Queen’s Park 2 East Fife 3
IT’S all come down to this. Four games left of the regular season to dodge the Berwick Ultras, starting today with the penultimate game here at Hampden Park.
To recap — especially for any deluded souls still relying on the tabloids for QP fake news — we are on the same points total as Albion Rovers (their vastly superior goal difference could be worth a point to them), and we are four points behind Forfar Athletic with a trip to Bridie bliss to come in a fortnight.
Intriguingly, Rovers host Forfar today, so something has to give at Cliftonhill.
Can Queen’s take advantage against East Fife? Can Gorilla glue tame Donald Trump’s flyaway hair? It’s anyone’s guess.
At the mention of East Fife, Homer can’t be alone in having lately crooned that old terracing favourite: “Can we play you every week?”.
So far this season we can boast 1-0 and 2-0 wins at Bayview and the 2-1 triumph here way back on December 2 remains the only time we’ve savoured three points at home in the league all season.
And when our footballing lives could depend on continuing that sequence? I refer you to The Donald’s aforementioned barnet; or last week’s 0-0 draw here against Airdrieonians; or any number of other missed opportunities this season. It’s anyone’s guess.
Our bad news for the Fifers’ visit today was the absence through suspension of back-four stalwart and top scorer Adam Cummins.
Gerard McLauchlan was a straight replacement for Cummins on his home debut, with Conor McVey taking over from Anton Brady and Thomas Orr coming in for Jamie Gullan.
It was certainly warmer at Hampden – 12 degrees! – than it has been for months. Gulliver had even dispensed with his jacket. It wasn’t even blowing a gale or raining. British Summer Time, don’t you just love it. (Belay that; it had started bucketing by kick-off. April showers, don’t you just love them).
We had a relatively quiet opening, with the action restricted to midfield, but Queen’s got a shock in eight minutes when they went behind.
There looked little danger as the red-shirted Fifers held possession on the right, but an inside pass took an unfortunate deflection and landed at the feet of McManus on the edge of the box, and he promptly whipped a right-foot shot into the stranded White’s right-hand bottom corner.
The rain was by now torrential and beating a lament on the leaky Hampden roof and the 13th minute provided further ill luck for Queen’s when McLauchlan had to go off injured and was replaced by Kevin Green.
The roof then fell in on Queen’s after 16 minutes. We lost possession down the right, the ball was knocked forward into our box, and when it came back out Dunsmore cracked a left-foot shot that again took a deflection before it landed in the net behind White.
Not even 20 minutes gone and 2-0 down. With the Fifers knocking the ball around at will, even The Donald would be hard pressed to put some positive spin on this.
Orr had our first shot just after the 20-minute mark, a right-foot effort into the side net after being set up by Donnelly, and it was a further nine minutes before Keena’s right-foot effort was squirmed round a post by McKenzie. There was no lack of effort – you would expect no less – but this so far was a contender for our worst first-half of the season.
Queen’s needed a bit of luck, but the lady ignored us in 39 minutes. Burns fired over a left-wing cross, Donnelly rattled the post with a header, and Galt’s effort from the rebound was blocked.
Better by Queen’s, and they improved on that when they got a goal back four minutes from the break.
Orr takes enormous credit for setting it up, taking a one-two across the box on the left and rattling in a shot that was blocked by McKenzie into the path of Keena, who headed it into the net at the post.
Game on, and up to the break it was all Queen’s pressing for the equaliser, with Burns having a shot blocked and then Galt’s goalward effort being deflected for a corner. Better, Queen’s. More of the same, please, after the break.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 East Fife 2
The rain hadn’t let-up since kick-off and it was still coming down in sheets as Keena restarted the second half for Queen’s, attacking the home end.
It was all Queen’s for the first 15 minutes, picking up where they left off in the first half, but they were needing a bit of composure, a kind bounce, as crosses and corners were knocked away.
On the hour, Keena and Millen combined well down the right and the young Irishman dived onto the return pass in the box and shot narrowly wide of the far post with McKenzie at full stretch.
And Queen’s were rewarded for their spirit when they hit a splendid equaliser a minute later.
Donnelly took down the ball with a lovely first touch inside to Keena, he played Galt into the box, and the playmaker rammed a shot behind McKenzie.
If the first half was largely forgettable, the second was shaping up as exactly the opposite.
In 63, the Fifers sent on Slattery for Linton and Smith for Livingstone.
Keena limped off in 73 minutes to be replaced by Brady, with Galt being pushed farther forward.
But before Queen’s had time to regroup, they conceded a simple goal as the Fifers retook the lead.
Dunsmore had time down the right to get in a cross that found Slattery unmarked at the far post, and the ex-Spider – like many others this season – punished his old team with a downward header that beat White.
McVey was replaced by Ruth in 77 and the Fifers sent on Kane for Page, who had been booked for time-wasting.
Gibson was booked for dissent in 79, Dunsmore for a tackle on Burns in 86, as Queen’s struggled to regain their intensity after the changes.
The effort was still there but they couldn’t manage to fashion another opening as the Fifers held on.
A huge anti-climax, then, and punishment for a shocking first-half, but at least the result at Coatbridge means it can still be a hair-raising finish.
The Fifers could do us a favour when they play Albion in a fortnight. Meantime it’s on to Raith Rovers next week and then Forfar. And if our fate still is not decided by then, we have a chance to salvage something in the final game at home to Arbroath in three weeks.
Keep the faith. The agony will be over soon.
Queen’s Park: Michael White, Ross Millen, Sean Burns, Conor McVey, Gerard McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, David Galt, Gregor Fotheringham, Aidan Keena, Luke Donnelly, Thomas Orr. Subs: Dominic Docherty, Thomas Orr, Robbie Leitch, Billy Mortimer, Kevin Green, Michael Ruth.
East Fife: Ben MacKenzie, Craig Watson, Scott Allardice, Johnathan Page, Scott Linton, Aaron Dunsmore, Connor McManus, Kieran Millar, Adam Livingstone, Craig Thomson, Chris Duggan. Subs: Ryan Goodfellow, Chris Kane, Pat Slattery, Kyle Wilkie, Kevin Smith, Matthew Knox, Robert Jones.
Referee: Craig Charleston