Queen’s Park and Hampden normally go as well together as haggis and neeps. But today there was a strange disconnect between the two. The Spiders were in Fife for a cup tie this afternoon, while Hampden hosted a vital Scotland World Cup qualifier later on in the day.
The clash meant fans had either to miss one match … or risk the mayhem that is the Scottish motorway system at present in the hope they could see the conclusion of activities at East End Park and return to HQ in time for the Lithuania fixture.
It was far from ideal, a description that could also be used to sum up Queen’s form going into their fourth round Irn-Bru Cup tie against the Pars. Saturday’s defeat at the hands of old rivals Albion Rovers was our fourth loss on the bounce, during which time, we’ve found the net just once – and that was from the penalty spot.
However, we could take consolation from the fact that our last victory came in the previous round of this very competition, when we recorded an excellent victory over Morton, scoring one of the goals of the season in the process.
That result was certainly an upset, but if we were to repeat that feat in Dunfermline today, that would take upsets to a whole new scale. The Fifers are expecting to challenge for promotion to the top flight of Scottish football, while the bookies have us among the favourites to battle against making the drop back down to the basement level.
But when have things like that ever worried the Hampden faithful, and as he pondered his team selection ahead of the game, Gus MacPherson was buoyed by the availability of Darren Miller and Bryan Wharton after they served their suspensions.
Once more, Gus had hard choices to make, and finally plumped to make two alterations from last week’s disappointment. Darren Miller and Sean Burns came into the starting eleven with Scott Gibson and Dario Zanatta dropping out. The latter of which was cup tied having played twice for Hearts U20’s earlier in this competition.
Darren Miller got the proceedings underway for the Spiders and the opening 5 minutes saw Queen’s enjoy a fair amount of possession without creating any chances to trouble Pars keeper Sean Murdoch.
The first chance of the match came for the home side came after seven minutes, Lee Ashcroft played a long ball into the Spiders penalty box that was met by Adam Cummins, his headed clearance fell to the feet if Nicky Clark who couldn’t keep the half volley down and he fired over from 20 yards.
The hosts appeared comfortable with Queen’s enjoying a fair amount of the possession in the opening stages with the Spiders back four being allowed to play it out from the back on a number of occasions without pressure from the Pars.
The Spiders got their first sight of goal in the 14th minute, Miller took the ball for a run down the left before delivering a decent ball into the Pars box, the home defence struggled to clear their lines and the ball found its way to Woods on the far side, he cut inside and got a shot away but Ashcroft stood firm and blocked the goal bound effort.
Minutes later at the other end, Gavin Reilly looked to get a shot away only to be denied by a perfectly timed Adam Cummins sliding tackle. Cummins, along with the rest of the Spiders back four had started the game a strong manner, hardly putting a foot wrong in the opening stages.
The home side were gradually forcing their way into the game and on 20 minutes had their first clear sight at goal. Again it was through Reilly, this time he snatched at his effort, dragging it wide of Muir’s goal under pressure from Craig McLeish. The warning signs were there for the Spiders to see and just a minute later the home side could, and should have taken the lead. Ryan Williamson crossed into the Queen’s box and Reilly was close to getting on the end of it, the Spiders defence were sleeping and this was a much needed wake up call.
As the game approached the half hour mark, Anton Brady was dispossessed just inside his own half, the home side went on the attack and the pacey Cardle went down on the edge of the Spiders box. Referee Nick Walsh, who looked to have a clear view of the incident, awarded the Spiders a free kick and Cardle was booked for simulation, without much of a protest from anyone in the home camp.
As the half hour mark passed, the home side continued in an attacking manner and won the first corner of the match in the 33rd minute. That was to be the first of three corners in quick succession for the Pars with Queen’s sitting deeper and deeper as the first half went on.
With 39 minutes on the clock the lively Ryan Williamson was presented with the best chance of the match for the home side but the defender couldn’t direct his shot on target and fired wide. Another let off for the Spiders.
As half time approached, the last chance of the first half was again to be a Dunfermline one. Cummins cleared a cross ball from McCabe but the clearance fell to Jason Talbot, his shot from close range was blocked.
Half time: Dunfermline 0-0 Queen’s Park
Half time saw the home side make their first substitution of the match as Gavin Reilly was replaced by Farid El Alagui.
That half time substitution was to be an instant success for the home side as just three minutes into the second half El Alagui put the Pars ahead. The Spiders defence failed to deal with a corner and it allowed the Moroccan striker to fire home from 6 yards. Exactly the start the Spiders were looking to avoid having looked fairly solid at the back for the first 45 minutes.
The game’s only controversial moment came in the 51st minute. Darren Miller delivered a delightful in-swinging corner which appeared to have crossed the line before Pars keeper Murdoch got the chance to punch clear. Despite the protests of Miller, the rest of the Queen’s players in the area and the Spiders fans, referee Nick Walsh was having none of it and play was allowed to continue.
Aiden Malone was brought on to replace John Carter just before the hour mark. Carter had worked tirelessly up to that point but unfortunately for the striker, most of his work done outside the Pars box and not in front of goal.
Just a minute after coming on, Malone got himself involved in the thick of the action. Cummins picked the striker out with a long ball down the left side, Malone controlled well before cutting inside and working a 1 on 1 chance with Pars keeper Murdoch who saved the goal bound effort.
That miss was to prove costly for the Spiders and just moments later, with 62 minutes on the clock, El Alagui was to double the home side’s lead. Williamson delivered an enticing cross into the heart of the Queen’s box, Wullie Muir opted to race off his line in an attempt to punch clear but El Alagui beat the keeper to the ball and headed into an empty net.
The Pars replaced Rhys McCabe with Kallum Higginbotham before play resumed.
Dunfermline continued to dominate possession and look dangerous in attack and it was evident that the next goal would be a decisive one. With 70 minutes on the clock the Spiders won a corner, Miller delivered and from nowhere and under no pressure from a Spiders player, El Alagui headed into his own net, much to the dismay of teammate Andy Geggan who had rose to try and head clear.
The goal provided the Spiders with a much needed boost. Liam Brown was brought to replace Anton Brady in midfield for the Spiders and he wasted no time in getting involved. The youngster got the ball on the wing before cutting in and finding Woods, his goal bound effort was blocked by the Pars defence. The Spiders faithful in the Main Stand were now beginning to believe that an equaliser was a possibility having looked out of the game at 2-0 down.
It was end to end stuff as the game approached the final 15 minutes and Woods saw a penalty claim denied in the 75th minute. He went down in the box and was adamant that he had been fouled but play continued, with little protest from the rest of the Queen’s players.
Minutes later at the other end of the park Michael Paton stung the hands of Willie Muir with a powerful 20-yard effort having been afforded too much space to get the shot away.
With 80 minutes on the clock and the game very much hanging in the balance, El Alagui headed wide from close range under pressure from Cummins. It could easily have been a hat-trick for the striker had he managed to direct the powerful header on target.
David Hopkirk was brought on to replace Nicky Clark as the home side looked for a third goal to kill the game off.
With 5 minutes of normal time remaining Queen’s went on the attack. It was 3 on 3 as Liam Brown raced into the Pars half but without looking at his options he looked to find the advancing Malone with a pass which was intercepted, much to the dismay of Darren Miller who looked to have been the more obvious player to pick out.
The closing stages saw Cardle go close on a couple of occasions for Dunfermline with Muir doing well to deny him on both occasions.
Queen’s made their final substitution in the 86th minute as Gregor Fotheringham made way for Ewan MacPherson but unfortunately for MacPherson no chances were to come his way in the final minutes of the game.
Full time: Dunfermline 2-1 Queen’s Park
Dunfermline: Sean Murdoch, Jason Talbot, Lewis Martin, Lee Ashcroft, Ryan Williamson, Andy Geggan, Joseph Cardle, Gavin Reilly (Farid El Alagui 45), Nicky Clark (David Hopkirk 81), Rhys McCabe (Kallum Higginbotham 64), Michael Paton.
Unused substitutes: David Hutton, Ben Richards, Paul McMullen, Michael Moffat.
Queen’s Park: William Muir, Ross Millen, Craig McLeish, Gregor Fotheringham (Ewan MacPherson 86), Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, John Carter (Aiden Malone 58), Anton Brady(Liam Brown 71), Sean Burns.
Unused substitutes: Scott Gibson, Bryan Wharton, Conor McVey, Andy Murphy.