Queen’s Park 1 East Fife 0
THERE was something not quite right as we took our places for today’s latest chapter in the Queen’s Park story.
Looking down from the Press benches, everything seemed as normal. It was only when you turned and looked towards the Millennium Lounge that you realised there was something missing.
The remarkable Ivy Riddell has followed the Spiders for more than 70 years. As she entered her 90s, three years ago, she was still travelling around the country to watch her team.
That dedication meant we already knew we would never see her likes again; her sad passing this week means we will not even have the pleasure of seeing the lady herself again.
It’s sometimes hard to generate an atmosphere inside the National Stadium when there are fewer than 1000 people, but the round of applause that marked her passing before kick-off was more than enough to signal how much she will be missed by all in the Queen’s Park family.
Queen’s today complete our first quarter of the campaign by trying to avoid five League defeats in a row, or six losses when you include last week’s not unexpected Irn Bru Cup setback at Dunfermline.
Yes, it has been very frustrating of late for Hampden supporters — and don’t get Homer or that old Tartan Army grunt Gulliver started on Scotland’s World Cup campaign.
It’s been National Stadium torture in stereo, and especially for those Spiders stalwarts who last Saturday braved East End Park AND Hampden Park.
There were encouraging signs in last week’s narrow cup defeat by Championship Dunfermline, and the hope was we could take heart from that.
Ending our poor run today would necessitate getting a result against last season’s League Two champions East Fife.
Gary Naysmith’s men currently hold the last play-off slot in fourth, four points ahead of the Spiders. We had a decent record against them last season and today’s game should again be close.
Gus Macpherson kept the same defence but made changes farther forward from the side which lost out at East End Park. Young Canadian striker Dario Zanatta returned, having missed out at Dunfermline after being cup-tied for Hearts U20s earlier in the Irn Bru Cup, and Liam Brown and Aiden Malone came off the bench to start in place of Anton Brady and John Carter.
Josh Watt made a welcome return to the bench after several weeks on the treatment table, but our weekly reports on our long-term injuries will no longer include Tony Quinn.
The mighty Quinno has finally called it a day on his exemplary Queen’s playing career at the age of 35, and we wish him as much success in his coaching career.
There was no Hampden return today, either, for injured striker Chris Duggan, who played his part in the Spiders’ promotion push last season on loan from Partick, and has since signed for the Fifers.
Queen’s kicked off towards the traditional away end. There was a soft drizzle but no wind, and the lights were already on.
Insall created the game’s first opening inside two minutes, a header from well out that Willie Muir collected comfortably.
Queen’s first effort came in four minutes, young Liam Brown expertly taking down a Muir kick-out, turning a defender, and firing well over from 20-odd yards.
Queen’s had a narrow escape in eight minutes. Wallace got clear of McGeever on the right byeline and his low driven cross connected with the sliding Fotheringham’s feet and deflected almost straight over the goal area, and then Cummins had to head clear a cross from under his own bar.
The Spiders were moving the ball around in their usual efficient fashion but it took a huge slice of good fortune to see them go ahead in 15 minutes.
Fotheringham had already been involved in defensive duties, but when he tried his luck from 20 yards, his powerful shot took a wicked deflection off Naysmith and looped high over keeper Hurst despite his best efforts to keep it out.
For once, the perfect start for Queen’s. The challenge was to build on it.
There was some good stuff played by Queen’s in 22 minutes. Zanatta, Malone and Brown combined well down the left to work space in the box, with Zanatta’s driven cross being blocked back to him, and his second effort being booted clear from Malone and then driven over by Millen.
Zanatta was showing splendid skills and quick feet as he set up another chance from the left byeline, his powerful low shot being stopped by the full-length Hurst at his near post before being booted clear as Malone moved in on the loose ball.
As we hit the half-hour, Queen’s needed McGeever’s big boot to belt clear a loose ball in the six-yard box after Naysmith’s inswinging free-kick had caused some problems. Since the big centre half had conceded the free-kick, it was obviously incumbent on him to clear it!
The Fifers, who had Wilkie booked for dissent, may have been unlucky with the goal, but they had a real let-off in 37 minutes. Zanatta was again the creator on the left, setting up Malone 10 yards out, but when he looked certain to score his shot took a deflection off Brown and slipped agonisingly over the bar.
Queen’s were having to work hard to defend set-pieces, and there were some anxious moments around the 40-minute mark as we struggled to clear two corners.
The game was held up in the final minute of the half by the standside linesman’s raised flag, his signal for the whistler to have a quiet word in Gus Macpherson’s ear for some reason or another.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 East Fife 0
Kerr replaced Mercer for the Fifers and Smith had the second half’s first attempt on goal, a run from the halfway line that finished with a shot saved low down to his left by Muir. Then Kerr was booked for a tug on marked man Zanatta.
McLeish and Miller worked an opening down the left and when the midfielder’s cross was booted for a corner, Miller’s kick was headed clear from under the bar at the back post.
Zanatta was booked for dissent, kicking the ball away, in 61 minutes and then the Fifers made their final changes with Slattery and Brown being replaced by Robinson and O’Hara.
Fotheringham was having an eventful and effective game. He produced a strong run from midfield and one-two with Malone that almost produced a shot for the striker, then Brown and Miller combined for the midfielder to unleash a right-foot shot that took another wicked deflection but this time was tipped over the bar by Hurst.
Burns came on in 68 minutes to replace the impressive Zanatta.
Malone should have put Queen’s 2-0 up in 71 minutes. Miller sent Millen down the right and his low cross beat the first defender only for Malone to mishit his shot wide of the far post with only the keeper to beat.
That was Malone’s last touch. He was replaced by Carter and Brady came on for Brown, and Page was booked for taking out Brady in the sub’s first involvement.
McLeish’s powerful run won a foul on the left and Miller’s kick rattled Hurst’s bar on its way to the opposite flag, then Brady’s ball-winning wasn’t matched by his final pass into the box as his cutback eluded Carter.
If readers were detecting little input on East Fife’s goal chances, it was simply because they were creating none and as we entered the final 10 minutes Queen’s were working hard to keep them at bay.
We were also still going forward at every opportunity, as epitomised by Woods’ lung-bursting run near the end.
The high energy Brady became the second Spider booked, also for kicking the ball away, and Naysmith was booked for dissent before Brady ended it on a high note with some lovely footwork and a flashing left foot shot that Hurst turned round his far post at full stretch.
Yes, Ivy would have enjoyed that performance, and especially the sight of her grandson and great grandson presenting the player of the day bubbly to Paul Woods. Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: William Muir, Ross Millen, Craig McLeish, Gregor Fotheringham, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, Liam Brown, Dario Zanatta. Subs: Scott Gibson, Bryan Wharton, Sean Burns, John Carter, Anton Brady, Josh Watt, Andy Murphy.
East Fife: Mark Hurst, Scott Mercer, Pat Slattery, Chris Kane, Jonathan Page, Ross Brown, Jamie Insall, Kevin Smith, Kyle Wilkie, Tony Wallace, Gary Naysmith. Subs: Ryan Goodfellow (gk), Jason Kerr, Scott Robinson, Kevin O’Hara, Mark Lamont.
Referee: Colin Steven.