Berwick Rangers 1 Queen’s Park 2
There was more than one reason to be slightly apprehensive as we prepared for the cross-border trip to face Berwick Rangers tonight.
Firstly, there was the predicted arrival of Storm Gareth and the prospect of yet another football match being played in conditions more conducive to wind surfing.
Then there was the prospect of facing a Berwick team desperate for revenge after the Hampden mauling we dished out to them just a few short weeks ago.
On top of all that, there was the knowledge that despite some decent performances, Queen’s haven’t won on the road since away back in October – and Keith McAllister has even bought a round more recently than that!
But despite the gloomy portents, there was optimism in the ranks of the visiting support as they set off.
Gareth duly arrived, making the trip down longer than usual, and a whole lot more hazardous. Indeed, there was relief when we arrived at the ground to hear confirmation that the game would go ahead.
The QP team was very much as expected, with Kieran Moore coming in for the suspended Alan Gow. It wasn’t the most physical team Queen’s have put on the park, and facing into the gale in the first period, it was imperative that we somehow tried to keep the ball on the ground.
We managed that right from the off, taking control of the early stages and knocking the ball about confidently. However we never managed to put home keeper Brennan under serious pressure.
Berwick, for their part, relied more on using the conditions to their favour and in their first foray upfield after eight minutes it took a timely intervention from Jamie McKernon to snuff out a dangerous situation.
The Spiders seemed to heed that warning and got back on the ball. Eleven minutes in, we won our first corner and Moore was not too far away with an effort after Lewis Hawke’s flick had given him a glimpse of goal.
David Galt then had an effort blocked before Queen’s won another corner … and quickly conceded the first goal of the night. Our corner was cleared away downfield, and as we regained possession, we tried to break up the left. One misplaced pass left us badly exposed and Anderson galloped down the park; survived too many challenges for our liking – and then picked out Blues who had a simple task to nod the ball home.
Given the foul nature of the night and the way things have gone in recent weeks, it would have been easy for Queen’s to let the heads go down. To their eternal credit, the players refused to buckle and were quickly back on the offensive.
Calvin McGrory had an effort blocked at the expense of a fruitless corner before Big Dom McLaren found himself in the book for a slightly late challenge.
Both teams were going for it (it was too cold for anybody not to get stuck in) and the result was reasonable entertainment for those hardy souls who dared to lift their heads and watch the action.
Hart pulled off a couple of routine stops and plucked one corner out of the air, while the visiting attack tried to find a way past a far more resolute Berwick defence than had been seen at Hampden.
Just past the half hour mark, Scott McLean wriggled clear and wasn’t too far away with his shot, before our other wingback Ciaran Summers tried his luck with his wrong foot. It wasn’t the worst effort he’ll ever hit, but it still failed to trouble Brennan.
Just when it looked as if it might be one of those nights, we got the breakthrough. McLean was heavily involved up the right and when his cross came into the box, Moore met it sweetly first time to sweep it past the helpless keeper and tie things up at 1-1.
The goal certainly fired up the Spiders players (and almost warmed up the frozen fans). The visitors went looking for a second before the interval, but apart from a Kurtis Roberts free-kick comfortably held by Brennan, we had nothing to show for the efforts.
Berwick Rangers 1 Queen’s Park 1
With the elements now in our favour, Queen’s went forward in numbers. However, with the exception of a Hawke header that cleared the bar, there was little of note in the Berwick box.
That changed just after the hour when Queen’s won another corner on our right. This time, the delivery from Summers was right on the button, swirling in on the wind under the Berwick bar. A host of players went for the ball, which ended up in the back of the net … and a Happy Hawke emerged from the crowd with his arm raised to claim the goal.
There was some doubt at the time whether he’d actually touched the ball, or whether Summers’ effort had sneaked in of its own accord. Nobody in the Hampden camp really cared a jot who had scored it, although the striker was later confirmed as the man who had done the damage.
All that mattered to the visiting supporters was that we were now in a winning position, but after recent events at Elgin, nobody was taking anything for granted.
The home side made a couple of changes as they tried to turn the tide, replacing Rose and McIlduff with Ogilvie and Hume. But it was Queen’s who looked the likelier and could have eased our nerves with a third goal after 68 minutes.
A glorious move involving Roberts and McLean ended with a neat cutback to the onrushing Galt. David kept his cool as he tried to pass the ball into the net, but unfortunately Berwick hadn’t read the script and got bodies in the way to block the effort.
Seven minutes later we were almost made to rue the missed opportunities as a speculative effort from Barr was caught on the wind and smacked off the woodwork before bouncing to safety. It was an escape, but few could deny the Spiders a wee rub of the green after some of the events of this season.
As the game entered the last moments, Moore had another chance on the break, but shot wide and then Galt fired off a thunderbolt that just cleared the bar.
Euan East came off the bench to replace Moore in the dying stages and the final action of the night saw the sub win a foul which Roberts got all wrong and fired well over the bar.
The final whistle sparked jubilant celebration among visiting players and supporters. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be the most significant victory we’ve recorded, but it was just reward for a group of players who knocked their collective pans out in the cause. They, in turn, recognised the efforts made by the support to defy the elements (and all logic) to follow the team and give them their backing.
So all things considered, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a wet and windy Tuesday. It’s hard to believe it, but winter officially ended at the start of March. Since then we have played three games in conditions that have been as bad (and sometimes worse) than anything we endured in deepest, darkest December. Figure that one out.
Keep the Faith!
Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, Scott McLean, Ciaran Summers, Dominic McLaren, Jamie McKernon, Scott Gibson, Calvin McGrory, Kurtis Roberts, David Galt, Lewis Hawke, Kieran Moore. Subs: Euan East, Josh Peters, Steven Bradley, Michael Ruth, James Grant, Lewis Magee, Kieran McDougall.