Queen’s Park 2 Albion Rovers 2
OUR last game of 2017 — or, as it will become revered among anoraks everywhere, the year of Queen’s Park’s Sesquicentenary.
The veterans among us would claim that following the Glorious Hoops has often made you feel 150-years-old. But what other Sesquicentenarian could give you a weekend of sporting passion and even a spring in your step come Monday morning?
As we fast approach the New Year, Queen’s have become competitive again in their bid to stay in League One.
Our recent good form had not, you have to agree, been fairly reflected in our results, but that was put to rights in no uncertain terms with the thumping 3-0 win at Forfar last week.
Our biggest league victory of the season made it seven points taken from our last four games and saw us leapfrog the Loons into the heady heights of second bottom position.
Immediately above us in third bottom are today’s visitors, Albion Rovers. Our ancient rivals are five points ahead of us but with two games fewer played (at which point we’ll recite the managers’ mantra: “I’d always rather have the points in the bag!”).
In our last five meetings with Rovers, Queen’s lead 3-2 in games and 8-7 in goals. The most recent was our fine 1-0 win at Coatbridge in October.
Coach Gus MacPherson had the luxury of naming the same starting X1 for the THIRD successive week, and that will have played a huge part in our recent consistency.
Midfielder Gregor Fotheringham was on the bench after missing the Forfar game, replacing Thomas Orr, while keeper Willie Muir also returned to the bench after his injury lay-off. Scott Gibson was still out after being injured in the warm-up before the Airdrie game a fortnight ago.
And congratulations to skipper Sean Burns, who was making his 250th appearance for QP.
Lining up for Rovers were ex-Spider Alan Trouten, the top scorer in League One this season with 14 goals (and the scoring top five includes two other former Spiders in Lawrence Shankland and Chris Duggan, and sub striker Joao Victoria.
It was a bitterly cold afternoon, with a biting wind-chill, and at around 2.40 the heavens opened and both squads were comprehensively drenched as they (pause for laughter) warmed up!
The rain had eased to a light shower when Rovers kicked off defending the away end, and early pressure from Queen’s won the first corner through Galt on the left inside two minutes – and we SCORED from it.
Last week at Forfar, Queen’s went ahead with a neat training ground corner. This one was more route one, Galt’s driven corner finding Iredale in the crowded box for the big man to head behind Potts from six yards.
A great start for Queen’s – and perhaps a parting gift from big Jack as he ends his loan spell from Morton.
Queen’s kept pushing and Mortimer had a shot blocked from Leitch’s cutback in four minutes.
And suddenly we could see blue sky! Scotland’s weather? Michael Fish couldn’t make it up.
And then suddenly there was clear sky between Queen’s and Rovers as we made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in 10 minutes.
Galt teased and then nutmegged Lightbody to break into the box on the left, and the full-back blatantly brought him down from behind.
Stonewall penalty, and Lightbody was booked before Adam Cummins stepped up to thrash the ball into the net from the spot, making it goal No5 for Queen’s top-scoring stopper.
The next 15 minutes were something of an anti-climax after that whirlwind start, but Cummins thought he had made it 3-0 in 25 minutes when he turned in a Galt free-kick, but he was flagged offside in the act of celebrating.
Rovers had hardly been seen as an attacking force up to now, but they came close twice within as many minutes.
Shields saw a shot come back off a post and then Brady had to clear a header off the line.
Mortimer was injured in 28 minutes after a brave near-post dive almost connected with a Burns cross, set up by a neat Leitch backheel.
Queen’s had so far managed to keep Trouten quiet, but he was full of vision and movement and a real threat.
Cummins was proving our most dangerous attacker and he only just failed to reach a Galt free-kick after getting behind the Rovers wall in 34 minutes.
Trouten got his first shot at goal a minute later, but Summers was alert to the danger and got in a good block.
Donnelly was booked for diving in 39 minutes. The big man certainly wouldn’t qualify for an Equity card on that effort.
But Queen’s had staged a top-class first half and were well worth their two-goal lead.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 2, Albion Rovers 0
The restart was quieter than the game’s opening and it was 52 minutes before we saw a chance created, with Higgins narrowly missing a right-wing cross from six yards.
Lightbody was replaced by McMullin in 62 minutes in the game’s first change.
Gus MacPherson followed suit two minutes later with a double switch, McLennan and Docherty replacing Donnelly and Mortimer. Victoria then replaced Higgins for Rovers.
Trouten, who had been getting increasingly involved in niggly incidents, was booked in 70 minutes for a foul on Galt.
Perry followed him into the book, again for a foul on the much-fouled Galt, five minutes later.
The action had slowed considerably, which was no harm to Queen’s, and as we headed into the last 10 minutes there were no signs of stress on the pitch or in the stands, although Brady had to be calmed by the coach after his noisy reaction to a Trouten challenge.
Trouten was certainly in the thick of it, and Leitch was booked for a blatant trip on our former midfielder.
Fisher found the net for Rovers in 83 minutes, but it was the net in the warm-up goals on the track behind the goal after he had shot well over the official goal.
But Rovers did find the net officially – TWICE in the last two minutes as Queen’s criminally went to sleep.
First Trouten was given the freedom of our defence to head past White at the far post and then, when we had given the ball away at the restart, Victoria punished us with a shot from 10 yards.
You couldn’t make it up, but as we said at the beginning of this report, following this club can age you very quickly.
So, no Happy New Year. Queen’s march on, albeit probably now without Jack Iredale. At this time of year, as we have experienced to our cost in the past, professional rivals can use the January transfer window to sign players, so we shall see.
Meantime, a very happy and healthy 2018 to you and yours from Homer and Gulliver and the rest of the media team. Keep the festive faith for Alloa Athletic on January 2.
Queen’s Park: Michael White; Conor McVey, Ciaran Summers, Jack Iredale, Adam Cummins, Anton Brady, Robbie Leitch, David Galt, Billy Mortimer, Luke Donnelly, Sean Burns. Subs: Chris Duff, Dominic Docherty, Lewis Magee, Kevin Green , James McLennan, Gregor Fotheringham, Willie Muir (S/K).
Albion Rovers: Daniel Potts, Daniel Lightbody, Scott McLaughlin, Alan Reid, Ross Perry, Graeme Holmes, Gary Fisher, Ross Davidson, Connor Shields, Alan Trouten, Sean Higgins. Subs: Michael McMullin, Joao Victoria, John Guthrie, Jamie Gallagher, Robert Black, Michael Hopkins, Ryan Watters.
Referee: Kevin Graham.