Partick Thistle 2 Queen’s Park 0
If we’re being honest, there wasn’t realistically too much at stake for the Spiders today as qualification for the next stage of the Betfred Cup was always a long shot. But that didn’t mean the short hop to Firhill wasn’t to be welcomed.
For a start, it’s always nice to revisit the scene of THAT League Cup victory by Queen’s over another Premier league side. And today there was the added welcome distraction of getting away from the endless reruns of some game at Wembley featuring a dodgy decision by a Russian linesman and a pitch invasion that should have seen the result declared null and void anyway.
You might have guessed that Gulliver isn’t enjoying those 50th anniversary celebrations, so could Queen’s give us something to cheer this afternoon.
They had certainly provided entertainment in midweek with the penultimate group match against Airdrie. Even though we lost that one in a penalty shoot-out, there was plenty to give us hope for the league campaign ahead as we overturned a two-goal deficit to finish the 90-minutes all square with our full-time opponents.
The first target today for Gus’ men was to take that performance a stage further. With the revolving door skewed in favour of new arrivals during the close season, and only John Carter and the unfortunate Jamie McKernon on the treatment table, the boss has a larger than usual squad to select from.
That presents him with a nice dilemma of picking his best XI, and his choice this afternoon was to make four changes from midweek with Paul Woods, Scott Gibson, Joe Bradley and Liam Brown all dropping to the bench. Conor McVey, David Galt, Anton Brady and Josh Watt stepped in to the starting line-up.
So Queen’s took the field with Andrew Murphy in goals; a back four of Ross Millen, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins and Sean Burns, a midfield quintet of Galt, Darren Miller, Brady, McVey and Watt, with Aidan Malone spearheading our attack.
There was no sign of early panic as the Spiders got men behind the ball when needed, but broke with some purpose when they were allowed possession. It was heartening to watch, until it went wrong after just six minutes. Queen’s fashioned an opportunity on the right with some decent football and Malone got on the end of Millen’s cross to cause keeper Cerny all sorts of problems. He did keep the effort out – and 18 seconds later the home side were in front. A long, high ball split our central defence and with Murphy caught in no-man’s land, Erskine nipped in to loop a header over the keeper and into the empty net.
Perceived wisdom suggests that when a lower league team concedes early to a Premier League outfit, they are in for a torrid afternoon – and the home side did go for the jugular. Erskine caused us all sorts of problems – shooting just wide after 12 minutes and then winning a corner which we defended well.
But the Spiders can take great heart from the way they battled to stay in the game, and almost snatched an equaliser after 14 minutes when a Miller free-kick was headed goalwards by Cummins and Cerny again had to be alert to keep it out at the expense of a corner.
Thistle were soon dominating possession again, without causing Murphy too many problems. Doolan nearly cashed in on another long ball after 35 minutes, but while his first touch was sublime, he couldn’t find a way past Murphy and the outcome was another fruitless corner for the home side.
The lively Erskine and Gordon won a couple of fouls for Thistle in dangerous positions, but Queen’s stuck to their task resolutely and denied the home side the second goal which their fans were now demanding.
Two minutes from the break, the Spiders put together a neat interchange between McVey and Malone, but Aidan’s final ball was just a tad too firm and Wee Conor couldn’t get on the end of it.
However, it was an encouraging end to an encouraging first half for Gus’ men.
Partick Thistle 1 Queen’s Park 0
Given the fact that the home side might have expected to be further ahead having taken the lead so early, many in the visiting ranks feared a real onslaught at the start of the second period.
But with neither side changing their personnel, the game also followed a similar pattern. Thistle dominated possession, but when they did get hold of the ball, Queen’s tried to keep it rather than just hoof it away and invite more pressure on their goal.
That is not by any means to suggest Thistle didn’t have opportunities. Erskine got an early sighter which Murphy held easily, and we had to deal with a couple of corners – again we did the business.
Perhaps as a sign that more was expected of the Premier League side, it was Alan Archibald who made the first change; bringing on the substantial frame of David Amoo for Ryan Edwards after just 51 minutes.
The change almost immediately resulted in a chance- at the other end. Galt weaved his way towards the Thistle box before being halted illegally. Miller’s delivery was cleared just as Malone prepared to pounce.
That escape spurred Thistle into action and Amoo broke down the right before sending in a delicious cross. Lawless met it nicely with his napper, but send the ball wide of the gaping goal.
Queen’s enjoyed a good spell around the hour mark, highlighted by a Galt break and cross which found its way to the left peg of Burns. Sadly for Queen’s, Booth got in the way of Sean’s shot and deflected it behind for a corner which came to nothing.
Both sides made changes at this point; Thistle replacing Lawless with Azeez, while Queen’s swapped Watt for Bradley.
Malone was making a real nuisance of himself up front – despite being isolated all too often. And the striker showed great strength to outmuscle Lindsay and head for the byline. He couldn’t, however, get a cross to a Hooped jersey and a real opportunity went abegging.
The halfway point in the half saw Gus make his second change, bringing on Woods for Galt.
Thistle almost double their lead on 70 minutes when they broke quickly and Azeez got his head to Gordon’s cross. The bar came to Queen’s rescue and the deficit remained at one.
The Spiders produced one of their best moments as we entered the final 20 minutes. Some tidy, quick passes out of defence gave Miller possession and he ran at the heart of the Thistle rearguard. It was a matter of timing to release Bradley, but while Darren got that bit right, his pass was overhit and the ball rolled tamely out for a goal kick.
As we went into the last 15 minutes, the home side tried to turn the screw and brought on the giant figure of Pogba (brother of the Manchester United target Paul) for Doolan.
With such a size advantage, it was perhaps no surprise that Thistle soon doubled their lead – Lindsay powering home a header from a corner to make it 2-0.
Gus threw his boy Ewan into action for the last 10 minutes, giving Malone a well-earned breather.
Queen’s were determined to give nothing more away, but a combination of tired minds and weary legs saw us lose possession too often, with the result that we were on the back foot for most of the time.
Five minutes from the end, Murphy more than made up for the first goal by producing a stunning save from a point-blank header. Millen was on hand to complete the clearance and we kept in touch with our opponents.
We almost got even closer to them in the dying minutes when Miller and Millen combined to allow the full back to send in a dangerous cross. MacPherson reacted quickly to get his head to the ball, but could only direct it over the top.
It was the last meaningful action of a game which – despite the result – produced more positives that negatives for Queen’s. We always tried to play football, and looked as if we carried a threat when we did get players up to support Malone.
Yes, our opponents were sharper and quicker than us, but at no stage in the proceedings were we out of our depth.
Next up is another novel cup tie – this time Tuesday’s clash with Kilmarnock Colts in the former Challenge Cup – now renamed the Irn-Bru trophy.
Who knows what Tuesday will see at Hampden, but it’s looking reasonable for the start of the league campaign next weekend.
Finally, Gulliver must be getting soft in his old age as he wants to round off with a couple of plaudits. While he didn’t get everything right, referee Andrew Dallas managed to keep his cards in his pocket – a rare success in these days where tackling is almost a forbidden art.
And in the same happy spirit, a big thanks to the Thistle media staff team who were more than welcoming and helpful. It was a pleasure to be back in Maryhill … even if the result was not the one we dreamed of.
Keep the Faith!
Queen’s Park: Andrew Murphy, Ross Millen, Sean Burns, Conor McVey, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, David Galt ( Paul Woods), Darren Miller, Aiden Malone (Ewan MacPherson), Josh Watt ( Joe Bradley). Subs: Scott Gibson, Liam Brown.