You can’t deny that February has been a bit of a special month for followers of the Spiders. Going into today’s clash with Cove we’d played three; won three – and only conceded one goal. That continued a fine run in 2020 which sees us still unbeaten in the league and moving into the play-off spots at the promotion end of the table. Heady days indeed.
The fitba stats alone make this February stand out, but your scribe couldn’t resist the chance to get your wee grey cells working as well. Something happens in February 2020 that last occurred in 1992 – and won’t be seen again until 2048. Any ideas? If not, don’t worry, all will be revealed.
Anyway, enough of that, let’s get back to the task in hand – and it’s quite a task for the Spiders. If the Rayvolution is to maintain its unbeaten league momentum, Queen’s will need to dent a home record unmatched in Scotland. Cove only entered the SPFL this season but have won all 12 of their matches to date at the Balmoral Stadium. Those dozen games have seen them score 32 goals, while their keeper has only had to pick the ball out of his net on five occasions. Fair to say their home record alone justifies their place at the top of the table.
But you don’t follow Queen’s all over the country unless you’ve got an optimistic streak … so let’s look on the bright side. Unlike Queen’s, Cove have dropped five points already in February. And Ray McKinnon’s Spiders travelled to Edinburgh not that long ago and ended title-challenging Edinburgh City’s unbeaten home record.
As always in this new era, there was a lot of speculation pre-match about the Gaffer’s line-up. He’d plenty options, but in the end he made one change to the starting 11 from last week’s win over Elgin City, with Lidouren coming in at the expense of Finnie, who dropped to the bench. That meant on loan Dundee United youngster Jake Davidson dropped back into defence. One notable presence on the bench was that of Craig Slater, with the midfielder returning to full fitness following an injury on his debut last month.
It was Queen’s, who would be playing into the strong wind in the first half, who got the proceedings underway, however the home side wasted no time in making their first venture forward. Having won a corner on the far side, Milne got on the end of the delivery and went close with an adventurous effort only to be denied by Muir.
With just three minutes on the clock, Cove won another corner on the far side. Jamie Masson’s in-swinging delivery evaded those at the front post, bounced at the feet of Muir, and into the back of the net. The worst possible start for the Spiders who would have been looking to keep things tight at the back as they worked their way into the game.
The opening stages proved to be a scrappy affair with both sides trying to get to grips with the conditions and a number of niggling fouls making it a difficult watch.
Queen’s were to get our first sight of goal in the 14th minute in a move which started with Lidouren playing Galt in down the left. Galt done well to find space to get a cross into the heart of the Cove box which Moore tried to get a head on at the front post, but it fell to Koudier-Aïssa behind him who fired wide under pressure from the Cove backline.
Just a minute later at the opposite end, the home side won another corner, but when the ball fell to McAllister in the box he hooked an effort well over.
Despite the early setback, Queen’s had settled well were coping well with the conditions.
With 24 minutes played Muir launched a long ball downfield, Kouider-Aïssa won the flick on which Moore collected on the right win, the energetic striker controlled it well before playing in his strike partner who took a touch before seeing his effort from the edge of the box blocked. The move might have come to nothing but the link up play between the two strikers was an encouraging sight.
Muir was called into action just after the half hour mark and produced a comfortable save from Jamie Masson’s 35-yard free kick which was on target but right down the middle.
At the other end, just a few minutes later, Queen’s won a couple of corners in quick succession, unfortunately failing to capitalise on them and never troubled McKenzie in the Cove goal.
With just four minutes of the first half remaining the home side got the crucial second goal. Watson was played in down the right wing, he got the better of Doig at the by-line before firing a low ball across the face of the Spiders goal, Davidson attempted to block the cross and turned it into his own net. It was a cruel blow for Queen’s who had coped well after having gone behind early on.
The final action of the first half was to come as Milne got on the end of a long ball from Ross, before controlling it and forcing Muir to turn his effort round the post.
HT: Cove Rangers 2-0 Queen’s Park
Cove got the second half underway and it was them who made the first venture forward of the half, again it was the dangerous Broque Watson who burst down the right and delivered an enticing ball into the box, which Jamieson was on hand to clear.
Queen’s had made a stronger start to the second period than they had the first, and won a free kick on the right after some good build up play which started from Jamieson at the back. Doig delivered a decent ball in from the set piece but it was Ryan Strachan who rose highest to head the ball out for a Queen’s corner. King’s subsequent corner was a poor one though and was headed clear by the Cove defender on the front post.
With 53 minutes played the home side had the chance to make it three when the ball came in from the right and fell to McAllister, who with some tidy footwork then found Masson on the edge of the box, he in turn fired well over under little pressure. A let off for the Spiders defence.
The hour mark passed with both teams continuing to battle the ever-increasing strength of the wind, which was at the point that dead ball situations were starting to prove difficult.
Kouider-Aïssa forced McKenzie into his first real save of the second half when he let rip from 30 yards after working space to get the shot away. The effort appeared destined for the top corner, but the Cove keeper was alert and with a strong hand, denied the in-form Spiders striker. It was a promising reminder that Queen’s were still very much in the game despite the score line.
There was 70 minutes on the clock when the first controversial moment of the match came. Muir launched a long ball downfield which was won by Kouider-Aïssa. The flick on looked to have had too much on at as McKenzie came out to gather, but as he did so, with Lidouren closing in, the keeper spilled it and in the process of gather it for a second time, appeared to foul the French midfielder. Despite the strong Spiders claims for a spot kick, referee Fordyce waved away the claims after consulting with his stand side assistant.
It was to be Lidouren’s last action of the match as he hobbled off after receiving treatment. He was replaced in the middle of the park by Craig Slater, a welcome sign for the Spiders fans who have only saw a glimpse of Slater since he joined last month and picked up an injury on his debut.
A minute later Watson had a decent chance for the home side after getting the better of Morrison on the right before cutting in and firing an effort off target. Morrison was to pick up the first booking of the match for an attempt to haul Watson down in the build-up.
At the other end, seconds later, Queen’s were to have another penalty claim waved away by referee Fordyce. This time Galt delivered an enticing ball in from the left and as Moore tried to get on the end of it, went down under pressure from Milne.
Kouider-Aïssa picked up a booking for a late slide tackle on Higgins who had managed to clear the danger a split second before being hauled down.
As the clock ticked down the home side replaced McAllister with Mulligan and then Watson with Robertson.
Queen’s last half chance of the match came in injury time when Craig Slater curled an ambitious free kick over McKenzie’s bar.
The match was beyond the Spiders by this stage but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the travelling Spiders fans who spent the closing stages of the match chanting “Ray McKinnon’s black and white army”, and it was to that tune that referee Fordyce brought the match to a close.
So the incredible unbeaten run is over, but Queen’s are still right in the thick of the battle for a spot in the play-offs come May. Next up is bottom-of-the-table Brechin on Wednesday. On paper, that’s a great opportunity for us to bounce right back to winning ways. So why is it that your scribe has a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach as he contemplates that one?
Finally, you may just remember that you were posed a question about why this February was such a special one. Give yourself a pat on the back if you said it’s because there will be five Saturdays in the month – something that only happens every 28 years or so.
See you at the Glebe Park!
FT: Cove Rangers 2-0 Queen’s Park
Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Joffrey Lidouren (70’ Craig Slater), Josh Doig, Nicky Jamieson, Peter Grant, Jake Davidson, Adam King, Stuart Morrison, Salim Kouider-Aïssa, David Galt and Kieran Moore.
Substitutes: James Grant, Ryan Finnie, Creag Little, Calvin McGrory, Craig Slater, Luke Main and Cammy Bell.
Cove Rangers: Stuart McKenzie, Harry Milne, Connor Scully, Scott Ross, Ryan Strachan, Mitchel Megginson, Broque Watson (85’ John Robertson), Jamie Masson, Daniel Higgins, Rory McAllister (80’ Josh Mulligan) and Fraser Fyvie.
Substitutes: Tom Leighton, Josh Mulligan, Jamie Redman, Jordon Brown, John Robertson and John McCafferty.
Referee: Chris Fordyce.