Airdrie 2 Queen’s Park 2

Airdrie win 12-11 on penalties

YOU’LL forgive your scribe for being somewhat confused at this, his first game of the season after missing our opening two cup ties because of holiday commitments.

Firstly, last week Gulliver followed on Twitter as Queen’s narrowly lost out to old rivals Partick Thistle. That was a home game at the Penny Cars Stadium in Airdrie. Tonight, we were at the same stadium – this time as the visiting side – as we faced Airdrie in our penultimate Betfred Cup Group F tie.

It’s bad enough having to figure out whether Mark Roberts and his backroom squad should be in the home or away dugout, but then there was also the difficulty of trying to identify the new recruits to the QP dressing room. We’re used to a revolving door most close seasons, but this one resembled the dying days of Theresa May’s Premiership (or the opening day of the reign of The Boris) as faces departed at a rate of knots.

The last count saw almost 20 faces departing Hampden for pastures new, leaving Mark with the proverbial rebuilding job on his hands. However, by all accounts from the opening games, the Gaffer has done a fine job and put together a useful looking squad.

So there was a wee spring in the step as Homer pointed the Chariot in the direction of the M73 … hopeful of finding the ground without the traditional three detours as he tries to find the Airdrie cut-off. Thankfully, that mission was accomplished and we arrived in plenty time to savour the pre-match sunshine.

Then it was “spot the player” as we endeavoured to put faces to the names in the starting line-up. There was disappointment before we even began with the absence of Tommy Block who has apparently been a bit of a revelation in midfield. He and Lewis Magee shared the dubious distinction of being the first absentees through suspension. That’s quite an achievement to accumulate sufficient penalty points to fall foul of the Beaks after just two games in.

However, those absences gave the returning Ciarán Summers a chance to shine, while Mark also gave the nod to Billy Mortimer at the expense of James Grant. So it was an attacking looking team that lined up with Willie Muir in goals, a back three of Creag Little, Nicky Jamieson and Cameron Clark, who were flanked by Mortimer on the right and Summers on the left. Calvin McGrory, David Galt and Jack Purdue occupied the midfield with the other two changes coming up front where Salim Kouider-Aissa partnered Alfredo Agyeman. Kieran Moore dropped to the bench in the fourth change from our last outing.

Airdrie had the game’s first corner after a quiet opening couple of minutes, but it was the visitors who opened the scoring, with an absolute gem,

There were just five minutes on the clock when Big Alfie (as Alfredo Agyeman will be known from now on by this scribe) absolutely skinned Eckersley on the right before laying the ball back for Summers to smack it gleefully into the net. As good starts go, they don’t come much better than that.

It could have been two moments later when Summers delivered a wicked free-kick into the box and Our Salim (as Kouider-Assa will be referred to) was inches away from connecting.

Things took a nasty turn for the worse after 10 minutes when McGrory found himself the meat in a sandwich involving Little and Smith. The Queen’s midfielder was in obvious distress and left the field with a bloodied face … and looking like the dentist’s chair would be his next port of call. He was replaced by Luke Main.

The incident knocked the Spiders out of their stride for a bit, and the home side sought to take full advantage. Smith and Thomson began to cause us problems down the right and we breathed a sigh of relief with 16 minutes on the clock as the striker hit the post from a tight angle after another neat interplay.

The game was certainly competitive, with tackles flying in – notably from our centre backs who look as if they relish the physical side of the game. (Editor’s Note: Defenders signed from Ayrshire juniors and they enjoy a tackle … really???).

Little could have found himself on the scoresheet after 25 minutes when Queen’s won their first corner and he would have hoped to do better when Summers’ inswinger found him unmarked at the far post. Unfortunately, he headed tamely wide.

But Creag was soon back to defensive duties as Airdrie began to monopolise possession a bit more. He and Mortimer both had to be brave as they threw themselves in the way of threatening efforts from Smith and Roy. Jamieson then showed remarkable composure as he broke up another attack and when the ball broke to Our Salim, he let fly from well inside our half. He had the distance, but not quite the accuracy, and his effort sailed wide. However, it was a warning to the home side that we were not to be taken lightly.

As the play continued to switch from end to end, we were treated to another piece of nifty footwork from Big Alfie. Kerr was left in all sorts of a pickle as the QP striker shimmied past him. Unfortunately, by the time he got his shot away, the angle was a tad tight and the effort flew narrowly the wrong side of the post.

With half-time rapidly approaching, Airdrie carved out another couple of chances. Firstly, Roy’s effort from distance was deflected kindly into the arms of Muir. Then, with the last action of the half, Smith found himself in splendid isolation, but blazed his shot over the bar – much to the delight of the vocal travelling support.

Half time

Airdrie 0 Queen’s Park 1

Neither side made any changes at the break and as the action got back underway, it was clear the home side had received a few words of wisdom from their Gaffer over the half-time cuppa.

They came out with purpose, winning their first corner after just 45 seconds, and they continued to put the visitors under pressure.

Referee Wilson had kept the book in the pocket all through the first half, but produced his first yellow card of the evening after 54 minutes. Billy Mortimer was the recipient for the heinous crime of suggesting that the whistler had missed a foul on him before awarding a free kick to Airdrie.

The mood in the visiting camp wasn’t helped when Queen’s failed to clear their lines properly and Wedderburn had the simplest of tasks to turn the ball past a helpless Muir and level the scores at 1-1.

Queen’s survived a rocky few moments after this setback before both sides made changes. The home side brought on O’Reilly for Thomson, while the still simmering Mortimer made way for Grant in the Queen’s defence.

Purdue had been quietly efficient up to this point, but he almost made a dramatic impact after 55 when he blasted in a long-range free-kick that had Hutton scrambling to save low down at his post.

Moments later Queen’s won a free kick out wide when Galt was halved by a tackle from Fordyce. The defender didn’t dispute the decision – and therefore received no card from Wilson for this offence.

Both sides had their moments as an entertaining second half unfolded. Airdrie had the best of the possession, but the Spiders defended resolutely when they had to, and broke with purpose when the opportunity arose.

That ability was seen at its very best in the 74th minute. Big Alfie was instrumental in the build-up, and when the ball was poked through to Purdue, he stepped inside his man before curling an unstoppable shot past Hutton to restore the Spiders’ lead. As first goals go, there can’t have been many better in the illustrious history of QP.

Queen’s suffered another injury setback two minutes later when the excellent Jamieson had to limp off with what looked like a hamstring tweak. Here’s hoping he’s not out for too long as he looks a bit of a find. He was replaced by Kieran Moore before the home side swapped Gallagher for Crighton.

The home side piled the pressure on the reshaped visiting rearguard, and it became increasingly difficult for the visitors to get out. Clark was booked for a foul on Smith, and then with nine minutes left, we conceded the equaliser.

Mark Roberts will also put this one in the “could (and should)  have been avoided” category. A shy into the box wasn’t dealt with and sub Gallagher had the simplest of tasks to poke the ball into the net.

The visiting support feared the worst at this point, but Queen’s stood firm and could have won the game when Purdue produced a carbon copy of his goal attempt … but this time the final shot smacked off the bar and went to safety. Jack wasn’t content with that and again clipped the woodwork deep into injury time after another lovely piece of skill.

Airdrie also had their moments, one attack resulting in a booking for Main as he halted the progress illegally.

Despite the frantic finale, there were no more goals and we headed into a penalty shootout. Little did we know that this would turn into such a marathon.

It looked like it might be over quickly when Galt saw our first kick saved. The next four strikes were all scored before Smith saw his effort hit the woodwork making the score 2-2 after six penalties.

Incredibly, the next 16 penalties were all scored (including one apiece by the two keepers) to leave the score tied at 10-10 after Round 1. Back to the beginning and Galt this time scored with ease, as did Gallagher. Summers saw his second effort well saved by Hutton and when Carrick converted, the home side secured the bonus point with a 12-11 shoot-out scoreline.

It was a disappointing way for the evening to end, but the pluses far outweighed the negatives. We showed we can defend … and perhaps even more encouraging … we demonstrated a healthy ability to score goals.

Sunday will see the cup action brought to an end, and while we will bow out of the Betfred competition at the group stage, we know that the farewell clash will be a tasty affair against old rivals Clyde.

After that, it’s down to the real thing and a league campaign kicking off away to Stirling. Buckle up … and let the fun begin.

Keep the Faith.

 

Mark speaks to QPTV after the game

Jack speaks to QPTV after the game

Betfred Group F

TeamPldGDPts
Partick Thistle4310
Hamilton Accies439
Airdrieonians4-15
QUEEN'S PARK4-14
Clyde4-41