Queen’s Park 2 Albion Rovers 1
A TIMELY return of defensive confidence and form has helped Queen’s reverse a worrying slump. It has not been unkind on old Homer’s nerves, either.
Four successive league defeats made September a monstrous month, one to forget. Today, as we welcome old foes Albion Rovers to Hampden Park, we are chasing a fourth successive win and our fifth in six games, all of which have seen the concession of just one goal.
The upturn in fortunes couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. In the space of six weeks we will have faced all five of the teams above us, a daunting run that kicked-off last week with a splendid 2-0 win here against Brechin.
Of course, our presence in League One next season won’t directly be determined by how we perform this season against the title contenders. No, our target must be to inflict some serious damage when we face the four teams below us.
You can argue that three points are three points, that last week’s superb win against a physical Brechin side carries the same value as, say, a similar result against struggling Stenhousemuir.
You’d be right, of course, but in the grand scheme of things any newly promoted side like Queen’s would surely look on points taken from the promotion contenders as something of a bonus.
There will be added value in any success we achieve against the rest — potentially six-pointers against Stenny, East Fife, Stranraer and Peterhead — and even the bookies, bless ‘em, fancy the first three from that quartet to finish below the Spiders this season.
Rovers can also claim an impressive last win against Brechin, their 2-1 comeback victory at Glebe Park in midweek moving them up to fifth place, one point ahead of Queen’s.
Rovers won our only meeting so far this season 2-0 in Coatbridge in October – they were actually going for eight wins in a row against the Spiders! – and today they are certain to provide another tough match.
Queen’s had one injury setback when the in-form Scott Gibson failed a fitness test. Bryan Wharton was drafted in for the only change from the starting XI against Brechin.
Our old anorak Gulliver was agitated that Queen’s keeper Willie Muir was wearing the same yellow top and black shorts as the officials, but we had no time to ponder on that as we had a great chance for Queens’ and a goal for Rovers – all inside two minutes!
There were 90 seconds on the clock when Burns released Woods in the box on the left. Woodsie tried to find Zanatta with a low driven cross, but the ball cannoned off ex-Spider Mark Ferry and keeper Stewart had to make a superb full-length stop to his right to avert a certain goal.
But in an instant, Rovers had turned defence into attack, Gilmour breaking down the right and firing over a low cross that Stewart fired past Muir with disconcerting ease.
A poor start for Queen’s, but at least there was still plenty of time to make amends.
The next 10 minutes were more typical of the usual sparring, although it took a good interception from Mick Dunlop to cut out a dangerous cross by Millen in 11 minutes.
But Queen’s did get back on track with an equaliser in 14 minutes.
Woods and Zanatta combined through the left, the young Canadian sliced a pinpoint pass towards the penalty spot, and the darting Galt got a touch on the ball the second before advancing keeper Stewart brought him down. Stonewall penalty, and Millen repeated his now customary efficiency from the spot low to the keeper’s left.
Stewart did try to play the ball, so under a new rule he escaped a red card.
Millen now shares the top scorer honours with fellow-defender Adam Cummins, five goals each – and all of them set-pieces?
Queen’s, though, were still having their moments from open play and they really should have been ahead in 29 minutes. McKernon made a splendid driving run into the box on the right and delivered a low cross to the feet of Woods eight yards out in front of goal, but he mishit his shot straight at Stewart.
This was a nice wee spell from Queen’s around the half-hour, and Zanatta came close with a left foot shot that slipped just wide of Stewart’s left-hand post.
Albion had half-hearted penalty appeals ignored when a cross appeared to strike Millen’s arm, although the visitors may have become more animated had a quick break then from Queen’s not been cleared.
It was Queen’s and their supporters who became animated in 37 minutes when the Spiders took the lead.
Homer would love to credit Paul Woods with a ferocious shot, but while the wee playmaker’s right-foot effort was well struck from 20 yards and on target for the centre of goal, it was spilled by keeper Stewart when the keeper looked to have held it.
A spot of good fortune for Queen’s, for sure, but you couldn’t say it hadn’t been deserved on the balance of play, with McKernon and Fotheringham controlling the middle.
In fact, Queen’s looked more likely to add to their tally as we headed towards the break, with Galt and Zanatta both just failing to get on the end of a Woods pass.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 2 Albion Rovers 1
Rovers repeated their first half quick start and Queen’s had to weather a mini storm, with Cummins hoofing clear and Muir taking one shot at the second attempt.
But it was Queen’s who made the first chance of the half, in five minutes, Galt setting up Fotheringham for a chance that he couldn’t control and hit over the top.
Rovers were forced into a change in 51 minutes when Ross Stewart – the forward, not the keeper – limped off to be replaced by Ferguson.
Queen’s made their first change in 71 minutes, Galt being replaced by Brady, and they should have been 3-1 up three minutes later.
The hard-working Zanatta set up Woods on the penalty spot but again the playmaker mishit his shot and it trickled wide with just the keeper to beat.
That was Zanatta’s last action, being replaced by Carter.
But Rovers, who sent on Willis for Boyd, were coming more into the game as we entered the last 10 minutes, although for all their pressure a Wallace shot from distance was so far all that troubled Muir.
Woodsie got a nice ovation when he ended a hard-working shift four minutes from time, and Rovers replaced Ferry with Gallagher.
Carter should have put the game to bed two minutes from time. Millen played him through in the clear to beat the offside trap, only for the striker to smash his shot against advancing keeper Stewart.
But there was no damage done, and Queen’s sealed an excellent, well-deserved win to leapfrog Albion and end their run of victories.
Now it’s on to Livi, Alloa and Airdrie. Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Bryan Wharton, Jamie McKernon, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Gregor Fotheringham, Dario Zanatta, David Galt, Sean Burns. Subs: Aiden Malone, John Carter, Conor McVey, Craig McLeish, Anton Brady, William Mortimer, Ewan MacPherson.
Albion Rovers: Ross Stewart, Alan Reid, Scott McBride, Gary Fisher, Ross Dunlop, Mick Dunlop, Mark Ferry, Ross Gilmour, Ryan Wallace, Steven Boyd, Ross C Stewart. Subs: Paul Willis, Callum Ferguson, Daniel Lightbody, Jamie Gallagher, Paul Archibald, Daniel Potts (gk).
Referee – Craig Charleston.
Highlights from behind the goal
Ross Millen converts the penalty to make the score 1-1.
Paul Woods scores to take the lead.