Queen’s Park 1 Cowdenbeath 0
HOMER and Gulliver were relieved when the transfer window closed at midnight; the suspense was killing us.
Who’d have thought it? SIX new professional signings for Queen’s Park, and in less than two weeks, with another three arriving since last week’s 2-2 draw with Albion Rovers. Yes, manager Ray McKinnon wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the January sales.
Peter Grant, Ross MacLean and Jake Davidson all had very encouraging debuts against Rovers. Now former Partick Thistle midfielder Craig Slater, 25, Dunfermline loan centre-half Stuart Morrison, 20, and Hibs loanee defender Josh Doig, 18, will be hoping to emulate their impact.
And all six were starting against Cowdenbeath at Hampden today!
Six new players, and not one of them a gnarled veteran, which for many years was the identikit of any former pro signed by QP. Changed days indeed (although if you find another Paul Harvey, please let us know).
With centre half Nicky Jamieson also starting after a few games out injured, it meant that he, Willie Muir, David Galt, and Salim Kouider-Aissa were the only survivors from the Spiders side that lost 3-0 to Cowdenbeath here in September.
On a surprisingly sunny and chilly afternoon, Queen’s lined up ahead of Muir in what looked like 4-2-3-1 (but don’t hold me to that!) – Finnie, Jamieson, Grant, Doig; Morrison, Davidson; MacLean, Slater, Galt; Kouider-Aissa.
With Joffrey Lidouren and Kieran Moore injured, Cammy Foy, Willie Mortimer and James Grant were also not in the squad.
(Foy was wrongly credited by yours truly in last week’s report with conceding the penalty against Albion; my apologies, young Foy, but Jake Davidson made me do it!)
It’s surely impossible — even for status quo voters — not to feel upbeat with everything that’s going on at QPFC, but Homer will settle for last week’s second-half energy as a starting point today against the high-flying Fifers, who always make life uncomfortable.
Cowdenbeath are currently clear in third place, seven points ahead of fourth-placed Elgin, who are just two points ahead of Queen’s.
Looking at today’s League Two table, we have to cede the top two places to Cove Rangers and Edinburgh City, but even before our transfer spree there was no reason why we couldn’t bridge the gap and gatecrash the two other play-off spots.
It was a big ask to get such a new line-up to gel immediately, and the early minutes were frantic. But there was a wee cameo of the possible delights to come with a very tidy move through the middle in six minutes by the equally tidy Davidson and Slater.
And the former Premier League midfielder was even tidier in nine minutes when he put Queen’s ahead.
Galt did the spadework down the left, picking up a crossfield pass from Morrison, breaking through a tackle into the box, and cutting the ball back for Slater to net comfortably from eight yards past Josh Rae, who was a trialist at Queen’s earlier this season.
It was our first goal against Cowden this season, having also lost 1-0 at Central Park. Good start, and Homer liked the number of players who were making their voices heard.
Cowden had been kept quiet so far, a Barr header well over from a corner being their best effort, but Queen’s were managing to stretch them, with a Doig cross from the left just eluding Salim and then the striker just failing to connect with a MacLean cross from the right.
Morrison’s range of passing looked impressive, as did MacLean’s delivery from the right. Another whipped cross on the half hour was blocked with Salim poised, then the wideman skipped past two players and set up Davidson for a shot that was blocked.
Slater was injured in winning a strong midfield challenge in 36 minutes, and Cowden took advantage to get Cox through for a shot that Muir saved at the second attempt.
Sadly for Slater, and Queen’s, the midfielder’s bright start to his Spiders career ended prematurely when he then had to go off, being replaced by Jack Purdue.
MacLean was enjoying himself, and he skinned Todd again just before the break to whip over another wicked cross that this time was bundled away from the waiting Purdue.
But for all the Queen’s pressure, and their control at the back, they needed the post to save them from conceding an equaliser right on the whistle. Muir at full stretch could only palm away a cross and Morrison whipped in a shot that came off the far post and was hastily cleared.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 Cowdenbeath 0
The chat over the tea considered it an encouraging first half for a team who were largely strangers, but that we should have killed them off by now. Sound familiar?
Cowdenbeath lost Todd injured eight minutes in, and Valentine took his place.
Miller was booked for downing Galt after he had gone past him, and Rae punched away MacLean’s free-kick. Then Rae saved low down from Jamieson’s header at a corner.
It had been all Queen’s for 15 minutes after the break – the Fifers had hardly been out of their half – and Morrison missed a chance to make it 2-0 when he headed wide from six yards.
Morrison and Davidson, though, were looking very mobile in their midfield roles.
Morrison was booked for a foul on MacLean in 62, and Cowdenbeath used the break to make two more changes, Renton and Herd replacing Allan and Thomas, who had little success against Jamieson and Grant.
For all our possession, we were not putting Rae under any pressure and it was 70 minutes before he had to take a shot from distance from Salim.
Cowdenbeath, in fact, were coming into the game more, with one header wide and a shot from Mullen that narrowly cleared the bar.
Then Muir had to block low down from the bustling Cox after the defence failed to deal with a cross.
Our Morrison was booked for a foul in 75, and it was fortunate for Queen’s that an offside flag halted what was a promising delivery into our box.
Cox was booked for dissent in 78, then a minute later he missed a peach of a chance to equalise, sending a cutback over the top from 10 yards. The visitors were getting closer.
Mullen was the next name in the book for a crude hack to stop a break by Purdue in 83, then Davidson followed him for a similar tackle.
Queen’s, not surprisingly, were looking more disjointed under pressure and there was some agricultural defending as Cowden continued to press for an equaliser.
Three minutes from time Salim was replaced by Our Trialist – (none other than Ciaran Summers) – who is leaving Queen’s for life in Holland next week; and good luck and thanks, young man.
But Queen’s lived dangerously to the end. They only just survived a free kick right on 90 minutes, being penalised 20 yards out in a scramble under a punt, and Mullen blasted the kick just over.
But into added time we needed Muir to come to the rescue again, making a goal-line clearance to deny Herd the equaliser.
Phew! Well, the new era is off and running, and remarkably like the traditional version. Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ryan Finnie, Josh Doig, Nicky Jamieson, Peter Grant, Craig Slater, Stuart Morrison, Jake Davidson, Ross MacLean, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt. Subs: Jacques Heraghty, Ciaran Summers, Luke Main, Jack Purdue, Reece McGuire, Creag Little, Alfredo Agyeman
Cowdenbeath: Josh Rae, Craig Barr, Chris Hamilton, Jamie Todd, Fraser Mullen, Robbie Buchanan, Gavin Morrison, Kyle Miller, Archie Thomas, David Cox, Jordan Allan. Subs: Euan Valentine, Jamie Pyper, Michael Herd, Harvey Swann, Mac Whyte, Ryan Connelly, Kris Renton.
Referee Duncan Williams