Queen’s Park 7 Berwick Rangers 1
AT Stirling Albion last week, bona fide Queen’s Park defenders were scarcer than non-drinkers on the QP supporters’ bus.
The Spiders’ starting X1 at Forthbank boasted TWO players primarily signed for their ability to tackle. The supporters’ bus could at least boast the driver.
But head coach Mark Roberts’ enforced bold and bright attacking line-up deserved so much more than a 1-1 stalemate with one of the form teams in League Two.
It was clear to see – and even from the limited highlights on the Albion website – that Roberts wasn’t exaggerating when he said “we had enough chances to win three games”, as the man of the match award went to the Stirling keeper.
So, as we prepared for a potential six-pointer against Berwick Rangers today, would the bold Marko stick or twist? Would it be swashbuckle, or buckle tightening?
The answer, as we tried to end a run of 10 games without a win, was very much play it again please.
Although he had defensive reinforcements available with the return to fitness of Gerry McLauchlan and Ciaran Summers, the boss made just one change – McLauchlan coming in at the expense of fellow central defender Dom McLaren, leaving Scott Gibson again as the only other recognised defender.
Gerry was wearing a very natty headband, a legacy of his head clash with Kurtis Roberts here a fortnight ago.
Playmaker David Galt, superb at Stirling, was making his second home debut for the Spiders after his welcome return to the club. His probing and passing brought out the best in Alan Gow and his younger team-mates, and he will get even better as his match fitness returns.
Queen’s are seven points ahead of the Wee Rangers, who hold the same advantage over bottom dogs Albion Rovers, and we will hope to make home advantage count.
In a League Two table based solely on home form, we are in fifth place (whereas our solitary away win puts us second bottom on the road, below today’s visitors).
Queen’s got us underway, attacking the away end, and we forced the first corner in two minutes, but it was cleared, and a second flag kick three minutes later was taken by the keeper.
Berwick have a big presence up front in Healy and Willis and early doors the Queen’s defence were getting some high artillery to deal with.
Queen’s provided a high salvo of their own on the 10-minute mark, Galt’s cross from the right byeline being headed down and straight at keeper Allison.
And the first real chance came a minute later, Gibson finding Hawke in the box and the big man turning on it to fire just wide.
But we should have taken the lead with just another minute on the clock. Our new shape saw McLean high up the park and feeding fellow full back Mortimer in the box, but Billy’s first effort from eight yards was blocked and his second effort from the rebound met a similar fate.
But Queen’s did take the lead in 15 minutes, and like Stirling last week it was from the penalty spot. Gow won this one, being taken down by Brown as he skipped into the box, and again like last week McLean did the business with the penalty.
That was the 200th goal for QP against Berwick in all competitions, but we didn’t have to wait so long for No201, because it came along a minute later.
And it was a belter, Roberts latching onto a loose ball 20 yards out and thrashing a left-foot volley wide to the right of the diving Allison.
What a great start for Queen’s who unlike last week were getting a return for their attacking efforts.
And they should have had another penalty before the 20-minute mark. It looked a stonewaller when Galt was decked on the byeline – certainly a more convincing shout than Gow’s – but the ref waved for a corner.
But if we thought Roberts’ first goal was a cracker, the young man had something even better up his talented sleeve. He picked up the ball some 30 yards out and, this time with his right peg, thrashed a shot that left Allison sprawling as the ball nestled in the same corner. Galtie could only stand and applaud. Just 28 minutes played and Queen’s 3-0 up. Glorious, Hoops.
Queen’s were in total control. A delicious Mortimer cross went begging as it bisected Allison and his backline; Hawke did likewise from the left; Galt sent in a powerful daisy-cutter that Allison stopped then had to boot clear; then McLean’s cross from the left was misjudged by a defender and Hawke nodded the slightest of touches just wide.
And still Queen’s came forward, with Gow slaloming through the Berwick defence from the right before having his shot blocked as he tried to sidefoot it into the far corner.
Berwick had created nothing in the first half, which underlines their current plight, but you had to say Queen’s had completely smothered them all over the park.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 3 Berwick Rangers 0
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Wee Rangers, they started the second half with TEN men, when keeper Allison failed to reappear.
Turns out the keeper – who had been having a verbal battle with Queen’s players for much of the half – had picked up two yellow cards, supposedly for some infraction in the tunnel, since we hadn’t spotted any cards being flashed in his direction during play.
Sub keeper Brennan came on in Allison’s place and Willis was sacrificed to accommodate him. Orru also came on for Knox.
Homer told you Galt was bringing out the best in Gow, and they proved the point in 54 minutes with a lovely combination goal. Gow tiptoed his way through a couple of tackles as he danced along the left byeline. His cutback was perfect for Galt, with his back to goal, to swivel to his left and fire a right-foot shot beyond the sub keeper. Quality.
We’ll be asking when was the last time Queen’s scored five, because on the hour McLean made it a nap hand for the Spiders, bringing down a long cross from Mortimer inside the box on the left and driving in a shot that deflected off the sliding Forbes and went over Brennan.
So, the last time Queen’s scored five in the league was here in 2015 against East Stirling, according to that old anorak Gulliver.
And when Galt made it 6-0 with another sharp turn and shot, the old boy proclaimed immediately that the last half-dozen for QP was away to Montrose in that same year. And you’d have to go all the way back to the Jamie Longworth-led demolition of Elgin for the last time the Spiders got six in the league here at HQ.
But even Homer and Gulliver aren’t old enough to remember the last time Queen’s Park scored seven in the league. That landmark was delivered in 73 minutes by Hawke, who headed past the helpless Brennan from a short corner routine.
After all that action, Summers replaced Mortimer and Peters came on for the Hawke. In 78 minutes, Gow came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Moore, who promptly hit the post with a header.
But all those goals must have gone to Jamie McKernon’s head, because the wee man – a stand-out again in the back line – gave the ball away and Orru went on to beat Hart and save the whitewash for the visitors.
Moore’s second touch was another header that sailed just over and five minutes from time Peters smacked a header just over.
Homer is hardly speechless, since he’s just waffled out 1400 words, but it would take the late great Hughie McIlvanney to do us justice today.
He would have enjoyed the final touch to the afternoon … as the Spiders left the stadium with the theme from the Magnificent 7 belting out over the loudspeakers. And the last time that happened? January 1980 when Queen’s knocked seven past Alloa, without reply.
Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, Billy Mortimer, Scott McLean, Scott Gibson, Gerry McLauchlan, Jamie McKernon, Kurtis Roberts, Calvin McGrory, Alan Gow, David Galt, Lewis Hawke. Subs: Kieran Moore, Euan East, Josh Peters, Dom McLaren, James Grant, Ciaran Summers, Kieran McDougall.