Queen’s Park 1 Airdrieonians 3

WE’VE enjoyed the starters, now today we can start tucking into the main course.

The new formats for the Irn Bru (Challenge) Cup and the Betfred (League) Cup have attracted plenty of stick, but it has to be said the five ties played by Queen’s proved the ideal competitive pre-season to get us ready for the real action.

It was exactly 12 weeks ago today that we sealed promotion to League One, and the challenge for coach Gus MacPherson and his squad starts with the visit of Airdrie to the National Stadium.

It’s already the Diamonds’ second visit to Hampden this season, and the Spiders’ comeback from 3-1 down to force a shoot-out in that Betfred tie has set the seal on what should be an entertaining game.

Our performance against Airdrie, and our earlier 2-0 Betfred defeat of Stenhousemuir, also League One rivals, bodes well for the long season ahead (and as chance would have it, we’re at Stenny next week).

Gus made six changes from the team which beat Kilmarnock Under-20s in midweek, Ross Millen, Scott Gibson, Conor McVey, Paul Woods, David Galt, and Anton Brady coming in, and midweek starters Joe Bradley, Bryan Wharton, Mark Williams, Joshua Watt, Liam Brown and Gregor Fotheringham dropping to the bench. But there was still no sub keeper listed by Queen’s (and no big scoreboards!).

Captain Sean Burns missed out through suspension, while Jamie McKernon, John Carter and Tony Quinn remain on the injury list

Queen’s had been rattled in midweek by a Killie goal in 13 seconds, and they seemed to have taken the hint. We came soooo close to scoring in 37 seconds.

Miller played a lovely ball through to Malone, gliding between two defenders, and he took a touch before launching a thundering shot that beat keeper Ferguson all ends up but crashed back off the bar.

It was a spirited start by Queen’s and they threatened again in three minutes, but Cummins was adjudged offside as his header brought out a good save by Ferguson.

Russell was booked in seven minutes for a foul on McVey and amid a few tasty early niggles we had Woods and Conroy spoken to for a spot of handbags and Gorman booked in 13 minutes for hauling down Malone as Queen’s took the game to the visitors.

And they almost carved open a splendid goal in 17 minutes.

Miller created the chance with a run along the left byeline, cutting the ball back for Woods, who made to take the ball but let it run past him to fool a defender, then turned to fire a low right-foot shot that the diving Ferguson brilliantly turned round his right hand post.

With the rain falling on an otherwise calm afternoon, Queen’s were making the running.

The busy Ferguson had to punch from under his bar to clear Miller’s corner and then he had to dive sharply to his right to hold a header on the run from Brady.

At the other end, Queen’s were so far coping comfortably with the Airdrie attacks, although McGeever had to be quick to deny Russell with a sliding challenge in the box.

But it was Queen’s who were creating the chances, and Galt had a double effort in 25 minutes, missing with a six-yard header from Miller’s left wing corner and then seeing his shot from the rebound cleared.

But as ever with Queen’s, just when you think they are on top they concede a goal hugely against the run of play.

This one was from the penalty spot in 29 minutes. Queen’s failed to deal with a Schmidt run and then struggled to clear a ball driven into the box, and when Murphy raced from his line to dive on the ball he took out Russell.

An easy decision for the ref, who did not book Murphy, and Russell did a professional job with the kick to put Airdrie ahead with what was their first shot on target.

The goal must have been deflating for Queen’s but they didn’t change their approach and continued to play their football and go forward.

But the goal had certainly relaxed the visitors and they now looked more comfortable in possession as the game went from end to end up to half-time.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Airdrie 1

There were no changes at the interval and Airdrie, in a fetching all-pink kit, kicked off towards the traditional away end.

It was evident early on that we had a game on our hands, as Airdire looked far quicker, more in tune.

Cummins needed to be spot on with a sliding tackle on the driving Stewart six minutes in, but from the resulting corner Airdrie scored a second, Fitzpatrick jumping highest and under little pressure to power a free header behind Murphy.

Two goals from set pieces, and it was shades of the Betfred tie here, when Queen’s came back from two goals down to draw in 90 minutes. Could they do it again?

The answer would have been no had Schmidt not missed a glorious chance to make it 3-0 in 57 minutes. The wee striker was played onside as he burst clear of the defence, but with only Murphy to beat he shot against the keeper’s left-hand post. Big letoff.

Queen’s hadn’t been seen much in an attacking sense so far this half. Miller warmed Ferguson’s hands with a good strike from 20 yards which was too straight, and then Gus changed it in 62 minutes, sending on his boy Ewan for Galt and Liam Brown for Woods.

Young MacPherson’s first involvement was to win a corner, and then McVey was so close intercepting a passback to Ferguson as Queen’s tried to get back in the game.

Airdrie sent on Loudon for Schmidt in 69 minutes.

MacPherson had a half chance with a snap shot, but it lacked power, and Miller was then booked for a sliding challenge on Stewart before bringing out a good save from Ferguson with a right-shoot shot from 20 yards.

Queen’s had been struggling to create anything much in the second period, but they got a lifeline in 81 minutes. Miller swung in another vicious corner and Cummins and Fitzpatrick jostled for the ball in the middle of the six-yard box. It was difficult to see who got the final touch, but the video replay finally showed that it had to go down as an own goal by the Airdrie man.

Before the restart, Gus sent on winger Watt for full back Gibson, with Brady dropping back to the defence.

Queen’s almost completed another great comeback in 85 minutes. Miller’s free kick from halfway, after Watt had been fouled by Loudon, was headed on by McGeever and then MacPherson, and keeper Ferguson needed two touches to get the ball onto and then over his bar.

And we had another great chance two minutes later, and from another Miller free kick. This one was from the right and found Cummins eight yards out, but at full stretch the big defender could only steer his header around the keeper’s right hand post.

But any Spiders’ hopes of an equalizer were cruelly ended by the softest of goals for Airdrie a minute from time.

McGeever looked to be fouled as he attempted a clearance and the ball broke for Brown to fire past the stranded Murphy with the aid of a huge deflection. Typical for Queen’s.

McGeever was booked for a sliding challenge before the end of what was a disappointing start to our league campaign. Keep the faith.

Queen’s Park: Andrew Murphy, Ross Millen, Scott Gibson, Conor McVey, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, David Galt, Anton Brady. Subs – Joe Bradley, Bryan Wharton, Mark Williams, Joshua Watt, Liam Brown, Gregor Fotheringham, Ewan MacPherson.

Airdrie: Rohan Ferguson, Scott Stewart, Sean McIntosh, Joe Gorman, Kieran MacDonald, Ryan Conroy, Adam Brown, Marc Fitzpatrick, Kevin Schmidt, Jack Leitch, Iain Russell. Subs – John Higgins, Craig Truesdale, Matthew Kerr (GK), James Daly, Conor McLaughlin, Conor Scullion, Murray Loudon.

Referee David Lowe