Queen’s Park 1 Alloa 2

Having paid the penalty for failing to take their chances last week, Queen’s looked to bounce back at Hampden today. But they faced another tough examination of their League 1 credentials against an Alloa side who have found scoring goals easier than politicians find it to evade questions.

Until last weekend, the Recreation Park side had been sweeping all before them. The Wasps beat Peterhead (4-0), Stranraer (5-2), East Fife (2-1) and Albion Rovers (4-0) in League 1 and racked up a club record 10 straight wins in three competitions this season before losing to Livingston.

Given that record, it was no surprise to see Alloa land an awards double in midweek, with boss Jack Ross voted Manager of the Month and Jordan Kirkpatrick picking up the Player of the Month prize after scoring five league goals in August.

It would be fair to say that our visitors were keen to show the Livingston result was just a blimp this afternoon, and there was no doubt who the favourites were ahead of the Hampden clash, with the smart money all being on Alloa. Apart altogether from their fast start to this campaign, there was the fact that we’d not recorded a win against them in our last seven attempts.

It wasn’t hard to see why we were the underdogs, but those who follow Queen’s know better than to lay wagers on any match they’re involved in, so there was always the hope of a wee upset.

The good news for Gus was that he had a big squad to choose from, with no fresh injury worries. That left him with choices to make, and the first big one was to recall Willie Muir in goals.

Then the fun started, We had three at the back – Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins and Scott Gibson – flanked by Ross Millen and Sean Burns. Ahead of them there were more changes. Out from last week went Conor McVey, David Galt and Aiden Malone, who were replaced by Gregor Fotheringham, Anton Brady and John Carter. The other midfield slots were filled by Paul Woods and Darren Miller.

Queen’s started reasonably brightly, with Carter showing his pace early doors. He ran out of options, but after five minutes, we showed real promise. The ball was pinged about the midfield, switched to Burns on the left – and his inswinging cross was only inches ahead of Woods.

The Spiders were reduced to 10 men briefly when Millen took a knock after delivering a cross, but he was soon back on with no damage done.

Alloa had show precious little in the opening stages, but as the quarter hour approached, they bared their teeth, and Robertson went close with a header after a good break on the right.

Encouraged by this foray into our territory, the visitors immediately won a corner. The ball was swung short to Spence, but his first time effort sailed over. A warning, nonetheless.

And the visitors continued on the front foot, with our defence getting in a tangle on more than one occasion as we tried to play our way out of trouble. A sound philosophy, but row Z is sometimes the preferred option.

Woods got in a great blocking tackle as Alloa threatened after 25 minutes, and then a break by Queen’s was halted by the whistle of referee Cook.

On the half-hour, Queen’s won their first corner. The delivery was good from Miller, but so was the defensive header from Gordon.

Brady then got to the byeline with the aid of a great 1-2 off the shins of Goodwin to earn us another corner. This time the delivery was perfect, but from inside the six-yard box, Gibson headed over, and a BIG chance went abegging. We were made to pay for a missed opportunity last week; would it be a sad case of Deja Vu this afternoon?

It very nearly was after 36 minutes. Queen’s lost the ball in the middle of the park, Spence was sent clear (although he looked offside), but it mattered not as he steered his final effort wide of Muir’s left-hand post. Big let-off.

Brady tried to take advantage of that break with a speculative volley, but the frame of Gordon blocked the effort. Five minutes to the break, and there’s precious little between the teams.

Gibson did well to get in the way of a Cauley shot inside the box, at some cost to his left shin. Thankfully, the damage was short-lived.

Half-time

Queen’s Park 0 Alloa 0.

The damage to the unfortunate Gibson was not as short-lived as looked at first as he failed to maske it out for the second half, being replaced by Bryan Wharton.

Cummins got a headed clearance all wrong in the first couple of minutes, but although the ball did hit his arm, Cook ignored the half-hearted penalty appeals.

Gordon earned the first booking of the afternoon after 49 minutes when he was undone by a Carter turn and decked the striker. An easy decision, as was the clearance from the resultant free-kick.

On 52 minutes, referee Cook provided the game’s most controversial moment to date. Woods didn’t seem to be going anywhere when he was challenged by Waters right on the edge of the box. Was it a foul; was it inside the box? don’t know, don’t care. Cook pointed to the spot and Millen calmly sent former Spider’s hero Neil Parry the wrong way to put us 1-0 ahead.

Alloa immediately made a change, replacing Kirkpatrick with another former QP legend, Jamie Longworth. And Jamie had a chance almost immediately, but his speculative overhead kick was taken by Muir.

On 58, Carter skinned Goodwin and fired in a driven cross which was knocked behind for a corner. Miller’s delivery reached Cummins, but his header back in was hoofed to safety.

Tempers flared after 62 minutes when Cummins put in a great tackle on Flannigan. He reacted, prompting handbags – and Miller then got involved. Both players earned yellow cards, which was probably the right outcome. But there was no doubt the temperature had gone up quite a few degrees.

Burns was penalised for jumping into Longworth, and from the resultant free-kick Fotheringham and Robertson collided with a sickening crunch. There was no malice on either part, but the only hope was that both players would recover after treatment.

Robertson did, Fotheringham didn’t and he was replaced by Conor McVey. Alloa also made a change, bringing on Donnelly for Cauley.

Cook was at the heart of the action now, penalising Burns for a tangle with Waters. The ball in was nodded behind for a corner, which was scrambled by for another one. That one was knocked wide for yet another corner and the pressure was finally relieved by a foul on Muir.

Goodwin went into the book on 77 minutes as he handled the ball, relieving another wee bit of pressure. The inevitable came after 78 when McGeever fouled Spence inside the box. It was a penalty, which the striker got up to tuck away himself. 1-1 – and a booking for McGeever.

Miller won Queen’s a corner as we tried to stem the tide, but a foul from McGeever ended our forward momentum.

One of our best moves of the match almsot got us back in front after 83 minutes as we swept upfield and Millen’s cross was nodded goalwards by Carter. Gordon got back to head it off the line with Parry nowhere.

True to form, Alloa capitalised on the escape by driving upfield; Spence held it up and fed Flannigan – who steered it past a helpless Muir. Harsh, but that’s what the best teams do.

Gus made his last switch in the last couple of minutes, replacing the workaholic Carter with Galt. Alloa replaced Spence with Holmes to run down the clock.

And run down the clock they did to earn a victory they scarcely deserved. Queen’s were far better than last week, giving hope of better times ahead. We competed well, and matched our opponents in just about every department – apart from the one that matters.

Keep the Faith.