Queen’s Park 0 St Mirren 0
St Mirren win 5-4 on penalties
It’s just 80 days since Gulliver last saw the Glorious Hoops in action. Since that instantly-to-be-forgotten day when we relinquished our League One status, your scribe has been off on his holidays … and the Hampden revolving door has been spinning even more than usual with players in and out at a dizzying rate.
The nett result was that as we prepared to face Premier League St. Mirren in our penultimate BetFred section tie, Scott Gibson and Gerard McLauchlan were the only TWO players who began that play-off defeat against Stenhousemuir who were still in Gus MacPherson’s starting line-up tonight.
It was hard enough coming to terms with those changes, but you then looked at the stats and saw our new skipper Gibby was also this season’s joint top scorer. Quite a novelty for a player who has only scored twice in his six years at Hampden.
That wasn’t the biggest thing about tonight for Scott, however. He will remember the evening as the occasion he started his 100th game in the famous colours. No matter the outcome of the match, that’s quite an achievement – and here’s to the next 100 Scott.
The team Gibson led out read like this: Jordan Hart, Gavin Lachlan, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, McLauchlan, Gibson, Kurtis Roberts, Dean Kindlan, Smart Osadolor, William Mortimer, Adam Martin. The bench comprised Josh Peters, Brendan Sharpe, Daniel Nimmo, Calvin McGrory, James Grant, Daniel Kindlan and Jack Dunlop.
Queen’s started the game with glorious evening sunshine right in the eyes of keeper Hart, and the opening skirmishes were bright for the Spiders with Summers and Martin looking confident on the ball.
It was eight minutes before either keeper was called into action, Hart diving well at the feet of the speedy Mullen after a long ball sent him away.
And the pace of the Saints won them their first corner after 10 minutes, when Coulson did well to break free and Gibbie had to turn his cross behind. McLauchlan did enough to put Heaton off as the cross came in, and Hart gathered easily.
Queen’s first chance to test Samson’s strength in the air came after 13 minutes when Mortimer won a free-kick which McKernon swung in. McLauchlan got his head to the ball, but a deflection took all the pace of the effort and the keeper saved with ease.
Osadolor then turned Heaton smartly before laying the ball back to Roberts, but there were no takers for his cross.
The striker looked to have a turn of pace about him, but was denied the chance to show that speed when Heaton grabbed his jersey as they both went for a through ball. Referee Walsh didn’t spot anything amiss, however.
The halfway point in the first period came with neither side having dealt a serious blow to their opponent, but Queen’s had cause to be happier given the gulf in league places between the teams.
Summers was penalised for a hand ball at the edge of the box after 25 minutes. It seemed harsh at the time, but as Coulson’s delivery sailed harmlessly out of play, no damage was done.
Captain Gibson did well to deny Mullen the chance to shoot as he got in a timely foot. The corner was also well defended and we got the chance to regroup.
Mullen was on the prowl again after 29 minutes and Hart had to sprawl full length to grasp his shot.
If Hard had to sprawl to get that one, his counterpart went even better after 33 minutes to deny McKernon.
A gorgeous piece of build-up play ended with Roberts laying the ball into Jamie’s path and his 20-yarder was destined for the top corner before Samson dived to palm it behind.
The corner almost produced the breakthrough, but Lachlan’s effort was finally scrambled clear.
Walsh hadn’t been endearing himself to the home support and he was even more unpopular when he failed to produce a card after Steven McGinn conceded a foul … and then unceremoniously booted the ball away.
Dangerous to tempt fate, but as half-time loomed, Queen’s were doing OK and frustrating their opponents – as illustrated by Baird letting fly from 35 yards and going closer to the floodlight pylons than Hart’s goal.
Queen’s Park 0 St Mirren 0
Neither side made any changes at the break, and St Mirren kicked off – no doubt with a flea in their ears from Gaffer Stubbs.
They earned the half’s first corner after 48 minutes, and an almighty scramble ended with Gibbie knocking it behind for another one.
This time it was cleared and Osadolor produced a gem of a crossfield ball to give Mortimer a sight at goal. Unfortunately, the effort was blocked.
Saints made their first change 10 minutes into the half, replacing MacPherson with fans’ favourite Kyle Magennis.
Queen’s then won a corner of their own, but McLauchlan was eased away as the ball came in and the danger disappeared.
Roberts, Kindlan and McKernon were doing a power of hunting down in the middle of the park and Kurtis did superbly to chase back and deny Mullen the chance to break as the hour approached.
McKernon then got his foot in at exactly the right moment as Smith waited to pounce.
The visitors were turning the screw now and it was all hands to the pump. But we still had a bit about us going forward and Mortimer won a corner after 66. It came to nothing, and Osadolor’s promising evening also ended as he was given a rest when he was replaced by Sharpe.
Saints made their second change soon after, bringing on Stewart for Smith.
With 20 minutes left, Gus made his second change, replacing the energetic Martin with McGrory. And he made his final throw of the dice three minutes later when he brought on Peters for Kindlan – who had also put in a belter of a shift.
With 12 minutes left, we’d real drama at both ends. First Walsh rightly ruled out Saints’ claims for a penalty as Stewart went down in the box. Then Queen’s broke at great pace and McGrory’s cutback was only inches behind Sharpe.
Queen’s looked as if they might just see it out for the draw, but they had a major scare to survive with three minutes left as Paul McGinn whipped in a vicious cross which Mullen headed inches wide.
Mortimer had chased all night and it was no surprise when he went down for a second time with cramp.
Into injury time and it was Queen’s on the break, this time Sharpe heading over from a McGrory cross.
And then three minutes past the 90, Peters teased and tortured McGinn before finding Roberts – but his shot was deflected behind for a corner. The ball was played short to McKernon, but as his shot fizzed over the bar, Walsh blew the final whistle and penalties beckoned.
Stewart was first up for Saints and scored with ease. McKernon then took the Spiders’ first penalty and saw it saved by Samson. 1-0
Paul McGinn made it 2-0 before Gibbie scored a beauty. 2-1
Magennis just beat the dive of Hart to make it 3-1 and the weary Mortimer scored from the spot. 3-2
Hart then dived to deny Mullen and put Queen’s back in the contest and then Peters tied things up at 3-3.
Steven McGinn scored with Saints last spot kick so it was down to young McGrory to take us into sudden death, which he did with some style.4-4
Coulson was then denied by the diving Hart and Summers had the chance of glory, but blasted his spot kick over the top.
Flynn put Saints back in front – just – as Hart guessed right but couldn’t quite get there. Sub Sharpe had to score to keep the game alive, but saw his effort saved by Samson and it was all over; 5-4 to the visitors.
Disappointing result, yes, but a hugely gutsy and encouraging performance.
It’s not games like tonight and Saturday – when we again face Premier League opposition in Kilmarnock – that will define the season, but the players have to take a lot of encouragement from the way they played.
Buckle your belts … the rollercoaster is about to begin again.
Keep the Faith.