Queen’s Park 0 Ayr United 0
(Queen’s Park win 4-2 on penalties)
It’s fair to say that the chaps who made the draws haven’t done Queen’s Park any favours in the two cup competitions to date.
The BetFred League Cup saw us having to face two Premiership teams. And in the Irn-Bru Cup tonight we hosted Ayr United, who have made a solid start to life back in the Championship.
Ayr also boast one of the hot properties in Scotland at the moment – former Spider Lawrence Shankland. Shanks has been scoring for fun recently, and is tipped for a move to bigger things, so it must have been something of a relief to our developing defence when he wasn’t in the starting XI for the visitors.
His absence maybe suggested Ian McCall had his sights half-set on Saturday’s league cup clash with Dundee, as the United Gaffer made a total of seven changes from the side which drew 0-0 in Inverness at the weekend. He also gave debuts to new signing Liam Smith and striker Luke McCowan.
As for Queen’s, Gus opted to stay with his more settled approach, making only two changes; Gavin Lachlan missing out and Dean Kindlan dropping to the bench. Their places were taken by James Grant and Calvin McGrory.
Ayr took to the field sporting a shocking pink kit, and as could possibly be expected with so many changes, took a bit of time to settle.
If they were to get anything from the game, you felt Queen’s had to make their mark before the visitors got into their stride. And the Spiders won the first corner after just four minutes, but when the ball fell to Adam Martin at the back post, he was crowded out before he could get a shot off.
The surface looked great, but the ball seemed to be sticking a bit rather than zipping about, and the start to the action was also a bit pedestrian.
Ayr mounted their first attack as we passed the 10-minute mark, but McCowan couldn’t make the most of a promising position on the right. McLauchlan then did well to cut out a dangerous cross as the Championship side tried to impose themselves on proceedings.
Queen’s weren’t offering much threat up front, but had a wee chance when McKernon robbed McGuffie in midfield and slid the ball through to Osadolor. Smart tried a shot from distance, but failed to trouble Doohan.
That wasn’t the case after 21 minutes when Mortimer combined well with McGrory and carved out a shooting opportunity. The Ayr keeper had to really stretch to palm the ball behind for a corner, which was easily cleared.
The Spiders were knocking the ball about confidently now and won a free kick just as the clock reached 30. McKernon’s first effort was cleared, but when it was played back in, Martin almost sneaked in at the far post.
Ayr, for their part looked dangerous when they did move forward, and Gibson had to be alert to clear at the second attempt from the lively McCowan.
The visitors went close after 34 minutes when Docherty shot from distance after neat build-up play. The shot would have been a danger on its own, but a slight deflection left Hart scrambling across his line – and the former Ayr keeper was happy to see it slip just wide of the post.
Things took a turn for the worse as Summers was seen lying on the deck and limped off to be replaced by Ally Miller. The sub took over at left back, with Mortimer and Martin swapping flanks in front of him.
Three minutes from the break, another McKernon free kick caused problems in the Ayr box, and when it was finally cleared, Roberts unleashed a thunderbolt, which had power a-plenty, but sadly not the accuracy required.
Harvie threw himself at Grant in a bid to win a penalty, but although the appeal was rightly rejected, Ayr did win a foul in a dangerous position right on the whistle. Thankfully, Osadolor was on hand to head clear and the interval arrived with the score sheet still blank.
Queen’s Park 0 Ayr United 0
Queen’s made another change at the break, replacing Martin with Brendan Sharpe.
And they started brightly, with Miller breaking well to win a free-kick at the corner of the Ayr box. Doohan claimed the ball well to set Ayr off on a counter which ended with McCowan fizzing a shot dangerously close to Hart’s left-hand post. A lively start!
The visitors threatened again after 51 minutes, this time McDaid going close with a shot from the angle. Two minutes later they won a corner on the right, but Hart relieved any worries by claiming the cross cleanly.
Queen’s were starting to sit a bit too deep for comfort, and relying on breaks to keep Ayr Honest. Rose had to be blooming Sharpe to deny our sub striker on one foray upfield, and then after 56 minutes came the change we’d been expecting (dreading!), as Shankland replaced McGuffie. Queen’s also replaced McGrory with Ewan MacPherson.
Ayr went close on the hour when Moore beat the offside trap and slipped a shot past Hart … and also just past the post.
The offside flag stopped Queen’s in their tracks after Sharpe tried to play MacPherson in.
Ayr made their second change after 63 when Forrest replaced Moore.
We tried our best to commit soccer suicide after 66 when a testing backpass from Miller was wildly sliced by Hart. Thankfully, Ayr couldn’t take advantage and we all breathed again.
We entered the final quarter still on terms, but starting to look like we were hanging on a bit.
MacPherson tried to go it alone after intercepting a sloppy Ayr pass, but although he got a shot away, Doohan dealt with it comfortably.
With 18 minutes left, Ayr made their final change, bringing on Crawford for Docherty.
McDaid was then yellow carded for another acrobatic piece of what’s commonly called “simulation” these days. Gulliver prefers the term diving!
McKernon soon joined him in the book; this time McDaid was fouled.
As the free kick was swung in, Jamie ended on the deck and was clearly in trouble. He did return, but looked far from comfortable – and we’d lost a lot of our midfield energy.
MacPherson did brilliantly to earn Queen’s a corner with 10 minutes left, chasing down a seemingly lost cause to knock the ball off Rose. But as the cross was cleared, an Ayr cavalry charge only ended when Hart raced from his goal to grasp the ball in front of Shankland.
Inside the final minute of the 90, and Osadolor was back helping out the defence, with a timely block on Crawford.
That was the last real action of regular time, and penalties beckoned as the final scoreline read:
Queen’s Park 0 Ayr United 0.
The only question remaining was whether there were five Spiders on the park with enough energy to take the spot kicks. They’d run themselves, quite literally into the ground. Indeed, sub Sharpe actually hobbled off before the shoot-out even began.
McKernon took the first kick for Queen’s and saw his low, driven effort saved. Rose scored with ease. 0-1.
Gibby was next up, and stroked the ball home. Hart denied Murdoch brilliantly by getting a toe to the ball as he dived the other way. 1-1.
Mortimer rolled his effort into the corner and then Shankland stepped up and scored 2-2.
Roberts took our fourth spot kick and scored comfortably. Sub Forrest was then denied by another magnificent Hart save, this time diving to his left to touch the ball away. 3-2
That left Osadolor with the chance to win the tie for the Spiders … and did so, leaving Doohan helpless as he sidefooted the ball high into the net to seal a victory that will have tasted Oh so sweet for a group of very tired players. But the biggest smile belonged to keeper Hart, who must have taken great delight in coming back to haunt the club which released him last season.
It’s back to league business on Saturday, with a testing trip to Annan. The players will be buoyed by tonight’s success, but it will be a minor miracle if injuries don’t force Gus into making more changes than might be ideal.
Finally, it might seem wrong to single out any players on a night when every Spider more than played his part. However, your scribe would like to make two special mentions in dispatches. Firstly, Jordan Hart for his heroics. One or two of his colleagues leaving the dressing room after tonight’s game suggested surgery might be needed to get the grin off his face. No wonder!
Secondly, young James Grant stepped into the back four and looked like a seasoned veteran; so calm was he in almost everything he did. It’s almost wrong for somebody born in the year 2000 to be looking so comfortable – and thoroughly deserving his Man of the Match Award.
We’re not even halfway through August yet and this season has already reminded us all why we follow this remarkable club. The very nature of Queen’s Park means there will be disappointments ahead, but for now let’s just look forward to the next round. Keep the Faith!
Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, James Grant, Ciaran Summers (Alistair Miller), Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Kurtis Roberts, Calvin McGrory (Ewan MacPherson), Smart Osadolor, Billy Mortimer and Adam Martin (Brendan Sharpe). Subs: Dean Kindlan, Brendan Sharpe, Cameron Foy, Daniel Nimmo, Alistair Miller, Ewan MacPherson, Jack Dunlop.