Morton 2 Queen’s Park 2

(Morton win 4-2 on penalties)

Football’s a cruel game at times – and this was certainly one of those times for Gus MacPherson’s Spiders. Having withstood a barrage of attempts on their goal, and shown a clinical edge when their own opportunities arose, Queen’s went into the final five minutes with a two-goal lead.

That’s when Lady Luck decided to desert us and our Championship opponents scored twice to tie things up, before going on to win the penalty shoot-out 4-2.

It was a hugely disappointing end to what had been another gutsy – and at times stylish – display by Gus’ young side. The hope is that when the hurt heals, the harsh lesson that the game doesn’t so much last for 90 minutes, it lasts until the referee blows his final whistle, will stand them in good stead for the League challenge that must be our main priority.

After the exertions of Saturday against Premier League Motherwell, it was no surprise to see the manager make changes in his starting line-up. Out went Ryan Docherty, David Galt and Thomas Orr, to allow Bryan Wharton, Chris Duff and Ewan MacPherson to get their chance to shine.

The line-up then was Willie Muir, a central defence of Wharton, Kevin Green and Adam Cummins, with Ross Millen and Sean Burns in the wingback roles. Conor McVey, Dominic Docherty and Anton Brady occupied the midfield, with Chris Duff supporting Ewan MacPherson up front.

The pattern was set early as Morton grabbed control of the match and should have taken the lead after just two minutes. Thomson found space at the back post to get a header away, and Muir had to be at his sharpest to keep the effort out. Seconds later, the same player got another header on target, with the same result as Muir deflected it away.

Even at this early stage, the influence of Gary Harkins could be seen and he set up a shooting chance for Tidser after six minutes. That effort was charged down by Green at the expense of the first home corner of the evening. Former Spider Ricki Lamie sent his header from Harkins’ delivery wide of the posts.

Things settled down just a touch after that and five minutes later, Queen’s had their first attempt … from a free-kick just inside their own half. Duff’s effort didn’t match his quick thinking, however, and never threatened Gaston’s goal.

Morton were soon back on the front foot winning a series of corners and free-kicks which gave them the chance to load balls into our box. But the Spiders were in no mood to be caught out and repelled all efforts.

Despite being on the receiving end, Queen’s showed they could play with a break on 17 minutes. Burns fed Brady, but his cross was deflected into Gaston’s arms as MacPherson waited to pounce.

Millen got our first real shot of the night away on 23 minutes after some neat build-up play earned a foul just outside the box, but his effort lacked the pace to trouble Gaston.

Thomson and Muir resumed their personal battle on the half-hour and again it was the Queen’s keeper who came out on top. Firstly, he palmed out a header from the giant striker, before doing the same with the rebound. A third effort was also defended before the offside flag ended the onslaught.

Queen’s took heart from the heroics at the back and began to enjoy more of the game. Brady produced an Anton special run before firing a shot wide. And as we entered the final few moments of the half, a lovely spell of possession ended with Gaston coming to claim an inviting cross.

There was, however, still time for Muir to produce another couple of saves denying Thomson (who else) with a saved shot and then an easy take from the striker’s header.

As the clock ticked into injury time, Queen’s won a foul and as the ball was swung into the Morton box, Lamie headed it behind. Most inside the ground thought the Spiders had won their first corner of the evening, but referee Colin Steven blew instead for half-time. It was a decision that infuriated the visiting players and spectators, and one that took on even more significance given how the game was to end.

Half Time: Morton 0 Queen’s Park 0

The home side did their best to take up where they had left off, and won a series of free-kicks and yet more corners in the early stages. Only one required Muir to act, which he did comfortably as he clutched a weak Thomson header.

The first booking of the night came on 51 minutes when Docherty knocked the ball away after another soft free-kick decision went the way of the Championship side.

Shortly after, Gus made his first change of the night, replacing MacPherson who’d had to chase shadows for most of the match, with Orr.

The young man was clearly out to make an impact against his former club, and within seconds of coming on, had slid in to challenge Murdoch – giving away a foul in the process.

Another Morton corner after 56 minutes saw Muir again called in to make a routine save – the only surprise being that this time it was Tidser who was denied.

Both sides made a change after shortly after the hour. Queen’s gave Duff a rest after a busy shift and brought on Galt, while Morton replaced Tidser with Quitongo.

The action had been fairly fast and furious for most of the night, despite the un-Scottish sunshine that must have drained the players. That continued, but the difference from the first period was that Queen’s were now more in the game.

Galt’s cross found Green’s head and Gaston had to look lively to tip the ball over for a QP corner which resulted in a header from Orr being scrambled off the line.

Quitongo was then denied by the feet of Muir as the substitute found himself one-on-one with the keeper.

Twenty minutes from time, Queen’s showed their hosts how to make the most of an opportunity. Orr won a foul on the right as he was blocked by Harkins. Galt swung in a peach of a cross which produced an even sweeter bullet of a header from Wharton. Gaston never saw the ball, far less try to stop it, as it flew into the back of the net.

So despite having been on the receiving end for a fair part of the night, the Spiders were now in front. And they looked in no mood to concede that lead as they defended solidly and broke with purpose whenever the opportunity arose.

An increasingly worried Morton boss Jim Duffy made another change with 12 minutes to go, replacing Forbes with Tiffoney. Within minutes of the change the scoreboard altered … but it was Queen’s who were two ahead. Muir’s kick-out found Orr, who exchanged quick passes with Galt which left the young striker bearing down on Gaston’s goal. He kept his cool superbly to roll the ball into the net and leave the visitors within sight of a famous victory.

It was not to be. Three minutes later, Tiffoney found space on the right and his cutback was tucked away neatly by McHugh to cut the lead to 2-1.

Not surprisingly, that signalled a desperate siege from the home side, which was repelled by Queen’s. Gus’ men showed admirable determination – and no little skill – to keep their advantage until well after the regulation 90 minutes had come and gone.

Then came the cruellest twist of fate imaginable. A Murdoch cross was headed behind by Docherty. Unlike the end of the first period, this time the corner was awarded. It was the home side’s 13th corner of the night and the result was somehow inevitable given all that had gone before. Sure enough, the cross was scrambled into the net by Barr and the scores were tied at 2-2 as the final whistle sounded.

The penalty shoot-out was an anti-climax, with the home side winning 4-2. Gaston saved from Orr and Green to render the successful attempts by Wharton and Cummins meaningless.

As has often been the case in our 150-year history, you don’t know quite what to take from the match. Gus will be desperately disappointed that we couldn’t see out the final five minutes with a two-goal cushion. But he must be proud of the effort put in by every one of his players. He must also be delighted with the goals we scored and some of the football we produced when we did have possession.

So that’s us two games into the season and we’re still looking for our first victory. Given the opposition we have faced, that’s perhaps no surprise. Saturday sees a challenge of a different nature when Edinburgh City come to Hampden. Who knows what lies in store with that one?

Keep the Faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Sean Burns, Bryan Wharton, Kevin Green, Adam Cummins, Conor McVey, Dominic Docherty, Ewan MacPherson (Thomas Orr), Anton Brady and Chris Duff (David Galt). Subs: David Green, Michael Bailey, Willie Mortimer, Ryan Docherty and Michael White.