THE season is certainly drawing to a close for the Glorious Hoops — six of them on the bounce, in fact, before today’s latest 90 nail-biting minutes.
With just five games left of our League One promotion season, every Queen’s Park aficionado should be dead chuffed — and dead jittery — about where we currently find ourselves.
Pre-season we were everyone’s dead certs to go straight back down but, remarkably, at the business end of the campaign we’re still nearer the promotion play-offs than the relegation version.
Of course, anything could yet happen with 15 points still up for grabs — it is, after all, Queen’s Park FC we’re talking about — but even pessimistic old anoraks like Gulliver agree that nothing should dilute what has been a mammoth effort by Gus MacPherson, his coach staff, and our battling players.
For those so-vital five games we’ll need every ounce of that never-say-die spirit epitomised by the sensational last-gasp equalisers at gloomy Cliftonhill in midweek and at sun-kissed Alloa a fortnight ago.
And if today we hope to extend our lead over second-bottom Peterhead to nine points – a potentially unbridgeable gap with just 12 left to be won – then we will also need to score against the Blue Toon for the first time this season.
We have lost two and drawn 0-0 in our three meetings, and in fact Peterhead’s last win was against Queen’s at Balmoor in late January.
The visitors are nine games without a victory and like Queen’s have had more than their share of draws, with six of their own in that nine-game winless run.
Gus was forced into changes, with Jamie McKernon suspended and Ross Millen and Conor McVey missing after limping off against Albion Rovers on Tuesday night.
So we lined up with a back five of Mitchell, Foy, McGeever, Cummins and Burns; Docherty, Galt and Brady in midfield; and MacPherson and Zanatta interchanging up front.
Queen’s kicked off in glorious sunshine towards the away end and there was an early scare, with Muir dropping a simple cross from Anderson before recovering to save at Jordan Brown’s feet.
But the early sparring was tentative, and the first attack of any intent came from Queen’s down the left in seven minutes, Zanatta getting to the byeline and seeing his cross blocked for a corner before it could reach MacPherson.
Muir was certainly the busier keeper, but so far it was all through his own doing. In 12 minutes he was too casual with a kick-out and it was blocked by the energetic Anderson, but fortunately for Queen’s the ball rebounded to a home shirt to be cleared.
Zanatta was having some success down the left. He robbed Stevenson on the byeline and charged into the box, but his attempted cutback for Docherty was blocked.
Peterhead’s main tactic so far was pumping high balls through the middle – and why not with McAllister there? – and Jordan Brown won one such free-kick to head over as we hit the 20-minute mark with neither goal having yet been threatened.
That almost changed in 22 minutes, MacPherson winning a free-kick and Brady flashing over a vicious free-kick that was headed clear for a corner.
But the nearest thing to a chance came in 26 minutes, and it fell to McAllister, who has made a habit of hurting Queen’s.
Burns won a tackle at left back but the ball broke forward to the advancing Stevenson, who immediately whipped over a high cross to the far post, where the unmarked McAllister half-volleyed it well over.
But the place erupted in 29 minutes when Queen’s took a crucial lead with a magnificent goal.
Our first strike against Blue Toon this season was well worth the wait. McGeever calmly pulled down the ball in the centre circle and pushed it out to Burns, who delivered a splendid pinpoint pass forward to Zanatta.
The young Canadian controlled it in the box and appeared to be turning away from goal, but he suddenly spun and crashed a super right-foot shot that burst past Hobday high into the net. Magic.
Peterhead stuck to their high road tactics, and Burns was blatantly barged off the ball before a cross to the back post was headed over by McAllister.
The prolific Peterhead striker was not surprisingly proving our biggest danger, and when he turned Mitchell into the box in 40 minutes, his attempted curler to the far post was blocked.
And two minutes later the visitors threatened again, this time Jordan Brown firing weakly at Muir when he was a clear shot from the edge of the box.
So this game was still very much in the melting pot, although Docherty did his best to change that with a wicked free kick that Hobday struggled to push for a corner.
Cummins was booked for blocking keeper Hobday’s clearance right on the half-time whistle.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 Peterhead 0
Peterhead resumed where they had left off, with a high ball into the box, McGeever’s headed clearance, and Scott Brown firing narrowly over. The Hoops at the back were certainly getting plenty of heading practice.
Stevenson became the second name in the book for taking down Docherty.
McAllister had the ball in the net in 53 minutes, but the flag had been raised for offside long before he shot.
Queen’s quiet opening finally sparked into life a minute later. Again it was the Burns-Zanatta show, the striker diving onto the full-back’s accurate pass, driving into the box on the left before a low shot aimed at the far post beat Hobday and also MacPherson as it slid agonisingly past the upright.
Young MacPherson came off to a good ovation in 58 minutes after an excellent shift in the heat, and Orsi came on to partner Zanatta.
Peterhead made a double change just after the hour, Riley and Comrie replacing Redman and Jordan Brown.
McAllister was booked for diving in the box in 63 minutes under a challenge from Cummins. Ross was booked for dissent in 70.
And then this grand old place erupted again in 72 minutes as Queen’s went 2-0 ahead.
The combative Orsi won a corner on the left. It was cleared back out to the sub striker, he thrashed a low shot towards the far post and the diving Hobday could only parry the ball into the path of McGeever, leaving the big skipper with a tap-in. Magic x2.
Scott Brown had a good shot from well out comfortably saved by Muir, as Peterhead tried to find some way back, then Docherty was booked in 77 for a tug.
It could have been 3-0 in 84 minutes. Burns to Orsi to Galt, and a shot that curved wide of the far post. Then Burns was booked for allegedly wasting time at the corner flag.
The final act – other than eccentric referee Barry Cook booking Orsi for who knows what, and playing SIX minutes extra time when there had hardly been a trainer on the park – was McAllister finally getting clear of the excellent Queen’s defenders six yards out, only for Muir to push away his shot and Cummins to boot clear. Not the big man’s day, thank goodness.
Well, how was that? Brilliant, Queen’s, just brilliant. Now even that old pessimist Gulliver may stop looking over his shoulder.
Hang on to your hats, and your faith. We’re looking up, and in for one helluva ride.
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Gavin Mitchell, Cameron Foy, Dominic Docherty, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, David Galt, Anton Brady, Ewan MacPherson, Dario Zanatta, Sean Burns. Subs: William Mortimer, Liam Brown, Bryan Wharton, Aiden McIlduff, Kalvin Orsi, Calvin McGrory, Owen Stott.
Peterhead: Fraser Hobday, Jamie Stevenson, Steven Noble, Ryan Strachan, Scott Ross, Scott Brown, Grant Anderson, Jamie Redman, Rory McAllister, Simon Ferry, Jordan Brown. Subs: Nickey Riley, Aaron Comrie, Alan Smith, Michael McMullin, Kevin Dzierzawski, Leighton McIntosh, Graeme Smith.
Referee – Barry Cook.