Queen’s Park 2 Albion Rovers 2

FOOTBALL is only a game and money is how we keep score. It’s the filthy lucre that has always separated such as the Old Firm from the rest; it’s what ultimately turned wee Gretna’s astonishing dream into a nightmare. 

For years, we’ve sat helpless as our professional rivals have splashed the cash on reinforcements for the second half of the season. Well, Queen’s Park FC are helpless no more. After 152 years as amateurs, the Spiders can now keep score.

Our new head coach (or do we now officially have a manager?), having already re-signed his amateur first-team squad on part-time pro contracts, has put his contacts to good use this week.

Ray McKinnon splashed out on signings for the first time in QP history, with two of his former players — experienced centre-half Peter Grant, 25, from Morton, and versatile midfielder/winger Ross MacLean, 22, from Falkirk — joining young loan centre-half prospect Jake Davidson, 20, from Dundee United.

MacLean, who also played for Motherwell and Morton, has signed with boss McKinnon for a third time. He and Grant went straight into the starting XI, replacing Creag Little and Luke Main, while Davidson was on the bench.

Grant slotted in beside Cammy Foy, flanked by full backs Willie Mortimer and Ciaran Summers in a back four. Ryan Finnie and Joffrey Lidouren lined up ahead of them, with MacLean hugging the right touchline outside Galtie, Kieran Moore and Salim.

Exciting times, then, but the proof is in the pudding, so we’ll quickly gloss over last week’s Scottish Cup pasting at Kilmarnock and see if we can give old rivals Albion Rovers their just deserts today as we go for a third successive League Two win.

Rovers are second bottom, four points ahead of Brechin, but they haven’t played since January 4 because of weather postponements.

They have three games in hand over eighth-placed Stenhousemuir, who are just one point ahead, and two games in hand over Queen’s, who are six points ahead. So a pivotal game, this one.

The new-look Queen’s kicked off defending the home end at a good lick but almost went behind in the fourth minute. Lidouren’s crossfield pass went straight to Byrne 25 yards out, and the forward had time to take a touch before sending a  right foot shot just wide of Muir’s right hand post.

It was a bad start for the Frenchman, who apologised immediately, but it was to get worse four minutes later as Albion went ahead.

A Queen’s free-kick was cleared, leading to an Albion break down our left, and Byrne outmuscled Lidouren to drive into the box and send a low shot past Muir.

That was a shocker, but Queen’s provided a positive response. MacLean showed his skills when he cut in from the right and unleashed a left foot shot that Goodfellow blocked low down for a corner.

Albion looked lively after their enforced break and they were giving Queen’s plenty to think about with their movement, but Queen’s were getting closer to an equaliser.

Galt had a shot that nipped wide and then in 23 minutes Goodfellow produced a wonderful one-handed block to send a Moore rocket over the bar.

But all their efforts were undone when Queen’s fell asleep in 29 minutes as the visitors went 2-0 up. An Albion throw-in under the main stand was somehow allowed to sneak through to the unmarked See, who burst into the box and drove a shot under the stranded Muir.

You couldn’t say Rovers were not value for their lead. Queen’s were too often being caught in possession or giving the ball away, and we were disjointed at both ends of the park.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Albion Rovers 2

There was no surprise that Ray McKinnon made changes for the restart. Mortimer didn’t reappear, Finnie went to right back, and young Davidson, who was on loan at Spartans, came on to play in front of the back four.

And there was certainly a more lively look to Queen’s, as they set about getting back in the game.

Within the first two minutes Goodfellow  made another fine stop to push away a Galt drive, then he bundled behind a Salim header from Galt’s corner, and Foy headed the next corner wide.

But Queen’s got a toehold in the game when they scored a well-worked goal in 50 minutes.

Salim slipped a pass to the overlapping MacLean and he made ground before delivering a perfect ball across the front of Goodfellow to give Galt a tap-in at the far post.

It was a different game now. Queen’s had their tails up and it was Albion on the back foot, and they conceded the equaliser in 63 minutes.

It was a break down the left, Lidouren winning a tackle and Summers knocking the ball down the left for Moore to chase. And, boy, did the flyer chase it, right past Lynas into the box and the full back pulled him down. Penalty! – Lynas got a yellow card and Salim sent Goodfellow the wrong way from the spot. An encouraging comeback. Game on.

Rovers made two changes, Morena for Graham and ex-Spider Euan East for the awkward See.

Galt was clearly fouled on the touchline -with the ref looking elsewhere at the time – and Albion broke down the right. Summers pulled down Scally just outside the box and was booked and East’s free-kick was turned low round the post by Muir.

Queen’s sent on Purdue for Moore in 80 minutes, and the striker got a deserved ovation from the fans and a handshake from his Gaffer.

And it was a tackle on Purdue four minutes later that saw Lynas sent off for his second booking, making for an interesting last six minutes.

But the interest came at the wrong end, when Davidson conceded a silly penalty with a barge on East. Queen’s had Muir to thank for saving his blushes, as the keeper made a stupendous save from Byrne, diving to turn the spot kick onto the post and Lidouren completed the clearance.

Alfredo Agyeman came on for Galt in the last Queen’s change three minutes from time.

Queen’s tried hard to claim a winner, but it wasn’t to be. Considering they had been 2-0 down, and Rovers missed a penalty, perhaps a point was justified. But that second half form for the 90 minutes may have given us a better return.

As I say, exciting times. Keep the Faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, William Mortimer (Davidson 45), Ryan Finnie, Ciaran Summers, Peter Grant, Cameron Foy, Ross MacLean, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt (Agyeman 87), Joffrey Lidouren, Kieran Moore (Purdue 80). Subs: Jacques Heraghty,  Luke Main, Jack Purdue, James Grant, Creag Little, Jake Davidson Alfredo Agyeman.

Albion Rovers: Ryan Goodfellow, Aaron Lynas, Ross Clark, Bryan Wharton, Nicholas McAllister, Daniel Scally, Nicki Paterson, Scott Roberts, Will Graham (Morena 64), Declan Byrne, Ousman See (East 70). Subs: Euan East, Jack Breen, Kyle Doherty, Giuliano Moreno, Jason Krones, Dan Potts, Lewis Wilson.

Ray speaks to QPTV after the game