Taking it to the wire

Forfar Athletic 1 Queen’s Park 1

Queen’s will go into the last game of this eventful season with a chance of securing their League 1 future for another season. A Luke Donnelly goal earned the Spiders a 1-1 draw at Station Park in a game that seemed to sum up how the campaign has gone from day 1.

And although we will go into our last match against Arbroath as favourites to drop back down to League 2, nobody will be taking anything for granted … and nobody would bet against there being a few more twists to come before the curtain comes down on 2017-18.

Hopes were high as we headed for Station Park today that we could get a positive result. And although Gus was restricted in his defensive choices, the XI that took the field looked capable of getting something from the game. Michael White’s back four comprised Ross Millen, Adam Cummins, Scott Gibson and Sean Burns. Gregor Fotheringham and Anton Brady anchored the midfield, while the task of supporting Aiden Keena up front went to Luke Donnelly, young Michael Ruth and David Galt.

Debutant Ruth, and Donnelly for Conor McVey and Lewis Magee were the only changes from our last outing, and we started reasonably well in the glorious sunshine.

We won the first corner of the game after 10 minutes and Donnelly had a glimpse of goal. Unfortunately, his effort was easy for McCallum to take in the home goal. Even more concerning was the news that our closest rivals in the drop dogfight, Albion Rovers, had already taken the lead in their game against East Fife.

As if that wasn’t depressing enough, Queen’s managed to produce yet another version of soccer suicide to concede the first goal.

An awkward pass back put White under pressure, and when the keeper delayed just a fraction too long in clearing the ball, warning bells started ringing.

The bells reached fever pitch as Maciver bore down on our goal, and when he managed to block White’s clearance, it seemed inevitable that the ricochet would fall his way. It did, and he had the simplest of tasks to bash the ball into the empty net to put the home side 1-0 ahead after just 13 minutes.

Queen’s responded reasonably well to the setback, winning a series of corners and free kicks. The delivery from all angles never put Forfar to the test – and although we were less than 20 minutes into the game, with the home side having nothing to play for bar pride – it became crystal clear that they were happy to try to run down the clock. McCallum in particular sparked fury among the ranks of the visiting support as he took an eternity to get the ball back into play every time he had a bye kick.

In amongst all the scrappy play, Forfar did manage to carve out some openings through the lively Easton. Just after the half hour, he dragged one shot wide and saw another sail over the top, before setting up chances for Dingwall and Hilson, who both failed to make the most of the shooting opportunities.

When Queen’s did get back on the attack, they saw an effort from Brady saved, along with a Keena shot. But it was not until five minutes before the break that they really tested McCallum. An excellent ball in from Millen was glanced goalwards by our loan striker. McCallum flew across his goal to tip the ball onto the woodwork, from where it was scrambled to safety.

The next time the ball went out for a Forfar goal kick, referee Napier finally decided to punish the keeper for wasting time as he dilly-dallied getting the ball back in play. The yellow card was entirely justifiable; what wasn’t so easily explained was the fact that the whistler added on just over one minute of additional time in an easily forgettable first half.

Half time

Forfar Athletic 1 Queen’s Park 0

The opening period had been scrappy; the start of the second half gave stop-start a bad name. Inside the first 10 minutes, we saw play stopped for no fewer than 12 free kicks, which resulted in bookings for Hurst and Gibson.

Gus decided it was time for a change after 57 minutes, bringing on Dominic Docherty for Ruth. The sub’s first involvement was an aerial challenge which gave himself and Hurst a sore head … and resulted in the QP midfielder getting a yellow card from the ref for his troubles.

With no sign of the pattern changing, Gus brought on Robbie Leitch for Galt – and this sub almost made the right impact within minutes of coming on as he found himself with a shooting chance in the home box. He couldn’t make the right connection, however, and the chance went abegging.

Better things were to come after 68 minutes, when the Spiders got back on terms. Some in the ground thought Docherty scuffed a shot from the right side of the penalty area. Your scribe prefers to think that Dom hit the proverbial cross-cum-shot … and when it fell at the feet of Donnelly, he controlled it nicely before stroking it past McCallum to make the score 1-1.

It was now all to play for and the home side went close with a shot from Whyte that was well parried by his QP namesake.

The big chance for Queen’s came with eight minutes remaining when Keena ran onto a through ball and was tugged back by Munro as he tried to steady himself for a shot. Napier flashed a red card at the defender, but also ruled the first offence had taken place outside the box, so it was a foul rather than a penalty.

Donnelly’s effort went close, but not close enough to produce the ultimate punishment.

Five minutes from time, Gus brought on Thomas Orr for Brady and twice within 60 seconds, the sub almost became the hero of the hour.

He was first to react when a Cummins shot was well parried by the keeper, but his header just wouldn’t come down in time and landed on the roof of the net rather than in it.

The same two players were at it again from a QP corner. This time it was a Cummins headed that Orr nodded on – only to see McCallum palm that one over the top for a corner.

Right at the death, Keena fired off a low shot and this time McCallum fumbled the effort. Typically, the keeper recovered just in time to grab the ball before it crossed the line.

At the start of this report, your scribe suggested this game was typical of the way this season has gone. We lost a bad goal; clawed our way back into things, carved out chances … and couldn’t quite convert them when it mattered most. Sound familiar?

The bad news was that Albion Rovers held on for the three points that take them two clear of us in the bottom places. The good news is that their last game is away to an Ayr United side who will need something to clinch the league title. If we can just find a way to conjure up a home victory against Arbroath in our final encounter, then as long as Rovers do lose out to Ayr, we will at least avoid automatic relegation.

Keep the Faith.

2018-05-01T07:10:00+00:00April 21st, 2018|