Queen’s Park 1 Alloa Athletic 2
AS the oldest amateur football club in the world, and the oldest football club in Scotland, Queen’s Park have often been on nodding terms with disaster during our 150 years in the game.
But 2018 will herald a watershed in our history amid serious doubts over the future of Hampden Park and our continued ownership and use of the National Stadium and Lesser Hampden.
All of which makes today’s more immediate plight, hauling ourselves off the bottom of League One with just nine games left of the regular SPFL season, seem almost a distraction.
Each one of those nine games, starting with the visit of high-flying Alloa, will be like a cup final for Queen’s as we bid to overhaul Albion Rovers and/or Forfar to escape automatic relegation back to League Two.
Midfielder Anton Brady was missing through injury but Conor McVey was back after missing the 2-2 draw with Forfar here a fortnight ago and the only other change by Gus MacPherson was Robbie Leitch for Scott Gibson.
Alloa arrive at Hampden on the back of a midweek 5-3 home win against Arbroath that put them in the promotion play-off spots behind the Gayfield club, and in three games against the Wasps this season the best Queen’s have managed is one draw.
It was a horrid afternoon – wet, cold, and windy – as Alloa got us underway, with Queen’s defending the home end.
Queen’s forced the first corner, a Burns inswinger from the left that was cleared in four minutes, and Alloa created the first chance, McCart heading Alloa’s first corner wide.
The conditions were miserable, and slick, and Keena couldn’t get enough power in his shot as he slid in and sent a right-foot effort straight at ex-Spider Neil Parry.
Cummins got in a good sliding clearance and set up a Queen’s counter on 10 minutes, Galt switching play with a pass wide right to Millen, whose dangerous cross was cleared.
It was a decent contest despite the conditions, and end to end without either keeper being called into action in the first 15 minutes.
Millen took the first booking for a foot-up challenge on Smith and there was concern for Queen’s in 21 minutes when Nimmo needed treatment and then couldn’t continue, Magee taking his place in the back four.
Magee was immediately called on to head clear a dangerous cross, but it fell to Crossan and White held his shot comfortably low down.
Queen’s were creating openings down the left through the lively Galt, but the delivery was so far missing. Burns did get one good cross over after the half-hour but it was headed behind for a corner, then Keena tried his luck from 20 yards but shot straight at Parry.
Few chances, then, in a first half that Queen’s perhaps edged in possession. But Alloa do move the ball well.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Alloa 0
Queen’s were almost a goal down inside the first minute of the restart – then they went ahead less than a minute later!
White produced a good stop well off his line to deny Crossan, then the ball was cleared.
It eventually fell to Keena, halfway inside the Alloa half, and with little on he suddenly looked up, saw Parry off his line, and from fully 40 yards sent a delicious dipping shot over the stranded keeper and high into the net. What a piece of skill, and quick thinking, and well worth catching on QPTV. Now all Queen’s had to do was hold it together for 44 minutes!
Graham was booked for tugging back Keena as he tried to break from halfway, and two minutes later he brought down the young striker again to concede another free-kick that was cleared.
The goal had stung the Wasps and they had Queen’s backtracking in their best spell so far 10 minutes in.
Queen’s looked to have weathered that mini storm – and Keena even went close with another outrageous dipper from 30 yards – but it was no surprise when Alloa’s slick interpassing produced a nice equaliser from Crane on the hour.
If that was bad enough for Queen’s, Alloa then sent on midweek hat-trick striker Ross Stewart and the tricky Kevin Cawley in place of Renton and Crossan.
If the opening goal had stung the Wasps, then their equaliser had certainly got them buzzing, and Queen’s were under the cosh as the rain came down in a curtain.
Queen’s sent on Summers for Leitch, moving Burns farther forward, and Alloa’s last change was Hetherington for Smith.
But Queen’s were undone in 75 minutes by their own indecision, as Alloa took the lead. Our failure to clear the ball in the left-back slot saw Alloa steal possession and Kirkpatrick was allowed space to rattle a right-foot shot behind White from 22 yards.
Mortimer then replaced McVey for Queen’s, who now had a mountain to climb, and they moved Cummins up front and Burns into his slot in the back four.
But it was all to no avail as Alloa saw the game out.
So that’s one down, eight to go — and next up is a huge six-pointer at Albion Rovers on Tuesday. Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Michael White, Ross Millen, Sean Burns, Daniel Nimmo, Adam Cummins, Gregor Fotheringham, Robbie Leitch, Conor McVey, Aidan Keena, Dominic Docherty, David Galt. Subs: Luke Donnelly, Scott Gibson, Ciaran Summers, Billy Mortimer, Thomas Orr, Lewis Magee, James MacLennan.
Alloa Athletic: Neil Parry, Scott Taggart, Callum Graham, Jamie McCart, Jon Robertson, Iain Flannigan, Jordan Kirkpatrick, Chris Renton, John Paul Crossan, Callum Smith. Subs: Garry Fleming, Frank McKeown, Steven Hetherington, Kevin Cawley, Ross Stewart, Andy Wilson.
Referee – John McKendrick.