Isn’t it amazing the impact a game of football can have on people? Those 90 minutes (or in the case of Queen’s in recent weeks those 90+ four or five minutes) can send you home feeling the world is a wonderful place – or drive you to despair.
Today was a classic example of how quickly things can change. The mood in the QP supporters bus heading for Arbroath was buoyant. Even the traditional chill wind that greeted us on arrival did nothing to dampen those high hopes. And the congregation that gathered in Tuttie’s pre-match was further lifted by the appearance of our very own Vicar, Stuart Henry, who has not been fit enough to see nearly enough games recently.
The team news saw the return of David Galt and Lewis Magee, with Kevin Green and the suspended Sean Burns missing out, and it was great to see the boys taking the field in the traditional black and white hoops.
Nobody was under any illusion how tough it would be to keep our unbeaten run going, and we all knew that the performance would have to be much better than the drab affair against Stranraer. The start we made certainly suggested good things might lie ahead as we knocked the ball about well.
Within the opening five minutes, we’d earned our first corner of the afternoon, along with a free-kick in a dangerous position. Neither Galt nor Anton Brady could get the delivery right as the wind made things awkward, but we were at least on the front foot.
And after 11 minutes, that adventurous approach sent the visiting spectators into dreamland as we took the lead. Galt took full advantage of his earlier dead-ball sighters to deliver a menacing corner into the Arbroath box. The home defence couldn’t clear the danger and young Magee took full advantage to thrash the loose ball high into the net. (What is it about our centre-halves just now that makes them such goal machines?)
Arbroath tried to hit back straight away and White had to be alert to deny an equaliser following an unhealthy scramble in our box.
McIntosh then fired a shot over after we failed to clear a corner. Queen’s broke upfield quickly and Billy Mortimer provided the ammunition for Robbie Leitch, but he couldn’t hit the target and a good opportunity was lost. Little did we know it then, but that was as good as our afternoon was going to get.
The game was still in its first quarter, but had already provided plenty entertainment at both ends. That continued, although more of the focus turned on our goal as the hosts stepped up the pressure.
The Spiders coped well with most of what Arbroath threw at us, and on the occasions when they did get a sight of goal there were plenty of willing bodies to throw themselves in the path of goalbound shots. Kader was denied by one such block and then White saved well low down from Wallace. Our attacks were now becoming less frequent, although Mortimer did force Hutton to keep out a longe-range effort.
The frustration was growing in the home ranks and McIntosh was booked for trying a bit too hard to win a penalty.
With the interval just a couple of minutes away, the whole afternoon changed. The hosts won a soft free-kick, hoisted the ball into the box – and as we tried to clear, the familiar figure of Gavin Swankie took advantage of the hesitation and smacked the ball behind White.
No further damage was done before the half-time whistle sounded, but although the position was the same as it had been at the start, the mood in the visiting camp was now very different.
Arbroath 1 Queen’s Park 1
It was by now looking like a big ask for QP to take something back down the road with them and that feeling deepened within the opening five minutes of the second period as first Conor McVey and then Brady were both forced off with injuries. Scott Gibson and Dominic Docherty were the replacements.
Arbroath tried to capitalise as our new-look defence sought to settle down. Gold and Wallace both had opportunities, but the former Spider’s effort was blocked, while Wallace failed to hit the target.
The feeling that it wasn’t going to be our day deepened when a Howitzer from Gregor Fotheringham flew past Hutton, but clipped the wrong side of the post. And sure enough, moments later Queen’s were behind. Another corner came into the box and when this one wasn’t immediately sent to safety, Gold pounced close in to shoot past White. (Is it just your scribe, or are QP old boys making far too much of a habit of scoring against us this season?)
There might still have been 30 minutes to go, but it was hard to see a way back this time for the Spiders as Arbroath went for the killer third goal.
A combination of brave defending, good goalkeeping – and wasteful finishing – meant that hopes of a dramatic equaliser stayed alive for those from the Mount Florida camp.
Our best chance looked like coming from a dead-ball situation and one duly arrived with just over 15 minutes to go. Kader crudely took out Docherty and was rightly booked for his efforts. Galt’s ball in found the head of Mortimer, but the header flew over the top.
Gus made his last change when he brought on James MacLennan for Leitch, but Arbroath had more than enough experience to deny our attackers the possession required to put them under any serious pressure.
The final minutes saw Arbroath having the best of the chances without forcing White into too much serious action, and the main entry into the notebook was a caution in the dying seconds for Gibson.
The final whistle signalled an end to our good run of late and a first bitter taste of defeat in 2018. It was a very different bunch of supporters who made their way home – and the weather matched the mood as a dull afternoon become a foul, wet evening.
While the final result was a disappointment, and outcomes elsewhere saw us slip a bit closer to the wrong end of the table, we can take comfort from the way we started and the way the players battled all afternoon, even when things were going against them.
It was particularly painful to watch the way Arbroath saw out the game today after some of the late punches that have been landed on us recently. But here’s a wee thought for anybody who wants to get critical. Experience is a wonderful thing in football, and that comes with age. According to research from one of the younger members of the QP web team, the average age of our playing XI at Gayfield today was 22 – with eight members of our squad aged 20 or under. Contrast that with Arbroath, who had an average age of 27, and just one player still to reach his 21st birthday.
That inexperience means we will probably suffer some sickeners as the season progresses. But look on the bright side … our youngsters are becoming more competitive with every passing week.
Keep the Faith!
Queen’s Park: Michael White; Conor McVey, Ciaran Summers, Lewis Magee, Adam Cummins, Gregor Fotheringham, Robbie Leitch, David Galt, Billy Mortimer, Luke Donnelly, Anton Brady. Subs: Dominic Docherty, Thomas Orr, James McLennan, Scott Gibson, Calvin McGrory, Joseph Manderson, Owen Stott.