Elgin City 2 Queen’s Park 2
At about 9.25 tonight, it looked like the perfect end to a lovely day. Queen’s were 2-0 up away to Elgin and looking every inch worth that lead.
And then it all went wrong in the dying minutes. We gave away a silly corner, which naturally gave the home team a scrambled goal and a lifeline. And even worse was to come when we failed to clear another cross and McHardy crashed home the equaliser.
A draw is never a bad result to bring back from Borough Briggs, but the late heartache meant this one felt like a defeat for many in the Hampden camp.
It had all been so different until those last agonising minutes.
The absurdly warm February weather made the drive through a positive pleasure… despite those tedious speed cameras and a few sets of roadworks.
The QP team also looked promising, although we were missing the defensive solidarity of Gerry McLauchlan, and the attacking guile of Alan Gow.
Those losses were balanced by the return of the combative Jamie McKernon and the pace up front of Kieran Moore.
So Queen’s lined up with Jordan Hart in goals, a back three of Dom McLaren, McKernon and Scott Gibson, with Scott McLean and Ciaran Summers in the wing back roles.
Kurtis Roberts and Calvin McGrory anchored the midfield, leaving David Galt, Lewis Hawke and Moore to provide the goal threat.
It was a shape that was becoming familiar in the Mark Roberts era, and it was one the players looked comfortable with as they took the game to their hosts in the early stages.
Galt and Roberts had sighters in the opening minutes, but neither troubled keeper Gourlay.
That set the pattern for much of the opening period. Both teams huffed and puffed; both teams fashioned shooting opportunities; but neither team laid a serious glove on the opponent.
The encouraging thing for the travelling support was that the Spiders were looking confident on the ball.
The first serious incident came after 18 minutes when McHardy decked Moore in the far corner and earned a yellow card for his troubles. Unfortunately, the delivery from the free kick was overhit and a good opportunity was wasted.
Elgin weren’t putting too much pressure on Hart’s goal, and the keeper’s first save came after 27 minutes when he easily took a Bronsky header after a free kick.
Both keepers then had to deal with a succession of shots – most from distance – and all falling into the “routine” save category.
Referee Beaton was getting more involved as a series of niggling fouls disrupted the flow of the game and brought bookings for McGrory and Omar.
The best chance of the half came four minutes from the break, and followed the best move of the match. McLean romped forward and exchanged slick passes with Moore. The final pass saw the wingback through on goal, but Gourlay stayed big to deny Scott what would have been a well deserved goal.
And that was that for the first period, which ended with the half-time score:
Elgin City 0 Queen’s Park 0
Having got to the break all square, the hope was that the Spiders would kick on in the second half and make their possession count. The worry was that shooting towards their favoured end, the Elgin players might discover their goal touch.
For most of the second half, things went better than the hearty souls who had traveled up from Glasgow could have hoped.
Queen’s were comfy in midfield, looked solid at the back – and menacing going forward. Despite all the encouraging signs, however, those who have followed the Spiders for many years knew that concrete rewards – in the shape of goals – were needed while we were on top.
We didn’t have to wait too long for the breakthrough (six minutes to be precise) and it was well worth the journey.
Neat play down the right gave Roberts the chance to play the ball in, and a good touch from Galt invited Hawke to shoot. Lewis obliged, planting the ball in the corner of the net with Gourlay helpless.
Encouraged by the goal, Queen’s went looking for more and came close after 55 minutes when the excellent McLean shot narrowly wide.
Elgin were threatening from set plays and danger loomed when Omar won a foul close to the edge of the QP box. Thankfully, however, the wall stood firm and blocked McHardy’s effort.
The home side won a series of corners about the hour mark, all of which were cleared with varying degrees of composure.
And we found the perfect answer to the pressure being exerted by Elgin with a lightning counter attack to produce the second goal.
The build up was incisive; the final ball across from Hawke to Moore was inviting; the finish from young Kieran was decisive – and just reward for another action-packed shift from the young man who clocks up more miles than a long-distance lorry driver in his quest to carve out a football career at Queen’s Park.
And then it all started to go wrong. The first hint of misfortune came when the defensive rock that is Scott Gibson was taken off and replaced by James Grant. Moore also left the action, to be replaced by Saturday’s goal hero Euan East.
Elgin made changes of their own, replacing Callum Wilson and Omar with Sutherland and David Wilson.
The disruption, and the now more bitty nature of the contest, suited the home side more than the visitors.
For the first time in the night, there was anxiety in the ranks of the travelling support. That would have been strange for any other team two goals ahead with less than 10 minutes to go, but this is QP we’re talking about, and we’ve seen this situation go wrong before.
Almost inevitably, a needlessly conceded corner provided the first opening, and at 2-1 with eight minutes left, we were now hanging on a bit.
The defensive situation wasn’t helped when McLean limped off and was replaced by Josh Peters.
As the aerial bombardment increased, the home side sensed an unlikely reprieve which duly arrived five minutes from time after another cross caused problems in our reshuffled defence, and the scores were tied again.
To their credit, Queen’s tried to get back on the front foot and Galt could have become the hero (again) when he led one counter charge. But David couldn’t steer his final shot passed the Elgin defence.
Elgin, for their part, kept looking for the winner and almost broke our hearts in the dying seconds with a hook shot from that man McHardy which was far too close for comfort.
Referee Beaton must have been enjoying the action as he allowed more than five minutes of injury time to pass before finally blowing the whistle to bring the night to an end with the final score reading:
Elgin City 2 Queen’s Park 2.
So how do we assess the night’s football? Any time you come back from Elgin with a point in the bag, you can call it a good effort. But any time you squander a two-goal lead in the final eight minutes of a match, the overwhelming feeling has to be disappointment.
Make of it what you will, but it’s all part of the magical mystery tour that following this incredible football team takes you on. Next stop Annan.
Keep the Faith.