Albion Rovers 2 Queen’s Park 0
It’s just over 100 years since the Spiders first travelled to Lanarkshire to take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish League. That November day in 1919 saw the home side come out on top by two goals to nil. The sides have done battle more than 200 times since then and the all-time scoreline stands at 73-72 for the Rovers with 65 draws in the mix as well.
So history suggested we’d have to at our best if we wanted to keep our recent, decent run going. Apart from facing a team who have by all accounts been playing better than results or their league position would suggest, the Spiders also had to try to overcome the “Manager of the Month curse” which has seen a host of Hampden Gaffers lose their first match after picking up this particular gong.
Mark Roberts received the accolade this week for the exploits that had seen the team win four of their last five matches. To make matters “worse”, striker Salim Kouider-Aissa’s rich vein of form saw him named player of the month, as well as being tipped to be the next Spider to top 20 goals in a season.
Little wonder, then, that anoraks like your scribe were worried as kick-off approached. The apprehension deepened when the team news revealed Nicky Jamieson had failed to recover fully from the knock he took last week. That blow was, however, countered by the return of David Galt, which meant two changes to the starting line-up with Cameron Foy and Galt replacing Jamieson and Jack Purdue.
It looked a familiar shape despite the changes in personnel, but warning signs were flashing very soon after the game began.
The pitch was in remarkable condition given the monsoon-like rain that fell in the early part of Saturday morning, and the home side adapted well.
Within the first few minutes Willie Muir had to block brilliantly from Byrne after seeing his initial clearance charged down by the striker.
Scally was also prominent down Rovers right in the opening exchanges as Queen’s struggled to put anything together going forward … while looking distinctly uncertain at the back.
That’s a combination that usually leads to disaster, and had it not been for a series of super saves from Muir, the game could have been out of sight within the first 10 minutes.
But after 13 minutes, the home side were ahead. The Spiders lost possession on the right flank and a couple of quick passes gave Byrne the opportunity to bury the ball behind Muir.
Queen’s tried to respond with a typical Galt blockbuster free-kick from distance which Goodfellow dealt with well.
However, the tide was still flowing towards the Spiders’ goal and five minutes after their opener, it was 2-0. This one was even harder to take as we failed to deal with a trademark diagonally delivery from former Spider Bryan Wharton. Roberts was on the receiving end and his pin-point cross was volleyed home with ease by Byrne.
It was no more than Rovers deserved and as the half wore on, the home side continued to look a threat every time they ventured forward. Queen’s couldn’t get into any real rhythm, and the only ray of sunshine on a very gloomy afternoon came when Galt wriggled clear on our left and fired over a cross. Typical of the way things were going, it found no takers and was easily cleared.
Luke Main picked up a yellow card as he tried to stem the tide of Rovers’ attacks, and perhaps the best thing to be said about the remainder of the first period was that we didn’t fall further behind and reached the dressing room at the interval with the deficit just two … when it could easily have been much, much worse.
Albion Rovers 2 Queen’s Park 0.
Queen’s made no personnel changes at the break, but the performance was stepped up from the very start. No doubt a few choice words from Gaffer helped in the dressing room, but whatever the reason, we looked more like ourselves after the break.
Galt forced another save from Goodfellow with a super free-kick strike and Joffrey Lidouren also began to make his presence felt.
For the first time in the match, the Spiders began to look menacing and Mark gambled after 56 minutes when he replaced the defensive solidarity of Tommy Block for the attacking pace of Kieran Moore.
The change almost brought immediate results as Galt, Billy Mortimer and Lidouren all had half-chances blocked by the home defence.
It was far from one-way traffic, however, as in the midst of these Spiders’ attacks, Muir had to race from his line to dive at the feet of former Spider Euan East.
Inside the last 20 minutes we passed up another chance in a way that seemed to sum up the afternoon. A lovely break on our right saw the ball switched and finally rolled into the path of Ciaran Summers. The wee wing-back has shown what a lovely left peg he possesses, but on this occasion the ball took a bobble as he went to strike it and sailed harmlessly away from goal.
Moments later came the realisation, if any was needed, that this wasn’t going to be our day. Another decent move left Salim one-on-one with Goodfellow, but although the striker’s shot was on target, it was too close to the keeper and he managed to divert it away from danger.
Mark threw on Alfredo Agyeman and Ryan Finnie at the expense of Mortimer and Creag Little, and Queen’s continued to press for the break that might just get them back in the game.
They won a number of corners and free-kicks as time wore on which saw Salim go close with a couple of headers, while Galt continued to keep Goodfellow alert with his ability to shoot from seemingly any angle or distance.
Salim picked up a yellow card for a foul on Clarke as our frustration grew. Five minutes from time, Main fired in a shot that looked to have goal written all over it, but Krones got his head in the way and diverted it behind for a fruitless corner.
By now we were looking for a consolation goal, but even that was denied us deep into injury time when Foy found himself clear in the box after a free-kick was cleared and then knocked back in again. Sadly, his finish was typical of a central defender and Goodfellow saved with ease.
It was the last action of a day that should be forgotten as quickly as possible. The kindest thing that can be said is that we improved greatly after the interval, and kept going right to the end.
We’ll need to maintain that sort of improvement from the off next Saturday when it’s the other Albion (Stirling) who come calling at Hampden.
Let’s just hope there are no award ceremonies lurking in the wings this week and the Spiders can get back to winning ways.
Keep the Faith
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Billy Mortimer, Ciaran Summers, Tommy Block, Cameron Foy, Creag Little, Cameron Clark, Luke Main, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt, Joffrey Lidouren. Subs: Jacques Herraghty, James Grant, Kieran Moore, Ryan Finnie, Alfredo Agyeman, Scott Gibson, Jack Purdue.