HAD we been fortunate enough to enjoy any kind of summer in our little corner of Scotland then this would be the perfect time to ask where it had gone.
It seems like only yesterday that everyone connected with Queen’s Park was celebrating promotion to League One, yet here we are, sobered up, in unfamiliar blue to celebrate our upcoming 150th birthday, and ready to kick-off a new season.
Sadly, that was not to be at Hampden Park, where summer concerts have turned our much-maligned Green Green Grass of Home into the Desert Song, meaning we were forced to kick-off the season back at Airdrie.
With Gulliver still seeking sun in foreign parts (let’s hope it’s not Turkey!), at least Homer could take some delight today in seeing many familiar faces, and not just among the travelling fans.
Unusually for Queen’s, and especially after a promotion-winning season, we have managed to avoid the traditional mass exodus from the dressing room.
Of the X1 who started both legs of that successful play-off final against Clyde — and the second leg was only nine weeks ago on May 14 — only two players have left for pastures new.
Admittedly, keeper Willie Muir (East Fife) and midfielder Vinnie Berry (Stenhousemuir) will be greatly missed after their sterling efforts for the Spiders, and we thank them and wish them well, but we have retained the rest of our successful squad and Gus MacPherson has even added SIX new faces. Let’s hope he has unearthed a few more gems among them.
There were five of those new faces in the team to face Championship Queen of the South for the first of our four Betfred Cup group games – keeper Andrew Murphy and right back Ross Millen, son of Andy, in a defensive unit with old boys Sean Burns, Bryan Wharton, Ryan McGeever; returnee Darren Miller and debut man Gregor Fotheringham in midfield with Paul Woods and young prospect Liam Brown, and David Galt in a new partnership up front with Aiden Malone.
Queen’s had no sub keeper – but that would change for our next outing – and the squad did not include the unfortunate Jamie McKernon. The midfielder has suffered a repeat of the foot injury that kept him out of last season’s run-in and this time he will be sidelined for around three months. It’s a sad start for Jamie.
The all-red Queens, as opposed to the Hooped Queen’s, not surprisingly carried most of the early pressure.
Fotheringham, henceforth known as Fozzy, had a great block to stop a Pickard shot on the edge of the box and then got his head to a cross that was destined for an unmarked Anderson at the far post.
New Spiders striker Malone, once of EK, was putting himself about to good effect, holding the ball up and winning fouls against pressing defenders.
McGeever was needed to make a good saving, sliding tackle in 18 minutes to deny Rigg, who was clear in the box for a shot after a through ball had eluded Wharton.
It had been a disjointed start from both teams and there wasn’t much silky football on show, which was fairly typical of early-season competitive games.
The Dumfries side, though, carried an obvious threat and the impressive Rigg shot narrowly wide of the diving Murphy’s left hand post in 23 minutes.
But the deadlock was broken four minutes later and no surprise it was the visitors who went in front.
It was a swift move down the right, Hamill releasing Anderson and the winger getting wide before firing over a low cross that beat Murphy and left Pickard to show some enterprise with an easy finish inside the six-yard box.
The Spiders were being restricted to the occasional break, and Millen saw a good outswinging cross headed for a corner by Hamill with Galt poised, and then Brown won a free kick 20 yards out that Burns fired against a wall allowed to be no more than seven yards in retreat.
But it was 2-0 in 34 minutes. Murphy did well to punch clear for a corner under physical pressure from the robust Rigg, but from Hamill’s corner Dowie looked completely unmarked and had a simple header to score.
The Hoops were having a hard time getting forward, and the lively Malone was looking lonely up front. The Reds were sharper, quicker, and had a physical edge, although Galt did get clear in 42 minutes on the left only to shoot straight at Robinson.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Queen of the South 2
Queen’s made two changes at the break, Mark Williams and Anton Brady coming on for Brown and Fozzy.
It should have been 3-0 in 51 minutes. Anderson waltzed past Wharton to the byeline and delivered a cross to Rigg’s feet, but the striker couldn’t control his shot and hit it wide of an open goal.
The visitors had started strongly and Dykes found a hole in the Spiders defence but shot narrowly wide under pressure from Millen.
Pickard and the experienced Hamill were booked in quick succession for fouls.
But it was a foul by Wharton that gave Queens the chance to make it four. The impressive Anderson again was too quick for the Spiders, this time taking out McGeever with a delightful chip, but as he burst into the box he was taken down by Wharton. Homer thought it was a penalty, the ref said a free-kick on the edge of the box, and booked Wharton, but Hamill sent the free kick well over.
The sight of the combative Rigg going off may have induced some smiles in the Queen’s ranks, but the arrival of the experienced Derek Lyle brought different problems.
Referee Newlands stopped a good break by Queen’s, ignoring advantage to book tapping for a trip on Miller, which went down well with the home support.
He then booked the ever chatty Darren Miller for dissent, but no surprise there!
Brotherston replaced Dykes in 76 minutes, then Gus sent on his boy Ewan in place of Woods as we chased our first shot on target.
It turns out Brotherston is a bit of a flyer. He left Burns in his wake as he tore down the right and set up Anderson for a neat inside pass to Hilson, who delayed his shot and was crowded out.
Anderson blotted an otherwise exemplary copybook with a swinging arm on Burns that brought a booking, young MacPherson almost claimed an elusive goal for Queen’s, just failing to control a pass in the box, and Miller tried to fool keeper Robinson with a cheeky free kick. And that was that.
After QOS today, we are at Berry’s Stenny on Tuesday, Airdrie at home the following Tuesday (26th) assuming the Hampden pitch has recovered, and finally Partick Thistle at Firhill on Saturday, July 30.
Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Andrew Murphy, Ross Millen, Sean Burns, Bryan Wharton, Ryan McGeever, Gregor Fotheringham, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, Liam Brown, David Galt. Subs – Gavin Mitchell, Mark Williams, Joe Bradley, Anton Brady, Joshua Watt, Craig McLeish, Euan MacPherson.
Queen of the South: Lee Robinson, Jamie Hamill, Andrew Dowie, Chris Higgins, Jordan Marshall, Grant Anderson, Lyndon Dykes, Callum Tapping, Jake Pickard, Steven Rigg, Dave Hilson. Subs – Jim Atkinson (gk), Darren Brownlie, Kyle Jacobs, Derek Lyle, Aidan Smith, Owen Moxon, Dean Brotherston.
Referee: Alan Newlands.