Queen’s Park 1 Ayr United 4
THERE are few more nervous pursuits than window-watching while your significant other is in some shop testing the melting point of joint-account plastic.
It reminds Homer of the time his wife had her credit card stolen, but the police were not informed. Well, the thief was spending less than the good lady.
Anyway, the point is, Queen’s Park fans can now stop pressing their nose against the window as the plastic gets pelters in the January transfer circus.
It’s that time of year when clubs can splash some cash to get in reinforcements for their promotion push — or, heaven forbid, possibly to find an edge over the Spiders at the opposite end of the table.
Before this week, every club in our division had signed players in January, except for Queen’s. For instance, our closest play-off rivals Forfar have signed two strikers. Today’s visitors Ayr United have signed three players as they fight it out with leaders Raith Rovers (two signings) for the League One title.
We all know Gus MacPherson will never enjoy the same signing luxury at Hampden Park, which speaks volumes for his coaching ability in taking unpaid players into League One and keeping us there, but he’s worked the oracle to get in his own reinforcements — and just when they’re needed.
He’s signed Hibs’ Jamie Gullan and Hearts’ Aidan Keena on development loans until the end of the season. They’re both 18 and come with a good pedigree. Midfielder Jamie has a fine scoring record in the Under-20 League, while striker Aidan joined the Jambos from League of Ireland side St Pat’s Athletic last August and made his first-team debut off the bench in a 1–1 draw with Partick Thistle at Tynecastle in November. They started on the bench today and we wish them well.
And their arrival is timely, with midfielder Anton Brady and striker James MacLennan both injured and young defender Lewis Magee missing with tonsillitis for the visit of Ayr and our first match in a fortnight.
On the plus side, captain Sean Burns was back from suspension and Ross Millen was on the bench after his lengthy spell out injured.
Gus made three changes from the team that lost 2-1 in Arbroath, with Scott Gibson, Kevin Green and Burns coming in and Ciaran Summers dropping to the bench.
There was another new face in the Queen’s technical area. Gus has brought in the experienced Stuart Balmer as his new assistant, with Chris Hillcoat having to step down because of his business commitments. We also wish Stuart every enjoyment and success with Queen’s.
Ayr, a point behind Raith, have not lost at Hampden since 1982, which was the season before a certain young Ian McCall joined Queen’s.
They are easily the highest-scoring team in League One and beat Arbroath 4-1 in a midweek Scottish Cup-tie at Somerset. So no pressure, then.
It was a wild day. The only reason we didn’t have a downpour as Ayr kicked-off was the gale keeping the rain at bay.
And it was a wild start for Queen’s as Ayr, in head to toe yellow, took the lead in five minutes.
It was a simple finish. McDaid burst past Gibson on the right, crossed low from the byeline, and Moore was unmarked inside the six-yard box to sidefoot past Whyte.
Kevin Green had taken a knock, which perhaps explained Moore being unhampered, and before the restart the Queen’s defender had to go off to be replaced by Summers.
Hardly the ideal start for Queen’s, but they could and perhaps should have equalised in eight minutes. The dogged Mortimer won a free-kick on the right byeline, Galt whipped it over with pace, and Cummins headed over the bar unmarked six yards out.
At this point, Homer and Gulliver are comforting themselves with the memory of Queen’s losing the opener at Somerset before taking a 2-1 lead!
Galt was booked for alleged simulation in 14 minutes, but there was no mistaking the foul on him that almost led to the equaliser two minutes later.
Galt sent over the free kick from wide left and it was hooked off the line and over the bar.
Queen’s seemed to have got over that early setback and were having considerably more of the pressure, and again they came close to an equaliser in 27 minutes.
Ruddy under pressure had hooked away a Galt cross and then knocked Donnelly’s attempt from the rebound for a corner. Galt took it short, Donnelly gave him it back, and then Galt’s precise cross was headed narrowly wide by Burns. A set piece we’ve seen before, when it led to a goal at Forfar.
So Queen’s were bossing the game as 30 minutes came and went, but we needed a return on that possession and our excellent pressing.
Ayr had been quiet since their goal, but the yellow shirts flooded forward in numbers very quickly in possession and from such a break in 35 minutes Moore headed a cross well over.
But Queen’s shot themselves in the foot three minutes from half-time when we gifted Ayr a second goal.
Burns completely misplaced a pass to Cummins, it went straight to the unmarked Shankland in the box, and he casually slipped the ball wide of advancing keeper White for Forrest to sidefoot into the empty net. Season 2017-18 … death by a thousand self-inflicted cuts.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Ayr United 2
Queen’s were unchanged for the restart but Ayr had Geggan replacing Adams.
Nine minutes in, young James Gullan got his debut when he came on for Donnelly, and he had a perfect view as Queen’s missed another chance.
A fast break down the right ended with Mortimer hitting the byeline and getting in his cross, but Leitch sent his shot on the stretch wide from under the bar.
Aidan Keena then came on for Mortimer for the last half-hour. Ayr sent on Moffat for Moore in 67.
Burns was booked for a body-check on 70 minutes.
Queen’s couldn’t complain about a lack of chances, and they missed another in 71 minutes. Galt’s lovely flick put Leitch into the box but his shot struck keeper Ruddy and deflected away.
Forrest was booked for his own body-check on Galt in 74, and was then replaced by McGuffie, who took just six minutes to put Ayr 3-0 up with a fine shot from outside the box, after Shankland got a lucky break and Kerr executed a neat backheel.
Queen’s deserved something from the day and should have got it after 82 minutes when yet another Ayr foul gave Galt the chance to load a ball into the box. Cummins got his head to the peach of a delivery, but failed to trouble Ruddy.
Shankland then missed a sitter as he headed over from close range from a corner.
But Ayr did make it four with three minutes left when sub McGuffie curled home another shot from inside the box.
Needless to say, with the game dead and buried, Queen’s got their consolation. A Galt corner was firmly planted behind Ruddy by the head of Cummins. With only 90 seconds remaining and the score 4-1, even the QP faithful knew it was too little too late.
And so it ended. Never mind, it’s, it’s only Raith Rovers at home next week. Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Michael White; Conor McVey, Scott Gibson, Kevin Green, Adam Cummins, Gregor Fotheringham, Robbie Leitch, David Galt, Billy Mortimer, Luke Donnelly, Sean Burns. Subs: Dominic Docherty, Thomas Orr, Ciaran Summers, Ross Millen, James Gullan, Aidan Keena, Owen Stott.
Ayr United: Jack Ruddy, Paddy Boyle, Mike Rose, Craig Moore, Alan Forrest, Declan McDaid, David Ferguson, Jamie Adams, Lawrence Shankland, Craig Reid, Mark Kerr. Subs: Joran Hart (GK), Andy Geggan, Mike Moffat, Craig McGuffie, Stuart Faulds, Leon Murphy, Luke McCowan.
Referee: Greg Aitken.