Queen’s Park 3 Airdrie 3
(Airdrie win 8-7 on penalties)

Hampden Park has seen some special goals in its 113 years, but it’s a safe bet that the stadium has seldom seen 20 belted in at the one end in the one game … and a few of them fell into the goal of the season category on their own merit.

Queen’s may have lost this BetFred League Cup tie 8-7 on penalties to Airdrie, but even that remarkable scoreline doesn’t do justice to what was a terrific game of football … on a miserable wet evening in Glasgow.

And what made the entertainment possible was the pristine new pitch which was only finished around 48 hours before kick-off. Stevie Bache doesn’t have the easiest job in the world maintaining the most famous playing surface in British football. But the Hampden groundsman worked a magic spell that Harry Potter would have been proud of to present such a platform after the devastation wreaked when the ground was hi-jacked for gigs during the close season.

Tonight the ground was back to its proper use, and the football served up did it proud.

Paul Woods came in for Anton Brady in an otherwise unchanged Spiders team from the excellent victory over Stenhousemuir last week.

And there was a confidence about the Spiders as they took the game to their opponents from the off.

They got a reward after just two minutes when Ferguson struggled to push a Darren Miller shot onto the bar. The resultant corner in from Miller was met firmly by Cummins and the defender secured the warmest of welcomes to Hampden with his first goal for Queen’s.

It was the perfect start, and the home side looked to build on it. Miller whipped in another vicious free-kick which was headed behind for another corner. This one was cleared.

It took until the 14th minute for the first scare of the evening for the home fans. A free-kick for the visitors was hammered across our goal and McGeever had to be certain as he knocked the ball behind for a corner.

As that was cleared, Queen’s broke quickly and Bradley did well to hold off the challenge from Gorman and feed Woods. His cross was missed by Malone, but picked up again by Bradley and Ferguson had to be alert to clutch the wee man’s shot.

There were 18 minutes on the clock when it looked as if the Spiders might double their lead. But the offside flag went up as a Malone flick was scrambled away by Ferguson.

Seconds later it was 1-1 as Ryan curled a peach past Murphy from 25 yards.

And as if that sickener wasn’t enough, it was 2-1 within 90 seconds. McGeever halted Ryan, but ball rebounded to Brown who stroked home an equally good goal from just outside the box.

Queen’s were now losing to a team that hadn’t really been in the game … sound familiar?

But then it’s an indication of what we can expect come the league business. Airdrie are one of the two full-time teams in our division, so they’ve got to be looking to be at the top end of the table.

The goals had certainly knocked some of the stuffing out of the Spiders and the visitors were looking to kill the game while they had the upper hand.

On the half-hour, Ryan created more havoc on the left before cutting the ball back for McLaughlin to tee up Russell. He was never going to miss – and didn’t – as he made it 3-1 to the visitors.

Queen’s were shellshocked, but dug in doggedly and edged their way back into things.

After 36 minutes, Malone held the ball up brilliantly and got a cross in. There were no takers, but as ball came back into the box, the striker controlled it sweetly and turned to fire a shot just wide.

It was the first sign of encouragement since we had lost the lead, and the signs got brighter seconds later as Bradley weaved a way through and got off a low shot which Ferguson did well to keep out.

This was much better, but it was still an awfae uphill struggle to get anything other than pride from this one.

That man Ryan was off like an express train as the interval neared and it took a good save from Murphy to keep out his low curling shot.

The last action of the half saw Gibson win a ball that was never his (bringing a broad smile to Gulliver’s coupon as he applauded a good old-fashioned challenge). Scott forced it onto Bradley, who rolled it into the path of Miller some 20 yards out, but Darren’s rising shot was up far too quickly and cleared the bar with ease.

Half-time

Queen’s Park 1 Airdrie 3.

If Queen’s were to get back into the game, they had to repeat their quick start to the first 45. And they did just that.

Two minutes in, a Miller corner was scrambled clear, but Darren’s first-time cross back in was headed on by McGeever and volleyed home by Cummins. Sadly, the flag was up for offside.

We’d seen two absolute crackers at the Mount Florida end in the first half, and we saw another belter in the same goal seconds later to make it 2-3. Malone this time was the man to curl home from distance and bring Queen’s right back into what was a thoroughly entertaining game of football.

Now was the time for cool heads, and it was the professional side of Airdrie who came to the fore as they “earned” a number of free kicks.

The handbags came out after 54 minutes when Malone was held by Stewart. Referee Munro tried to let play go on, but as Burns was then fouled, tempers frayed a tad. Thankfully, the whistler kept the cards in his pocket and the subsequent foul was cleared.

Both teams took this opportunity to make their first change – Queen’s bringing on Conor McVey for Brown, while Airdrie swapped the dangerous Ryan for Schmidt.

On the hour mark, Gus made his second change, David Galt replacing Bradley who had again shown glimpses of just what he can do.

Moments later, Woods got a tackle all wrong on Russell in a dangerous position. Thankfully, the delivery was way too long.

Daly was then replaced by Higgins, before Malone – who had put in a bit of a shift – gave way for MacPherson.

And to keep the subs going, the visitors made their final change after 71 minutes when McDonald limped off to be replaced by Truesdale.

The first card of the evening was shown to Gorman after 73 minutes when he was sold a pup by young MacPherson and tugged the Gaffer’s son back.

MacPherson (the player that is) had the home support on their feet after 75 minutes as he chased down a hopeless cause which finally earned the Spiders a corner.

It was cleared, but as it arrived at the feet of Miller some 25 yards out, he only had one thing on his mind. His shot had goal written all over it until Ferguson ruined the script by touching the ball over the top for a corner. He then really spoiled the evening by claiming the cross as McGeever waited to pounce.

However, the goal was only delayed by a few seconds as Gorman got himself in a terrible tangle when he tried to clear. Burns kept his cool and stroked the ball under Ferguson to level things up at 3-3.

Into the last 10 minutes, and McGeever produced a last-gasp tackle on Russell. It was one of those where he had to get something on the ball – and did just enough to get the benefit of the doubt.

But Airdrie sensed a wee chance and sub Truesdale almost grabbed a winner with six minutes left – only to be denied by the woodwork.

Queen’s then went back on the front foot to win a corner which was headed clear and MacPherson went in the book himself for pulling back Schmidt as he tried to break.

As the game raced towards the 90 minute mark, it was Queen’s who were looking for the winner, so naturally, McLaughlin went close on an Airdrie break with a shot that went just wide.

The final whistle ended a cracking 90 minutes, and we were into the novelty of our first BetFred penalty shoot-out.

The first concern for Queen’s was whether man of the match Darren Miller would be fit enough to take a spot kick as he had seemed to tweak a hammy in the dying seconds.

The answer was yes – as he stepped up to take the first one and smack it into the corner of the net. 1-0 Queen’s.

Fitzpatrick then scored for Airdrie – 1-1.

Millen made it 2-1 Queen’s before Russell tied it up again.

Burns put the Spiders back ahead and then Brown saw his shot saved by Murphy to put Queen’s in the driving seat at 3-2.

Woods then was denied by Ferguson and McLaughlin cheekily chipped Murphy to make it 3-3 with one pen left for each side.

McGeever was brave enough to take our last kick and belted it past Ferguson to make it 4-3. Higgins levelled again and it was into sudden death.

Cummins was first up for the home side and rocketed his kick in off the underside of the bar.

Schmidt beat Murphy to make it 5-5.

Gibson was next up and coolly beat Ferguson.

Truesdale scored. 6-6.

Young MacPherson stepped into the firing line – and kept his nerve to slot home and make it 7-6.

Stewart scored for Airdrie – just squeezing the ball under Murphy’s desperate dive – to make it 7-7.

McVey went for power, but blasted his effort over the bar and McIntosh won the tie for Airdrie by beating Murphy with ease.

It was a disappointing end to the night, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. We scored some cracking goals; came back from two down and more than matched our opponents for much of the game.

Yes, they had a clinical edge that we couldn’t quite match, but this is one of the sides likely to be fighting for the league title come next May. The fact that we competed so well against them bodes well for our own prospects.

Nobody should think this is going to be easy – it will be a battle from start to finish – but we’ve now beaten one and drawn with another of our League 1 opponents.

Our last group tie in this competition will be against Premier League Partick Thistle at their Firhill patch on Saturday. Anything we get from that will be a real bonus, and then we’ve got another cup challenge before the real thing starts.

It’s going to be interesting. Keep the Faith!

Queen’s Park: Andrew Murphy, Ross Millen, Scott Gibson, Liam Brown, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, Joe Bradley, Sean Burns. Subs: David Galt, Bryan Wharton, Mark Williams, Joshua Watt, Gregor Fotheringham, Ewan MacPherson, Conor McVey.