Queen’s Park 1 Connah’s Quay Nomads 2
IT’S a strange experience standing inside our beloved Hampden Park awaiting the Spiders on a Friday night. Then again, as a veteran Glasgow newspaperman, Homer can remember the days when still to be standing at this time on a Friday was considered unusual.
Yes, changed days indeed, and we are live on the telly, too! BBC Alba is broadcasting across the nation this Irn-Bru Cup quarter-final against the exotically named Connah’s Quay Nomads (were they evicted, too?).
The last Welsh visitors welcomed to the National Stadium, way back in 2013, repaid our Highland hospitality by beating us 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier, also under the lights, so don’t expect any presents from tonight’s guests.
Nomads have already knocked out Northern Ireland Premiership side Coleraine and our own Championship side Falkirk, so the size of our task is plain.
Queen’s, of course, have form this season when it comes to Welsh dragon-slaying, having beaten reigning Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints down in the valleys in the second round.
Like TNS, the Nomads are full-time and can boast European experience, and they currently lead their league, three points ahead of TNS.
Our Welsh mole tells us Nomads are more physical and direct than TNS, so last week’s splendid 2-0 win here against the Black and Blue Toon should have provided the perfect warm-up.
Nomads even boast a Scots-born manager in the colourful and combative Andy Morrison, who came back north on a spying mission to watch our recent 3-0 win at Albion Rovers — and would have found Cliftonhill hadn’t changed a bit since he left for England in 1978.
With Queen’s unbeaten in six after last week’s heroics against Peterhead, it was no surprise that coach Mark Roberts named the same starting X1.
Nomads lined up all in Welsh red, the Spiders in their traditional Hoops, as the visitors kicked off defending the away end on a lovely night for football.
Homer’s mole was correct about Nomads being a big team, and right from the start it looked like they favoured the long ball approach, and even boasted a Jonny Whelan/Bryan Wharton long throw expert in Holmes, whose first heave inside five minutes was comfortably defended.
Eight minutes in and Queen’s created the first opening, Summers making space for a cross from the left and Moore unable to untangle his feet six yards out for a shot.
But Queen’s got lucky in 10 minutes. Keeper Danby launched another huge kick-out – no playing it out from the back for Nomads – Parker won it in the air to head on, and Bakare raced through to fire in a shot that Hart did well to deflect onto his right-hand post and back into his arms.
And it was Hart again in 17 minutes who stood between Nomads and the lead after a corner, when he got a superb athletic touch on Wilde’s point-blank header to turn it onto the bar.
McLauchlan and McLaren will have sore heads in the morning, believe me. This was strictly up and under bombardment from the Welsh, as subtle as a drunk’s Glasgow kiss.
Queen’s had a threat of their own, though. The splendid Moore won a free kick on the right of the box after a neat turn and from McKernon’s kick, McLauchlan had a far post header blocked for a corner.
McLean had a shot on target in 37 minutes, but his effort from a cleared corner went straight to keeper Danby.
Roberts showed his twinkle toes to get to the byeline – and in the process showed how this Nomads defence could be exploited – and won a corner, but it was cleared.
And that was that for the first half, with Nomads having the pressure but the game finely poised.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Nomads 0
Homer’s industrial assessment of Nomads may have seemed somewhat harsh, but their keeper Danby spent the half-time break taking pass backs and launching the ball as far as he could! No disguising their second half modus operandi, then.
Roberts turned a Wignall cross over his own bar, and the Nomads winger – an exception in their land of giants – was proving a hot handful for Summers.
Parker became the first booking in 62 minutes for hauling down the increasingly influential Roberts, and from the deep free kick Queen’s went on to take a sensational lead. The ball was played back to Hart, he sent Summers away, and the full back put through a delightful ball that Hawke ran on to before placing a precise low shot wide of the stranded Danby. Lovely football, but the Spiders’ first real chance and you had to say against the run of play.
Stunned Nomads immediately sent on Hughes for Bakare, and four minutes later Hart again had to come to Queen’s rescue, turning a shot into the air and then clawing it off the line as it fell behind him.
Queen’s first change came in 69 minutes, Osadolor replacing young East, as Nomads kept pressing.
Wilde was booked for dissent after a foul on Summers, then Hawke was booked for a foul on Disney.
But the Nomads bombardment finally paid off in 81 minutes when they equalised. Inevitably it was yet another ball launched into the Queens box, won by Wilde at the far post with a knock down that left Horan with a tap in almost on the line.
And the Welsh made it 2-1 two minutes later with their first real ground attack of the game, an exchange of passes setting up Wilde for a shot beyond Hart.
It was tough on Queen’s, but hardly surprising given the Nomads pressure, and in a last throw of the dice McLauchlan was sent up front to try his luck.
Poole replaced Wignall right on time, but try as they might Queen’s couldn’t find an equaliser.
Still, a splendid Irn-Bru Cup run. Good luck to Nomads, but Homer would hate to watch them every week.
Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park:Jordan Hart, James Grant, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Dominic McLaren, Euan East, Kurtis Roberts, Lewis Hawke, Kieran Moore, Scott McLean. Subs: Gregor Fotheringham, Josh Peters, Smart Osadolor, Billy Mortimer, Lewis Magee, Adam Martin, Kieran McDougall (SK).
Connah’s Quay:John Danby, Danny Holmes, Danny Harrison, John Disney, Laurence Wilson, George Horan, Callum Morris, Michael Bakare, Ryan Wignall, Michael Wilde, Danny Holmes. Subs:,Jonny Spittle, Nathan Woolfe, Declan Poole, Jack Kenny, Jay Owen, Rob Hughes, Jon Rushton.
Referee: David Rock (England).