WHAT the New Year brings you, dear reader, will largely depend on what you bring to the New Year.
And for Queen’s Park, the Glorious Hoops, aint that the truth.
We rang out 2015 on a tenacious chase for a promotion spot, and not even the most blinkered Spiders fan could have expected that 12 months later the boys would be doing exactly the same!
It’s remarkable. As we ring out 2016, battling, brilliant Queen’s are again on the cusp of the play-offs — for the CHAMPIONSHIP.
No, Homer hasn’t started early on his Hogmanay bottle. He’s just a promoted Spider intoxicated to be sharing the same points total as fourth-placed Alloa after seven League One games undefeated, the most recent last week’s uplifting victory at Livingston coming hard on the heels of a splendid draw at Alloa.
Still, we should remember that New Year is also a time for sober reflection. Head coach Gus MacPherson says this league is incredibly tight and he maintains Queen’s are still looking down more than we are looking up. Homer will drink to that.
And we can’t look down any farther than today’s visitors Stranraer, who surprisingly prop up the table after a dire run which has returned just four points from their last five games.
The Blues haven’t won in the league since a November 3-1 win over Stenhousemuir. Still, we know what Stenny did to us here at Hampden.
Stranraer also won at Hampden, 2-0 in September, although we returned the favour by the same score at Stair Park last month.
Anyway, Homer seems to remember Stranraer being in a similar predicament in the league this time last season — and they missed out on promotion only after a penalty shoot-out. So there will be no complacency.
Last week’s superb win at Livi was even more commendable considering the absence of Ross Millen (illness), Gregor Fotheringham (injury) and Dario Zanatta (recalled by Hearts).
Fotheringham and Millen were still missing for the visit of Stranraer and Gus made just the one change from his Livi starting X1, David Galt coming in and Conor McVey dropping to the bench.
It was a dreadful afternoon in Glasgow, with darkened sky, torrential rain, and a biting wind.
Gulliver’s decision to upsticks with the family and celebrate the bells in Tenerife was by the minute looking more sensible.
Stranraer’s vivid orange jerseys brightened up the kick-off under the Hampden lights and they even started brightly with some early possession.
But it was Queen’s who threatened first, in two minutes, Galt winning a free-kick on the left and Belford taking McKernon’s cross under pressure from Cummins.
The underfoot conditions were obviously difficult and slick and McGeever and Agnew had a thumping coming-together as they challenged for the ball. Referee Munro deemed it a foul for Stranraer and Gibson — the only outfield player wearing gloves — rattled his 30-yard free-kick over the bar.
Early play was disrupted by soft fouls but Queen’s were gradually building a toehold and they almost went ahead in 14 minutes.
Burns won a foul on the left, McKernon’s free-kick was knocked on, and Malone with a cute backheel sent the ball agonisingly wide of the far post.
If that was close, Queen’s created even better openings in the following couple of minutes, through Woods and then Brady, but each time the visitors’ defence managed to scramble the ball clear.
But in the main so far it was a game to match the conditions, a difficult day not so much for silky football as digging in.
Steven Bell deflected a Galt cross over his own bar as he attempted to clear, but apart from that and plenty of effort there was little to warm the juices as we headed towards the half-hour.
Stranraer’s best outlet was the pace of Thomson down the right, and he set up their first chance from open play with a driving run and cross that Gibson headed well wide.
If anything the rain and wind were getting stronger, the play more disjointed, and the Hampden roof was leaking as the sanctuary of half-time appeared on the horizon.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Stranraer 0
Queen’s almost had a kamikaze moment seven minutes into an otherwise unspectacular restart.
Cummins’ poor touch as he brought the ball out gifted Gibson possession, he played Agnew into the box, and there were sighs of relief all round as the midfielder’s powerful shot from 12 yards cleared the bar. He really should have scored.
Stranraer had started the half better, with the slight figure of Turner pulling the strings, and as the rain belted down in a solid sheet, Wharton was booked for pulling back Gibson to stop a break.
So it was probably no surprise when the visitors scored on the hour, when the ever dangerous Gibson picked up a short clearance just outside the box and rattled a shot past Muir.
Gus made a change three minutes later, MacPherson replacing Malone up top, and we had a chance to level things up on 66 minutes when Woods’ good run on the left ended with a cutback that Galt swung at but completely missed from 10 yards.
Stranraer sent on the equally dangerous Craig Malcolm for Nuttall on 67.
MacPherson was harshly booked two minutes later for simulation after a long run and tit-for-tat tussle with Turner, the ref taking no account of the conditions, and Bell followed with a yellow for hauling down Galt.
That last free-kick brought Queen’s a chance, Cummins winning the near post jump but heading wide, then a minute later Galt — despite his shirt blatantly being pulled in the box — stood up a cross that McKernon tamely headed wide.
Brown replaced Gibson on 80 minutes as Queen’s tried to get more control in midfield, and Stranraer sent on Watt for the speedy Thomson.
Apart from a Burns rocket over the bar from 35 yards, that was pretty much that for Queen’s, as Stranraer comfortably played out time.
Homer’s memory is not what it was, but if we had a worse performance in 2016 it’s obviously slipped my mind.
Anyway, Happy New Year to you and yours, and may all your troubles last as long as your resolutions. Keep the faith.
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Bryan Wharton, Scott Gibson (Brown 79), Jamie McKernon, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, David Galt, Aiden Malone (MacPherson 60), Anton Brady, Sean Burns.
Subs – Conor McVey, Craig McLeish, Liam Brown, William Mortimer, Cameron Foy, Ewan MacPherson, Owen Stott.
Stranraer: Cameron Belford, Scott Robertson, Liam Dick, David Barron, Steven Bell, Scott Agnew, Giuliano Morena, Kyle Turner, Craig Thomson, Willie Gibson, Joe Nuttall.
Subs: Luke Watt, Jack Sherrie, Evan Maley, Craig Malcolm, Andrew Johnstone, Max Currie (GK).
Referee – David Munro.