Queen’s Park 1 Berwick Rangers 0
INTRODUCTIONS may be needed at Hampden Park today as Queen’s entertain Berwick for their first home match of what promises to be an exciting League Two campaign.
Since our last league game here at the (QP-owned, btw) National Stadium, we have lost enough players to make TWO teams.
So it will save old Homer’s fingers merely to list those few members of last season’s first-team squad who are still with us — namely Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Cammy Foy, Ciaran Summers, Lewis Magee, Daniel Nimmo, Ewan MacPherson and Billy Mortimer.
Head coach Gus MacPherson has pulled more rabbits from the hat to build yet another new squad and you have to say the early signs have been very encouraging.
Our positive Betfred Cup campaign is well documented on our website and no Spiders fans would have complained pre-match about us bringing back a point from last week’s trek to Peterhead for our first game of the League Two campaign.
Berwick’s opening day win over Stirling Albion belied their shocking form in the Betfred Cup, when the Wee Gers lost all four games without managing to score a goal. Let’s hope last week was merely a blip!
As usual, the visiting players will get a huge kick out of playing at the oldest international stadium in the world (did I mention it was QP-owned?), and therein lines a perennial additional problem for Queen’s.
It was our poor home form that sealed our relegation from League One, so it will be interesting to see how the new boys cope with that challenge.
Gus made two changes from Balmoor. The injured Josh Peters was replaced by Billy Mortimer and fit-again Ciaran Summers replaced James Grant.
Both teams got off to a slow start — 30 minutes slow, in fact, as the kick-off was delayed half-an-hour after the Berwick team bus was held up in traffic.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off on the 40th anniversary of Queen’s players Bernie Donnelly and David Ballantyne being tragically killed in a car crash during a Spiders tour of Canada in July 1978.
Keeper David Gillespie broke his leg in the crash and never played first -team football again.
The Hampden pitch looked magnificent on a calm August afternoon as Berwick kicked off, looking somewhat alien having swapped their traditional black and orange kit for their away colours of light blue shirts and black shorts.
The players were obviously impressed with the pitch, too, because they spent the first 10 minutes trying not to make any impression on it.
It was 12 minutes before Queen’s mounted an attack of any conviction, a sweeping move from the right to wide left that saw Martin unlucky not to win a corner.
Berwick had the first shot on goal, if that’s not too flattering a description for a sclaffed effort from Willis in 14 minutes that Hart picked up comfortably.
But the action and the atmosphere heated up considerably in 16 minutes when Queen’s took the lead from the penalty spot.
Mortimer skinned Todd inside the box tight on the right byeline and the defender brought him down – an easy decision for ref David Lowe and Jamie McKernon made an efficient job of the penalty.
A good platform for Queen’s, who were now well in to their passing, pressing game, but Berwick were soon forced into a change when Willis limped off to be replaced by Murphy.
They say teams are never more vulnerable than when they’ve just scored, and it took a fine save from Hart to deny Berwick an equaliser, the keeper tipping over a close-range header from Wilson.
Kindlan was booked for a soft foul on the half-hour but Berwick wasted the free-kick, sending it straight out for a goal kick.
Mortimer was having joy down the right, and seemed to have the beating of Orru. The full-back decked the striker on the byeline in 32 minutes, but the free-kick was cleared.
Queen’s created a good chance in 34 minutes. Todd’s towering clearance elicited cries of “up, Dean, up Dean” from his coach, and Kindlan promptly obliged, knocking down the header for Osadolor to burst past a marker and shoot just wide of Brennan’s left-hand post.
Queen’s had so far dealt comfortably with the sporadic attacks of a distinctly unadventurous Berwick side, but Hart had to be quick to knock away a dangerous cross for a corner, and then the keeper did well to take a cross out the air under pressure.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 Berwick Rangers 0
Berwick restarted with slightly more ambition, but Healy took it a bit far with a dive in the box after a “tackle” by McLauchlan and was promptly booked.
Osadolor had been ploughing a lonely furrow up front, but his good hold-up play on the hour won Queen’s a corner on the right that McLauchlan only just failed to nod.
Queen’s made their first change in 64 minutes, youth graduate McGrory replacing the hard-working Martin, and Berwick sent on Murrell for O’Kane.
Queen’s were still controlling the game, but an end product via a killer pass was proving more difficult to find.
As any Spiders fan will tell you, 1-0 is never comfortable, and Berwick had a few home hearts fluttering with a break that saw Phillips given too much space to shoot wide.
Queen’s responded immediately, a fine through ball from McKernon putting McGrory clear, but his right-foot shot lacked direction and went straight to Brennan.
The second Spiders change saw Sharpe replace Kindlan, then Murphy was booked for foul on Summers.
Berwick’s final change, in 75 minutes, was Rose for Healy, and Queen’s quickly followed suit with MacPherson for the mobile Osadolor.
Yes, 1-0 can be an ordeal, as we were witnessing here. Berwick were pushing with two up top now, and Queen’s had Hart to thank for keeping it at that when the keeper made a splendid near-post block from a Phillips shot in 86 minutes.
It was end to end, from a Berwick free-kick cleared to MacPherson racing clear but losing the ball at the crucial moment.
Sharpe was booked before the end, but Queen’s saw it out to the whistle and recorded their first home victory of the season.
Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.
Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, Gavin Lachlan, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Kurtis Roberts, Dean Kindlan (Sharpe), Smart Osadolor (MacPherson), Adam Martin (McGrory), Billy Mortimer. Subs: James Grant, Brendan Sharpe, Daniel Nimmo, Calvin McGrory, Cameron Foy, Ewan MacPherspon, Jack Dunlop.
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Cook, Wilson, Todd, Orru, Lavery, O’Kane, Brown, Willis, Healy, Phillips. Subs: Fleming, Murrell, Murphy, Davie, Rose, Adams.
Referee – David Lowe.