Queen’s Park 0 Stenhousemuir 3

WHEN the lowest-scoring team in the league goes head-to-head with the team that has conceded the most goals, you have a contest that is as easy to predict as Clinton v Trump.

Queen’s and Stenny lead those particular unwanted stats by some margin in League One, which will go some way towards explaining why both teams are currently propping up the table.

Stenny are four points behind Queen’s in bottom spot, and even this early in the season today’s Hampden clash is being viewed by many as a six-pointer.

Last week’s sobering 4-2 defeat for Queen’s at Airdrie, when we lost three goals at set-pieces, was our fifth loss in our last six league games.

But while it’s true we are just four points off bottom spot, we are also just four points off a play-off place at the right end of the table, such is the competitive nature of League One this season.

Queen’s have already beaten Stenny twice this season. Sean Burns and Conor McVey scored in either half in a 2-0 Betfred Cup win in July, and a Darren Miller penalty and Josh Watt goal, both in a second half comeback, gave us a 2-1 League win in August. Both those games were at Ochilview, but whether that was significant remains to be seen.

Talk of a bug lurking around Lesser Hampden training this week caused a wee fitness scare but in the event Gus MacPherson was able to name the same starting X1 for the third week in succession, although we wondered how many of them were perhaps not 100%.

And there was the welcome sight of Jamie McKernon back in the squad and on the bench after a long spell on the sidelines with injury, and just in time to do battle against his old Hampden midfield partner Vinnie Berry. And there was another former Spider in the Stenny ranks in the shape of newly signed keeper David Crawford.

Pre-match there was a presentation by QP President Alan Hutchison to Tony Quinn, to mark the popular gnarled legend’s retirement from playing after almost 400 games to concentrate on his QP coaching.

The only incident of note from a quiet opening six minutes was a full-blooded Willie Muir clearance catching Stenny’s Alan Cook full in the face from point-blank range, but the youngster was soon up and running.

David Crawford got a comfortable first touch to ease him back and he would have been happy to see the offside flag against Liam Brown after the youngster got on the end of a Woods pass in the box.

The first chance for either team, which may be stretching its meaning somewhat, was a 20-yard free-kick by Darren Miller that flew high and wide in 16 minutes, but there was nothing doubtful about the chances created by Stenny just after.

First Cummins and then Millen had to block shots from Roy in 18 minutes, then as Queen’s failed to clear the danger Roy completely miscued when a cross found him 12 yards out.

The game had sprung to life as we hit the 20-minute mark, and a Stenny break down the left ended with McGeever booting clear Cook’s cross.

Stenny’s Millar was booked for a foul on opposite No8 Miller in 23 minutes, but the visitors when they got the chance were moving the ball forward far quicker – as they proved with the opening goal in 28 minutes.

Cook was again the instigator with his pace down the left, firing over a cross that dipped over Cummins and dropped at the feet of Roy, 10 yards out. The young No10 took a poor first touch and had to rush his shot, which Muir did well to palm away at full stretch to his right, but Gilhaney reacted quickest to the loose ball and raced in to blast it high into the net off the underside of the bar.

It was a real sickener for Queen’s but while Stenny may leak goals, they have still scored more than us. They were having too much joy down the left, where Millen was being isolated one-one-one with the speedy Cook.

Queen’s first chance from open play came in 40 minutes. Woods got on the end of a lump forward and darted into the box on the right, turning a defender with a neat stop but then sending his attempted left-foot curler way wide of the far post.

There was plenty of effort from Queen’s to get back on level terms before the break, and they almost did it right on half-time. Miller fired over a corner from the left, Crawford couldn’t grab it under pressure from Zanatta, and Cummins got in a header that was cleared off the line.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Stenhousemuir 1

Queen’s fans were still taking their seats for the restart when the Spiders conceded a penalty and went down to 10 men.

When Gilhaney neatly stepped inside McLeish in the box on the right and squared for Roy, with less than three minutes on the clock, confusion then reigned.

From our seat in the press box, it looked as if Roy had been pulled back by McGeever as referee Munro pointed to the spot.

But when the official then brandished the red card, and after heated discussion with the players, it was Fotheringham who ran off for the early bath.

Either way, McMenamin wasted little time in sending Muir the wrong way from the spot to put Stenny 2-0 up and leave Queen’s with a mountain to climb.

Malone was booked for dissent before the restart and then Gus MacPherson sent on McKernon in place of the striker.

Summers was booked for a foul on Woods, who was then replaced by Watt.

It needed a good stop by Muir’s legs to prevent Roy making it 3-0 in 64 minutes, and a minute later the keeper had to palm away a strong shot from Cook.

But there was no stopping on-loan Hearts kid Roy in 66 minutes. With Queen’s claiming offside, he picked up the ball on the right, raced clear into the box, and calmly slotted a low shot under Muir to put the game out of sight.

Queen’s made their final change in 70 minutes when Brady replaced Miller, and Stenny sent on Docherty for the speedy Cook. Five minutes on, and Stenny sent on McCroary for McMenamin.

David Crawford hasn’t played for a while, but when he was finally forced into his first save after 78 minutes he showed he was still in shape.

Zanatta for once broke clear of the Stenny markers into the box on the left, and when he opened his body his right-foot shot seemed to be destined for the far corner, but Crawford threw himself full length to his left to knock it away one-handed.

Four minutes from time, Stenny’s final change saw Smith replace Millar.

And that was it. A desperately frustrating day. Keep the faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Craig McLeish, Gregor Fotheringham, Ryan McGeever, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Darren Miller, Aiden Malone, Liam Brown, Dario Zanatta. Subs: Bryan Wharton, Scott Gibson, Conor McVey, Jamie McKernon, Anton Brady, Euan MacPherson.

Stenhousemuir: David Crawford, Ciaran Summers, Ross Meechan, David Marsh, Fraser Kerr, Vinnie Berry, Mark Gilhaney, Kieran Millar, Colin McMenamin, Alistair Roy, Alan Cook. Subs – Liam McCroary, Grant Hamilton, Stephen Stirling, Jack Smith, Alan Docherty, Colin McCabe (gk).

Referee – David Munro.