Peterhead 2 Queen’s Park 0
Nothing should surprise those who follow Queen’s Park, but even by their standards, the Spiders have caused a few eyebrows to be raised in recent weeks.
Victories over Livingston and Morton, and a creditable draw away to Brechin have burst a few bookie coupons … and brought a smile to even more coupons around our Hampden home.
Even your scribe, who should really know better, has been pleasantly surprised by the run of results, but today was a different challenge.
Our record against Peterhead borders on the dismal, with just nine victories in 42 attempts. So it would be fair to say that there was no danger of overconfidence as we headed north.
We sat in fifth place going into this one. That might be higher than expected, but Peterhead’s position at the bottom of the table certainly was not in the pre-season script. They had taken just one point from their first four outings, but any team with the goal threat of Rory McAllister is always likely to come good at some point. Our hope was that the recovery wouldn’t start today. It turned out to be a forlorn hope.
Queen’s headed for the Highlands with a strong squad, bolstered by the re-signing of keeper Willie Muir. But young Andy Murphy got the nod today, behind a familiar back four of Ross Millen, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins and Scott Gibson. Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Conor McVey and Sean Burns filled the midfield, with David Galt providing the back up to Aiden Malone.
The Balmoor playing surface looked absolutely superb, giving hope that Queen’s might be able to play some decent stuff, but there was the usual wind blowing up the pitch – and an unusual hazard in the bright sunshine which made life tricky for defenders under the high ball.
Queen’s had the wind at their back in the first period, but didn’t settle well. The home side won a couple of early corners which we survived, and then our first real attack gave us a golden opportunity to take the lead. Malone turned well out right and as he fired the ball across, Woods nipped in ahead of Dzierzawski who sent him crashing to the ground. Referee Finnie could do nothing but point to the spot, which he duly did. Miller was entrusted with the kick and hit his effort firmly enough, but a shade too high and it smacked the woodwork and bounced to safety.
Even though there were still 82 minutes to play, there was a feeling that the game’s pivotal moment had passed as far as the Spiders were concerned.
Queen’s were at least lifted by the attack and tried to take advantage of the conditions. After 11 minutes, Burns fired a cross all the way to the far corner of the box where the advancing Millen met it nicely; only for Noble to block his net bound effort.
Sadly, we failed to build any serious momentum and the game descended into a spot of kick and rush. The only thing that lifted the excitement level was a yellow card for Cummins who arrived later than the last train with a tackle on Riley and could hardly argue with the booking.
Midway through the first period, Miller had a chance to make amends with a free kick from fully 35 yards. He struck the effort sweetly, but keeper Hobday managed to push it over the bar for a corner.
The delivery from the next dead ball was disappointing; a trend that was repeated with awful regularity over the course of the afternoon.
McAllister had been quiet until the 36th minute, but he created a couple of chances in quick succession which Murphy handled easily.
That was it as far as the first half was concerned, except for a couple of very late substitutions. Ross was replaced by Rumsby, while the limping Woods finally admitted defeat to a leg knock and was replaced by Anton Brady.
Peterhead 0 Queen’s Park 0
We might have been level at the break, but the odds were now swinging the way of the home side. They had the wind behind them, and Murphy also had an evil sun to deal with.
Our fears were quickly realised. In the first minute of the half, Peterhead won a corner, the ball was swung to the far post … and nodded home by Redman. It was as simple as it was predictable, as it was painful.
We now had to come from behind against an experienced, powerful side, and if we’re honest, that never looked likely.
Our only chance was to get the ball down and play, but we got sucked into a long-ball contest, which was never going to go our way.
On the hour, things got worse. McGeever has been a rock this season, but got a high ball all wrong and when it fell behind the defender, Riley had an easy task to lob the stranded Murphy to make it 2-0.
As the pattern continued, Gus made his last throw of the dice, throwing on his boy Ewan and John Carter for Cummins and the unfortunate Malone, who had ploughed a lone furrow tirelessly.
Queen’s had produced precious little in the second period, but after 67 minutes, we at least got an effort away. Miller produced the kind of delivery we know he’s capable of and Carter got his head to the ball, but sadly it flew wide of the far post.
To say the last quarter petered out would be a mild understatement. Yellow cards for Scott Brown and substitute Jordon Brown, who had replaced Riley, were the only items of note before Finnie put us all out of our misery.
Like so many previous trips, we headed home from Balmoor with nothing to show for our efforts. There was huge disappointment in the stands, but anybody who mistakenly thought that disappointment wasn’t shared in the dressing room would have been heartened by the sight of the QP players making their way over to acknowledge the support received … led by Darren Miller who clearly put his hands up in apology.
None of those players has anything to apologise for. Many of them had a bit of a shocker today, but not one of them stopped trying. There may be other bad days ahead, but there will also be good ones to remind us why we follow this club.
Between events in Manchester and Balmoor, it’s not been the best of days for Gulliver. But we don’t need to worry, next week we’ve only got to face an Alloa team licking their wounds after their first defeat in ages.
Keep the faith.