feet when presented with a chance six yards out, but he had no such problems when Mortimer created the opening for him to stroke a right-foot shot past Hurst.
The goal galvanised Queen’s and they perhaps should have scored again in 20 minutes. After good build-up play, Mortimer burst into the box and had a shot blocked and when Donnelly looked certain to stick away the loose ball, Hurst got his hand to the shot to divert it round a post. So close.
Mortimer and Donnelly were having some success getting space in the box but the final touch was proving more elusive, Mortimer failing to connect properly with a header and then later shooting straight at Hurst.
The match had settled into a very even contest as we reached half-time, but Queen’s were very definitely edging the possession (sound familiar?) and could perhaps consider themselves unfortunate not to be ahead.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 East Fife 1
The Fifers had the first chance of the half when Fotheringham conceded a soft foul on the edge of the box, but White comfortably held the free-kick.
But on the 50-minute mark, the Hampden stand went potty as Queen’s took the lead. A cute Galt dummy just inside the box left Donnelly clear, but the big man still had to swivel before sending a low shot wide of Hurst and in at his right-hand corner.
No more than Queen’s deserved, and it could have got better two minutes later when Dunsmore headed a Galt shot off the line.
Piggot became the first player booked, for a foul on Galt in 57 minutes, and from the free-kick Queen’s came soooo close to getting that third goal, Donnelly knocking on Galt’s kick and Iredale crashing an effort off the bar.
Dunsmore was booked in 59 for a studs-up challenge on Mortimer, who had a shot blocked a minute later after Galt had won the ball with a strong challenge that left him limping.
We may have been ahead, but this was agonising stuff from Queen’s. Donnelly showed good feet to slip Mortimer through on the right, and just when it looked like the young man would finally get on the scoresheet, his low shot beat Hurst but came back off the keeper’s right-hand post.
Summers was booked for tugging back Wilkie after getting caught on his wrong side.
The Fifers made a double change in 67, with Kane and Millar making way for Linton and Greg Hurst.
They arrived just in time to spectate at a Galt break, bursting through from midfield to set up a chance that McVey fired tamely at Hurst.
Gus MacPherson made his first change in 69 minutes, Duff coming on for Leitch, and a minute later that Donnelly-Mortimer combo came close again as Mortimer was slipped clear again to the right and again fired a low shot wide of Hurst’s far post.
Galt became the fourth booking in 73 for a foul.
The Fifers came very close to an equaliser in 74 minutes, when a corner was cleared only to Docherty on the edge of the box and his powerful shot found its way through a crowded box only to be turned wide of a post by the unsuspecting Burns.
Donnelly’s productive stint came to an end in 77 minutes when he was replaced by Docherty, and the big man can be pleased with his efforts.
Did I say agonising? As we hit the last 10 minutes, Queen’s were giving it everything – at both ends of the park – and a lung-bursting run by Duff ended with a left-foot drive that Hurst at full length did well to fingertip round a post. In all unbiased honesty, Queen’s should have been out of sight by now, and not putting Homer and Gulliver through this.
Mortimer went off to a good ovation in 84 minutes, making way for McLennan, and Iredale was next in the book in 85 minutes as Queen’s refused to buckle.
We were a minute into time added on when East Fife looked to have found a dramatic equaliser. Page’s power header had goal written all over it, until Michael White rose to finger the ball over the bar. Magic.
And that was it. A marvellous display and three very well deserved points. Now just one more home game before Christmas. Keep the festive faith.
Queen’s Park: Michael White; Sean Burns, Lewis Magee, Jack Iredale, Ciaran Summers; Gregor Fotheringham, Conor McVey, David Galt, Robbie Leitch, Luke Donnelly, Billy Mortimer. Subs: Chris Duff, Dominic Docherty, Adam Cummins, Anton Brady, Scott Gibson, James McLennan, Luke Whelan.
East Fife — Mark Hurst, Mark Docherty, Aaron Dunsmore, Chris Kane, Jonathan Page, Mark Lamont, Chris Duggan, Kevin Smith, Kyle Wilkie, Kieran Millar, Jordon Piggott. Subs: Craig Watson, Nathan Flanagan, Greg Hurst, Ryan Goodfellow, Kyle Wilson, Paul Willis, Scott Linton.
Referee: Stephen Finnie.