Kilmarnock 6 Queen’s Park 0

Depending on your personal point of view, today’s cup tie either ushered in the start of a new and exciting era that could take Queen’s Park to hitherto undreamt of heights – or it signalled the end of a historic era and the first step along a necessary, but unwelcome, path.

No matter what side of the professional debate you’re on, it can’t be denied that things will never be the same again. Last Saturday, the Spiders’ took the field against Edinburgh City for nothing more than their travel expenses. Today, after the mass contract signing on Tuesday night, those players stepped out at Rugby Park as salaried, professional footballers.

A monumental change then – and a monumental task ahead of them if they wished to keep new boss Ray McKinnon’s 100% record intact. Kilmarnock may not have enjoyed the best of runs before the winter break, but they are three divisions ahead of Queen’s in the Scottish football hierarchy, and they had home advantage to boot.

The Spiders cause was not helped by the absence of Nicky Jamieson who aggravated an injury last week in Edinburgh. But Queen’s did manage to come from behind in that game without Nicky’s impressive presence to inflict a first home league defeat of the season on the Capital club.

And this William Hill Scottish Cup tie was also the classic “free hit” for McKinnon’s men who were quoted at 12-1 by some bookies with Kilmarnock at 1-7. Fair to say, then, that Queen’s weren’t fancied to deny the Premier League side a place in the next round.

There were no real surprises in the QP line-up and conditions were glorious for the start. The sizeable travelling support behind Muir’s goal were dreaming of another cup success, but that dream quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Killie hadn’t scored a goal since November, but were ahead within the first 10 minutes. Burke fired in a dangerous cross from a free kick and Bruce beat the defence to head home.

You could almost feel Ray McKinnon’s frustration as his side failed to do the basics, making what was always a big ask even bigger. Kilmarnock for their part, suddenly looked like a team with the worries lifted – and they oozed confidence as they knocked the ball about.

Queen’s worked their socks off, but never looked like working Koprivec in the Kilmarnock goal. They did, however, manage to settle and keep the damage at 1-0 … until history repeated itself in the 26th minute. Another Killie free kick; another perfect Burke delivery; another header from an unmarked Killie player (this time defender Findlay); another simple goal conceded. Perhaps the only difference this time around was that the foul fell into the very soft category, but regardless of the merits of that decision, Queen’s simply had to defend the situation better.

All but the most optimistic in the ranks of the QP support were now hoping we could avoid further pain – rather than fight our way back into the tie. We did keep the scoreline unchanged until right on the half-time whistle. And if the first two goals looked similar, the third was yet another carbon copy. This time the deadball situation was a Killie corner, but the principal participants (Burke and Findlay) were the same – as was the result, with the defender burying yet another header past a helpless Muir.

Half time

Kilmarnock 3 Queen’s Park 0

You can only imagine what was said in the QP dressing room at the break, and while there were no personnel changes, the Spiders did try to push a bit further up the park from the start of the second period. They were almost undeone after three minutes when Burke netted, but the back line had been high enough and the offside flag ensured the score remained at 3-0.

And it stayed like that until just after the hour when Burke resumed his role as provider-in-chief to set up the chance for Kiltie to score the fourth.

To their credit, the Spiders kept plugging away and never stopped working. But despite enjoying some limited possession, they never gave the home defence any real cause for alarm. Stats can be misleading, but it doesn’t take an anorak like your scribe to understand that when a team’s “best” moments in the 90 are two corners and a total of two shots, they’re not going to get back from a 4-0 deficit.

The Gaffer rang the changes to ensure the legs on the park were the freshest available. Alfredo Agyeman came on for Billy Mortimer, then James Grant replaced Luke Main. And one positive moment from a bad afternoon was the emergence of another youngster from the QP Academy, as Reece McGuire came on for his debut, replacing Kieran Moore.

A combination of decent defending, good goalkeeping and a Killie side who knew the job was done meant we entered the dying stages without the scorers being troubled again. But just when it looked like we would escape with “only” a 4-0 defeat, Deja Vu popped its ugly head into the mix. The clock was almost at the 90 minutes when Burke provided a fifth assist, this time sub Nicke Kabamba scrambling home on his debut.

And the agony wasn’t over yet as another sub, Connor Johnson, made it six deep into injury time when he turned home yet another Burke cross.

Thankfully, the final whistle sounded before Burke could make it a Magnificent Seven assists, but he’d done more than enough damage by then.

Gaffer Ray McKinnon was no doubt a bit shell-shocked by the margin of defeat, but he summed things up quite nicely when he said the two goals at the death put a worse reflection on the scoreline than the performance perhaps merited. But he also expressed his disappointment at the way we lost three goals from almost identical areas of the pitch, with five of the six resulting from dead-ball situations.

So that’s the first game of the professional era at Queen’s Park done and dusted. The result, while a bitter disappointment, pales into insignificance when you look at the challenges … and the potential … ahead of the club.

The new dawn really starts next week at home to Albion Rovers in the league. Onwards and upwards!

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Billy Mortimer, Ryan Finnie, Ciaran Summers, Creag Little, Cameron Foy,  Salim Kouider-Aissa, Luke Main, Joffrey Lidouren, David Galt, Kieran Moore. Subs: Scott Gibson, Cameron Clark, James Grant, Jack Purdue, Alfredo Agyeman, Reece McGuire, Jacques Heraghty.