Queen’s Park 2 Morton 0
Queen’s Park take on Morton today at Hampden Park for a place in the Irn-Bru Cup last 16 — and, bizarrely, our “reward” could be a possible trip to Northern Ireland or Wales. Or perhaps even England.
Homer kids you not. The 12 winners of this weekend’s Irn-Bru Cup third round ties will be joined in the last 16 by last season’s top two clubs from each of those UK neighbours.
For the Irish, that will be the Belfast duo of Crusaders and Linfield; for the Welsh, it will be Bala Town, from Gwynedd in the north, and The New Saints, who don’t actually play in Wales at all but in neighbouring Oswestry in England.
Either way, we will be doing well to get past our Championship visitors today.
A look at the Championship table will reveal that Morton have yet to win a game, but that’s the problem with bald stats, they often conceal an ambush.
In Morton’s case, the table doesn’t show they drew with St Mirren and Falkirk, or the fact they had been unbeaten in eight competitive games right up to last week.
That impressive run came to an emphatic end with a 4-0 league defeat at Hibs, but Ton are still in the quarter-finals of the BetFred Cup after a fine run that included wins at Premiership duo Kilmarnock and Hamilton.
Still, Queen’s have nothing to fear. Gus MacPherson has the team playing well and already this season we have shown we can compete with full-time players, and even defeat them, as we did splendidly against Livingston here last week.
Anything we get from Morton will be a bonus. The league is the priority.
And another bonus is the return to Hampden of Willie Muir. The keeper played a huge part in our promotion last season before his departure for East Fife, but he was unhappy at Methil and now he’s been welcomed back to the Spiders.
But there was no place for Willie in the squad, apparently because he was cup-tied with the Fifers. Young Andy Murphy continued in goal and Marc Waters was the sub keeper.
Josh Watt, who played well last week against Livi, was out with an injury and replaced by David Galt, and coach MacPherson made two other changes, Gregor Fotheringham coming in for Conor McVey and Anton Brady for Paul Woods.
Injury robbed young midfielder Liam Brown of a place in the Scotland Under-19 squad in midweek and he was still missing today.
Special mention of Scott Gibson, who was deservedly named in the SPFL team of the week after his defensive heroics against a Livi team that had been scoring goals for fun.
The first five minutes, in very calm and pleasant conditions — and with Queen’s in their splendid new home kit — passed without incident in little more than gentle sparring.
But there was nothing gentle about McGeever’s missed tackle on McAleer in eight minutes, an attempted clearance by the big man that completely missed the ball and took out the Ton attacker. A yellow card inevitably and correctly followed.
Galt was getting some joy down the right, winning a corner which came to nothing then in 11 minutes wriggling his way to the byeline between two defenders and getting in a good low cross that was booted clear.
Neither side had taken control of the game as we approached the 15-minute mark, but if anything Queen’s were shading it on possession, which may have been expected of the home team.
But Queen’s had a huge let-off in 19 minutes. Young Murphy took a poor touch as he prepared to clear and he was dispossessed on the left edge of his box by Oliver. From our seat in the stand, the Ton forward did look to have a clear shot at the empty goal, but he delayed and Gibson and Cummins got back to block him and the ball rebounded for the grateful Murphy to gather.
It had evolved into an entertaining game, a bit like last week, end to end with Morton knocking the ball about well and Queen’s matching them and pressing.
McAleer was proving the most productive Ton attacker, bursting down the right on the half-hour before firing over a wicked low cross that Murphy did well to smother low down at his near post.
We had yet to witness a shot on target from either team, or even a header, as Malone sent one into the side netting after Miller’s deep corner had found him at the far post (a bit like our goal against Livi, in fact).
Galt was having an eventful game so far. His fast break down the right caused us problems when he was dispossessed, with Millen bombing past him in support and leaving a hole at the back. When Morton broke, it required a professional foul from Miller to stop a potentially dangerous run into our box.
But it was Miller, and his very professionally delivered free-kick, who broke the deadlock in Queen’s favour right on half-time.
Galt was fouled under the main stand, Miller guided his outswinging free-kick away from keeper McNeil and into the heart of the packed area, and Cummins got there first to bullet a header into the net from six yards. Simples.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 1 Morton 0
There were no changes from either team at the interval and the sun came out to greet the restart, with Queen’s shooting into the home end.
Homer did say David Galt was having an eventful day. Well, the lad capped it with a sensational goal just a minute in.
He won the ball in the middle of the park, battled through two tackles, kept running, and then from 25 yards unleashed a ferocious left-foot shot that ripped into the net at keeper McNeil’s right-hand top corner.
A real corker.
Morton were clearly shocked but you had to say, any neutrals at the game would have considered Queen’s to be the Championship team round about now. We were all over them.
Ton had to do something and McAleer and Tiffoney came off to be replaced by Scullion and the talked-about Quitongo, whose first touch was a header just wide.
As we hit the hour mark, Morton were certainly showing more urgency but they still hadn’t threatened Murphy. Queen’s were controlling the game in midfield and the backline were again looking reassuringly solid.
McNeil had to knock a Miller cross over the bar with Galt lurking, and that was the scorer’s final contribution, going off to a deserved ovation in 72 minutes to be replaced by Woods, and at the same time Malone ended his weekly tough solo shift in making way for Carter.
Miller was booked – you’ve guessed it, for dissent – in 75 minutes after McGeever had been penalised for a foul 20 yards out which Scullion drove narrowly over the bar.
Morton’s final sub was McDonagh in place of Doyle on 77, but he almost arrived to a third goal for Queen’s.
Woods made the break, sent Fotheringham scurrying away down the right, and then he was in the centre to meet the cross only to touch it agonisingly wide of the keeper’s right-hand post.
Woods was providing an entertaining cameo and his cross from the right was headed over by Brady.
Queen’s were totally dominant going into the last five minutes and, as predicted, they were finishing the game looking stronger than their full-time visitors, who had clearly been ambushed.
That old anorak Gulliver and numerous other QP fans are in Malta watching Scotland. They don’t know what they’ve missed, and let’s hope Gordon Strachan’s men are half as good as Gus MacPherson’s.
Keep the faith. See you in Belfast, or maybe Oswestry.
Queen’s Park: Andy Murphy, Ross Millen, Scott Gibson, Gregor Fotheringham, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Anton Brady, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, David Galt, Sean Burns. Subs – John Carter, Paul Woods, Bryan Wharton, Conor McVey, Craig McLeish, Ewan MacPherson, Marc Waters.
Morton: Andrew McNeil, Lee Kilday, Thomas O’Ware, Michael Doyle, Gary Oliver, Ross Forbes, Kudus Oyenuga, Michael Tidser, Caolan McAleer, Scott Tiffoney, Lewis Strapp. Subs –Jamie Lindsay, Jon Scullion, Mark Russell, Jamie McDonagh, Thomas Orr, Jai Quitongo, Derek Gaston (gk).
Referee: Gavin Duncan.