Football really is a ridiculous game at times. Just seven days ago, Queen’s opened our league season against a much-fancied Airdrie side, and for the first 29 minutes, battered our opponents without quite landing a decisive blow.
We then conceded a daft penalty, lost our way a wee bit, and ended up on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline.
Today we travelled to Ochilview to face a struggling Stenhousemuir team who had lost all five outings this season – including a 2-0 defeat to Queen’s in the Betfred League Cup.
So how does this one go? Queen’s start badly, go behind – and look like coming home with nothing – until we equalise from a silly penalty and then score a winner in the 59th second of the 89th minute of the game. No wonder the bookies are the only folk who get rich from predicting football results.
Even before the action began this afternoon, it was clear the game had a bit more significance than perhaps it should have had. There are another 34 matches to go after this one, but neither side wanted to be pointless after their two opening fixtures, with the risk of being cast adrift early on in the season and then being forced to play catch-up.
Queen’s could take some confidence from the performance – if not the result – last weekend, but they were dealt a blow when injury ruled striker Aiden Malone out of this afternoon’s contest. Malone has looked the part thus far this season, despite often having to plough a lone furrow up front.
In his absence, Gus MacPherson gave David Galt the No.9 shirt, and shuffled his pack a bit, starting Sean Burns and Liam Brown, in place of Malone and Conor McVey.
There might only have been two personnel changes from the starting XI against Airdrie, but the Spiders were unrecognisable from the outfit who began so brightly last weekend.
The ball wouldn’t stick when it was played upfront to Galt, and our defensive line of Andy Murphy, Ross Millen, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Scott Gibson and Burns took time to settle.
To make matters even more tricky, former Spider Vinnie Berry and his partner, Stephen Stirling gained the upper hand in the middle of the park, leaving our quartet of Liam Brown, Paul Woods, Darren Miller and Anton Brady, struggling to offer Galt the support he needed.
The home side started the better, earning a couple of corners which were well defended.
Queen’s took some time to respond, and it was the 11th minute before the first entry in Gulliver’s notebook of attacking intent from the visitors, but Miller’s through ball to the onrushing Woods was overhit.
Burns just failed to pick out Galt after 15 minutes with a through ball, while a Stirling shot that went narrowly wide was the nearest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the first quarter of the match.
The game meandered on until the 33rd minute when the home side took the lead. Stirling’s shot from distance didn’t even go down as a half-chance, but the wee midfielder caught it perfectly and left Murphy in the Queen’s goal without a snowball in yon place’s chance of keeping it out.
Encouraged by the goal, Cook tried the same recipe, but his shot from outside the box flew wide.
That effort, after 35 minutes, was the last serious attempt on goal from either side in what had to go down as a hugely disappointing first half.
Stenhousemuir 1 Queen’s Park 0.
Neither side changed personnel at the break, and the second period followed a similar pattern to the first in its opening stages. Queen’s failed to gain any serious control of proceedings, while the home side never looked seriously menacing when they had possession.
Something had to change if we were to get anything from the afternoon, and after 56 minutes, Gus made his move, bringing on the young Ewan MacPherson up front and taking off Brown.
The switch showed signs of instant rewards, with Galt now in a more familiar supporting role. Just before the hour, Miller forced McCabe into his first serious action of the afternoon, with a shot from distance.
The home side tried to stem the momentum that Queen’s were showing signs of building by replacing striker McMenamin with McCroary.
But as the halfway point in the second period arrived, the visitors were starting to pose a goal threat. A Miller corner was headed onto the bar by McGeever before Cummins set up his defensive partner Gibson with a superb cross back in. Sadly, Scott couldn’t beat McCabe with his header and it began to look like one of those afternoons.
With 18 minutes to go, however, everything changed. Another Miller free kick into the box led to McGeever being decked and an easy decision for referee McKendrick as he pointed to the spot.
Miller took the kick himself and beat McCabe with ease to tie things up at 1-1.
No sooner had the ball hit the net than Gus replaced skipper Burns with winger Josh Watt … a move that was to pay handsome dividends.
There was no immediate impact, and for a while, it looked as if both sides would have to settle for a share of the spoils.
If any team was going to win, however, it looked like the Spiders. Watt had a great shot saved after 81 minutes, and Miller just couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough to steer the rebound on target.
With the final whistle approaching, both managers made changes; the home side replacing scorer Stirling with Jack Smith, while Gus replaced Woods with the blistering pace of John Carter.
Still the clock looked like the only winner, until we arrived in the final minute. Galt found room on the right and fired a cross over towards the back post. Watt came rushing in and volleyed goalwards. It looked as if the young sub had overdone his effort to keep the ball down, but it hit the deck looped into the air … over keeper McCabe – and into the far corner of the net.
His earlier strike had been far truer, but who cares – this one put Queen’s 2-1 ahead. Far more important, the clock was one second short of 90 minutes when the ball hit the net.
Despite referee McKendrick playing five minutes of added time, the only incident of note that followed was a booking for McCormack who took out his frustrations on Carter as Queen’s ran down the clock.
It’s way too early to read too much into results, but Gulliver for one is mighty relieved that we put points on the board this afternoon … particularly given the testing fixtures that lie ahead. And it was clear from the reaction as the final whistle sounded that the players also enjoyed the outcome.
It’s bizarre, but we probably produced better football in stages last week and ended up with nothing. What this result does suggest is that Queen’s don’t like losing … and won’t admit defeat until the proverbial plump damsel sings.
Two weeks into the league season and the rollercoaster is already off and running. Hold onto your hats (and the blood pressure pills for those of a certain age) it’s going to be an interesting season.
Keep the Faith.