Albion Rovers 0 Queen’s Park 1
Coatbridge on a dreich Autumn afternoon might not seem like the dream location to end a week’s travels, but when it’s the scene of a gutsy league victory for the Spiders, there’s no better place to be for those, like Gulliver, who follow the Glorious Hoops.
Gus MacPherson’s men went into the latest instalment of their old rivalry against Albion Rovers with only goal difference keeping them off the bottom of the table. They came out of it with three points, a bit of breathing space over Forfar … and a definite spring in the step.
After last week’s draw against the Loons, it was important for Queen’s to try to establish a bit of momentum. The line-up chosen to do that saw Willie Muir in goals; a back three of Kevin Green, Adam Cummins and Jack Iredale, with Ross Millen and Ciaran Summers occupying the wingback slots. Dominic Docherty, Gregor Fotheringham and Anton Brady were charged with taking control of midfield, while Luke Donnelly and Thomas Orr provided the main attacking threat. On the bench were Chris Duff, Sean Burns, David Green, Scott Gibson, David Galt, James MacLennan and Michael White.
Given the state of play in the league, it was always going to be a nervy afternoon. The nerves weren’t helped when Muir rattled his hand off the crossbar during the warm-up and took longer than we would have liked to recover. Thankfully, he was restored to full health in time for the start.
The Queen’s keeper was called into action after five minutes when former Spider Joao Victoria found space in the centre of the box and his header had to be turned round the post for a corner. Higgins fired a shot over the top from a good position as the Spiders tried to find their rhythm, but Orr gave us a glimpse of what might be with a lovely turn that left Lightbody struggling in his wake. Unfortunately, Thomas lost control as he bore down on goal and the opportunity was lost.
Stalemate would be the kindest way to describe the next passage of play as both sides found it hard to carve out clear chances. Neither keeper had a serious save to make as a series of niggling fouls and the tricky conditions ensured a stop-start affair for all spectators.
Queen’s enjoyed a good spell towards the half-hour mark, when Cummins went close with a header from a corner, before Docherty saw a shot saved and Orr was denied a chance when the ball wouldn’t come down quickly enough for him in the box and McLaughlin got across to block his effort.
The home side were at their best when former Hampden favourite Alan Trouten found space for himself, and he brought a save from Muir with a shot from the edge of the box.
As the interval approached, Rovers had their best moment and it took two brave blocks from Green to deny the home side. Queen’s broke quickly, and it took a cynical foul from Lightbody to stop Donnelly. The defender could have no arguments as the first yellow card of the afternoon ended the opening period.
Albion Rovers 0 Queen’s Park 0
It would be fair to say that the opening half had been a bit tame, but the second period opened up in very different … and (for the visitors) much more enjoyable fashion.
Only three minutes had been played when Donnelly – not for the first time in the afternoon – displayed quick feet to win a corner on our right. Brady’s inswinger caused all sorts of problems in the home defence and after Cummins failed to connect fully with a header, Orr reacted quickest at the far post to hook the ball back. It seemed to take an eternity, but his effort found the far corner and Queen’s were 1-0 ahead.
Rovers were stung into action by the goal and did their best to respond quickly. Trouten forced a good save from Muir with a shot from the centre of the box, before Reid and then Marr had headed efforts saved.
Queen’s showed they were not done as an attacking threat just after the hour when Millen did his best to open up a two-goal advantage. He headed over a cross from Docherty and then got on the end of a lovely break to fire off a right-foot shot which flew across the goal and narrowly missed the back post.
Back came Rovers and substitute Shields, who had replaced Joao moments earlier, almost became their hero with a shot that was blocked by Cummins.
Queen’s made their first change after 71 minutes when Orr’s industrious afternoon ended as he was replaced by MacLennan.
Muir then went into the ref’s book for arguing his case a little too strongly after being warned for running down the clock.
Rovers continued to press, but Iredale became the latest visiting defender to put his head in bravely to make sure our lead was maintained.
Our second change came with just over 10 minutes left as Donnelly – who had produced a performance that gives promise of good things to come – was replaced by Galt.
Eight minutes from time came the moment that should have seen Queen’s in a more comfortable position. A wonderful crossfield ball from Millen was taken in impeccable fashion by Brady. Anton bore down on Bowman in the Rovers’ goal, but before he got anywhere near him, he was crudely taken out by Lighbody. The big defender had to walk – and he did – after receiving a straight red card to go with his earlier yellow.
Millen’s shot from the resulting free kick was blocked, but with a goal, and now a man advantage, the hope was Queen’s would see the game out. They finally did just that, but not without a couple of scares that we could all have done without.
The most anxious moment came deep into added time when Brady conceded a foul in a position that spelled danger with a capital D. McLaughlin’s low shot was, thankfully, deflected wide by Galt, and the ensuing corner was blasted clear.
The final whistle sounded soon after and the visiting fans celebrated what could turn out to be a very important victory.
There was plenty to be happy about apart altogether from the result. Our defence looked in the mood to stop anything that came their way, while at the other end Donnelly and Orr looked capable of providing a threat.
Your scribe has had a bit of a week taking Mrs Gulliver off to celebrate a big birthday. On Thursday, they marvelled at a rainbow over one of the seven wonders of the world in Niagara. Gulliver saw another rainbow on the way to Coatbridge just a couple of days later, but this time there was a wee pot of gold at the end as the Spiders garnered three points.
Keep the Faith.