Queen’s Park 2 Ayr United 2 (after extra time)
Ayr win 5-4 on penalties
Even without the eccentric antics of wrinkly rocker Rod Stewart, the televised draw for the last 16 of the Scottish Cup threw up a couple of talking points.
The possibility of an Edinburgh derby was one eyecatcher – with the added quirk of Hibs perhaps playing twice at Tynecastle in the one season’s Scottish Cup.
But of far more interest to those attending tonight’s replay was the either/or v either/or which saw four teams with more than a passing interest in events between Queen’s and Ayr United on the Hampden field. The winners of this one will need to wait to see if it’s Stirling Albion or Clyde they will face in the fifth round. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the draw is that regardless of which two teams eventually go through, they will all look on the next tie as being winnable.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Gus MacPherson had to get his charges to show the same focus they displayed on Saturday if they were to have any chance of getting through against their higher league opposition. We competed well at Somerset, but as Gus said in his pre-match comments tonight, while the players were looking forward to the challenge, they would need to work extremely hard to prolong their cup adventure.
With the replay coming just 75 hours after the final whistle from game one, much of the focus was on what changes – if any – the respective Gaffers would make.
For his part, Gus stuck very much with the Young Turks who had earned the replay, fielding the same starting XI: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Bryan Wharton, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Sean Burns, Jamie McKernon, Gregor Fotheringham, Paul Woods, Anton Brady and Ewan MacPherson. The bench comprised Owen Stott, Gavin Mitchell, Aiden Malone, David Galt, Conor McVey, Liam Brown and William Mortimer.
For their part, Ayr made a couple of changes, replacing Paul Cairney and Scott McKenna with Peter Murphy and Mikey Donald. They lined up: Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Gilmour, Murphy, Crawford, Donald, Harkins, Moore, Balatoni and Docherty. Their subs were: Hart (GK), Rose, Forrest, Cairney, Adams, McKenna and McGuffie.
The officials were the same as Saturday … but could Queen’s change the outcome to the one they desired?
Queen’s opened brightly, with Burns sending over a dangerous cross after just 90 seconds. Unfortunately, there were no takers.
But in the fourth minute, things got even brighter. Brady produced a magical turn to leave two Ayr players looking for a taxi to get back in the game. He drove on and fed Burns, who produced another gem of a cross which this time was hooked into the net by the left leg of Woods.
It was a start that gave us Reason to Believe, but if we needed a warning that things were far from done and dusted, we got two in quick succession. First Harkins fizzed a shot narrowly wide and then a dangerous break down our right ended with Muir happy to see the cross cut out.
Woods had a powerful shot blocked on nine minutes, and already it was a tie that looked like entertaining at both ends. Queen’s were knocking the ball about well, but Ayr threatened as they sought to use the glorious Hampden acres to their advantage.
Muir did superbly after 12 minutes when he slid towards the 18-yard line after collecting a cross. He had to twist his body well to keep the ball inside the box and avoid an embarrassing slip.
Queen’s got another opportunity after 15 minutes when Murphy decked Woods on the left hand side of the Ayr box. Sean got his angles all wrong with this one, however and the chance was lost.
Woods was gifted a wee chance after a mix-up in the visiting defence, but was crowded out before he could make anything of it.
McKernon fell foul of referee Barry Cook, picking up a yellow card for a late tackle, but as the clock passed the 20-minute mark, the Spiders were 1-0 ahead.
Harkins was fortunate to escape a card when he was late on Wharton, but far be it from Gulliver to criticise any official.
The Ayr striker then slipped in Moore, but Oor Wullie was up to the task and held his low shot well.
Queen’s were looking comfy, so naturally shot themselves in the foot. Muir tried to throw the ball out to McGeever, Ryan couldn’t get to the ball; Moore did – and just belted it into the net.
Just what the doctor did NOT order.
Queen’s were rattled by the goal and almost lost another one within seconds as Harkins (yes, he was everywhere and running the show) shot inches wide.
MacPherson won a foul after being bundled in the back. This time the delivery was better … and the result much better. An almighty stramash saw Fleming punch the ball out towards the edge of the box. Wharton was lurking and used the soul of his boot to poke the ball back into the net. Thirty-two minutes gone and Queen’s are 2-1 ahead. Just what the doctor ordered.
Moore almost got his second equaliser within 90 seconds of the restart when Harkins blocked an attempted clearance from Cummins and rolled the loose ball into the path of Moore. Muir got down smartly to save, but it was yet another warning.
As the final five minutes of the half approached. Boyle let fly from distance. Thankfully, it was still rising as it went past the goal.
Brady relieved some of the tension with a lungbusting run that was only ended at the Ayr corner flag, and Cook eased a bit more by blowing the whistle shortly after.
Queen’s Park 2 Ayr United 1
Neither side made any changes at the break and so the stage was set for a long, edgy 45 minutes.
The hope was that Gus had got the “settle down” message over to the players at the interval. Millen won an early foul on our right, but the whistle went for a foul as the ball was whipped in.
Ayr then threatened on their right, but this time Millen was held by Moore as the ball came in and the whistle again brought any danger to an end.
The visitors started to settle and look menacing again. Each time we repelled one attack, another started and we found it very hard to get control of the ball.
Brady and MacPherson did carve out one chance, but the final ball took Ewan a shade wide and he couldn’t find Woods with an attempted cross.
There were only eight minutes gone in the second period, but Gulliver had aged 10 years.
Ayr screamed for a penalty after Gilmour fell over Burns in the box. Cook saw nothing amiss and Queen’s broke to win a corner. McKernon’s inswinging ball was a beauty, but was scrambled behind for another corner. This one was punched clear and Brady was booked for decking Crawford on the break.
Paul Cairney came on for Gilmour as the visitors tried to turn the screw.
On the hour mark, MacPherson tried to break clear, but was well marshalled by Ballatoni. It was the youngster’s last action as he was replaced by Malone after a tireless shift.
The second half on Saturday was dull as dishwater; this one was already containing far too much action for the liking of the home fans in the crowd of 1026.
Malone became the third QP player booked, for rolling the ball away, but three-quarters of the game had now gone and Queen’s were still ahead. They almost doubled the lead as Malone outmuscled Ballatoni and played the ball in. Fleming was quickly off his line to smother the danger as Woods looked to pounce.
Cairney then went into the book for a foul on Malone. Burns went for goal from the free, but fired just the wrong side of the post.
With 20 minutes left. Moore and Donald were replaced by Forrest and McGuffie.
Brady led another charge, but was dispossessed at the crucial moment. Crawford then went into the book for a foul on the wee midfielder who hobbled off to be replaced by McVey.
Seventeen minutes and counting!
Ayr now had seven attackers, and launched the ball forward at every opportunity. As the action hotted up, Fotheringham went into the book. Burns followed him in for dissent, but Sean could argue that he had every right to make his point to assistant McMullen who was the only person in the ground who thought Crawford had earned a corner.
Thankfully, that bit of danger was cleared.
With 10 minutes left, Woods was replaced by Galt.
Queen’s were trying to slow the game down whenever possible, but as Ayr’s desperation increased, so did their pressing and with seven minutes to go, they were back on level terms.
Cairney’s corner from the right was met by the head of Balatoni – and Muir couldn’t stop it finding the back of the net.
It was now a case of getting to extra time and regrouping, although McKernon showed he had other ideas when he narrowly missed with a long-range shot.
Right on the 90 minutes, Wharton became the sixth QP player booked, and there was still time for Cook to take the name of Docherty before the end of normal time. That took the crime count to eight in a game where there hadn’t been a bad tackle.
Queen’s Park 2 Ayr United 2
The visitors were first to threaten when play resumed, McGuffie firing over from a decent position.
The bets at the final whistle in the Press box were which side would be down to 10 men first. It took just seven minutes to find the answer, and it was Queen’s as Burns was sent packing after picking up a second yellow card for a foul.
Docherty tried to make the punishment even harsher, but Muir kept out his driven shot.
Cook was already the centre of attention, and attracted further wrath among the home support when he awarded an indirect free kick in our penalty box when Muir took too long over a byekick. The effort was charged down.
Two minutes from the break, Queen’s had Muir to thank as he produced a quite stunning stop to keep out a goalbound Harkins shot. Willie hadn’t had his finest evening in a QP shirt up to that point, but the save was one that will live long in the memory.
Right on the whistle, Devlin was yellow carded for a cynical takeout on Galt as he tried to lead a rare Spiders’ attack. Wharton’s effort from the free kick was easily taken by Fleming.
Half time in extra time
Queen’s Park 2 Ayr United 2
The start of the final period was a bit of a war of attrition, with 10-man Queen’s looking to sit tight and hit on the break if possible, while Ayr bombarded us from all angles.
Despite monopolising the ball, the visitors couldn’t find a way through. Cairney shot high and wide and then Cummins hoiked the ball clear from a dangerous McGuffie cross.
Four minutes from time, McVey became the 300th player booked (well it seemed like that number anyway) before Cummins again was in the right place at the right time to clear.
Right on the whistle, McMullen fell further down the home side’s popularity poll when she flagged for a foul by Fotheringham as he tried to see the ball over our line. Cairney’s cross caused consternation in the home ranks, but the ball was finally cleared.
Galt did his best to write his name into QP folklore with a late break, but the final ball in was cleared through sheer weight of numbers.
Rose then wrote his name into the history books as he became Ayr’s fourth substitute, the first player to take on that role since the rules were changes for ties that go to extra time. It was a fair bet that he would be taking one of the penalties, which were needed to settle the tie as Cook brought “normal” proceedings to a close.
Full time: Queen’s Park 2 Ayr United 2
And so to the shoot-out:
Ayr won the toss and Forrest scored with ease. Ryan McGeever did likewise with Queen’s first effort to tie things up at 1-1.
Rose did step up for his first touch of the action and scored comfortably. Adam Cummins responded in kind and after two kicks each it was 2-2.
Cairney was next up and fired wide to give the Spiders a scent of glory. The scent became stronger when Jamie McKernon scored easily to put us 3-2 ahead.
McGuffie scored for Ayr, but Bryan Wharton saw his penalty well saved low down by keeper Fleming to tie things up again at 3-3.
That meant it was now sudden death, and when Harkins scored for Ayr, the pressure on young Ross Millen was immense. He was more than up to it, however, calmly chipping the keeper to make it 4-4.
Boyle stepped up to score for Ayr and when Fleming produced another fine stop, this time to deny Gregor Fotheringham, it was all over and Queen’s were out 5-4 on penalties.
This was a sore one to take. Like many in the ranks of the home support, Gulliver and his sidekick Homer are heartily scunnered with the number of times the Spiders have followed our national team into the “gallant losers” category.
What makes this one so sickening is that for large periods in both ties, Queen’s played the better football. Yes, our Championship opponents had the edge on possession, but the Spiders more than held their own.
Gus MacPherson was hoarse before the first half was even over tonight, but he’ll have to somehow find words of inspiration to cajole his weary players into a supreme effort in just four days time when we face a daunting trip to Peterhead on league business.
Yes, the cup dream is over for another year, but there’s a bigger prize awaiting if we can maintain our place in SPFL League 1.
Nights like this are sent to test us; but who would bet against MacPherson’s men bouncing back at Balmoor?
Keep the Faith!
Highlights from behind the goal
The penalty shoot out
Bryan puts us in the lead again
Paul opens the scoring