Queen’s Park 0 Annan Athletic 3
YOU get the distinct feeling that the season is coming to a close just a tad too early for Queen’s Park.
After Annan’s visit today we’ll have only two matches left, and a couple of crackers they are too — a derby at Clyde next week and then a home finale against Peterhead.
That it seems premature has everything to do with our current run. Our interest in the play-offs has been merely academic for a wee while, but we have still shown the desire to go six games unbeaten, winning four and drawing two. And I’m reliably informed by club anoraks that a dizzying four successive clean sheets has helped us to 440 minutes since we last conceded a goal.
Just think, had we managed to convert even a few of our comfortably league-leading 10 draws into victories, then today could have been a bit more stressful for Annan. As it is, the Galabankies can relax having already deservedly qualified for the play-offs — with the help of two highly frustrating wins against Queen’s at Galabank and a draw at Hampden.
So we Spiders can merely enjoy the moment — such as four wins out of four against Berwick; David Galt being named star man in the SPFL Team of the Week for his heroics in the 3-0 win at Shielfield; and the QP conveyor belt sending through Luke Main to join fellow-starlets Michael Ruth and Stephen Bradley for his senior debut last week.
We haven’t beaten Annan for ages — six defeats and a draw at the last count, those anoraks tell me — so no time like the present, especially since they’ll all be hungover after celebrating last week’s 94th-minute play-off clinching equaliser against Stirling Albion.
Queen’s had Lewis Magee fit and starting and Calvin McGrory back on the bench.
Mark Roberts made just one change to the starting XI, bringing in the fit again Lewis Magee for Main, who dropped to the bench, with James Grant and Josh Black dropping out.
Summer football, don’t you just love it! The weather was sublime, as was the pitch as Queen’s got us underway attacking the away end.
After a to-and-fro start, Queen’s created the first opening in five minutes, and what a chance it was, as Summers fired over a great cross from the left and young Ruth sent a header narrowly wide.
It was a start by Queen’s to match the bright weather. Summers had a left foot rocket pushed away by Mitchell and Moore’s trademark sprint down the left created a chance for McLean that was blocked.
Annan’s first shot on target arrived in 18 minutes, and it had Jordan Hart scrambling to turn a deft chip from top scorer Wallace round a post.
McLaren’s pass down the line was headed on by Moore for Ruth, who got into the box but was blocked in the act of shooting.
Bradley was booked for a body check on McLean in 23, but Queen’s made a meal of the free kick.
It was fairly even as we approached the half-hour, and hardly riveting, but Queen’s almost broke the deadlock in 29.
McLaren’s driven pass down the right looked too strong for Mortimer, but Billy caught it right on the byeline and whipped over a delicious cross that dropped perfectly to meet the onrushing Moore in stride, but from eight yards he completely miskicked.
Queen’s so far were carrying the greater threat. Summers sent Galt away on a run and he set up Ruth for a shot that Mitchell brilliantly turned wide at full stretch.
Summers was booked for a perceived foul right on half time, and that was that.
Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Annan 0
We had gone less than two minutes when McLauchlan was booked for another perceived foul, when he looked to have cleanly taken the ball.
Ruth showed superb control to go round Hooper on the byeline and draw the foul, but the free kick was a non-event.
Mortimer’s too-strong headed passback almost eluded Hart five minutes in, but the keeper recovered to smother the ball under pressure.
Summers had to go off with a knock in 52, to be replaced by midfielder McGrory, with McLean moving to left back.
But it was Annan who took the lead in 59 minutes, and it was a goal in keeping with what had become a very untidy game.
Queen’s failed to clear a cross from the left, Wilson was given time and space to turn and shoot, and Hart spilled what should have been a simple save at the feet of Smith, who had the easiest of scoring shots from six yards. Here endeth the clean sheets.
McLean was booked in 66 minutes, but any passion on show was now being provided by Annan as they went 2-0 up with a fine goal in 70 minutes that belied their usual agricultural approach . Smith took the ball from a throw under the main stand, attacked unhindered along the 18yard line, and unleashed a left foot shot that beat the diving Hart at his left hand post. Game over.
Creaney became the next name in the ref’s book for a foul in 74, and a minute later it was 3-0 as Johnston tiptoed unchecked down the right and his cross to the far post was met by Muir with a strong header that ripped past Hart.
The scoreline hardly reflected what had gone before, but Queen’s had imploded somewhat in the late stages to look like a team with nothing at stake.
East came on for Mortimer and Hawke for Magee to stretch their legs in the final few minutes. Gibson was booked a minute from time. Neutrals may view the crime count and imagine it was a battle. I wish.
So, one down and two to go. We could yet have a say in the title race, but not playing like this. Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, William Mortimer, Ciaran Summers, Dominic McLaren, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Scott McLean, Lewis Magee, Michael Ruth, David Galt, Kieran Moore. Subs: Lewis Hawke, Alan Gow, Euan East, Steven Bradley, Calvin McGrory, Luke Main, Kieran McDougall.
Annan Athletic: Alex Mitchell, Scott Hooper, James Creaney, David Wilson, Ayrton Sonkur, Kyle Bradley, Tony Wallace, Aidan Smith, Chris Johnston, Owen Moxon, Tommy Muir. Subs: Lewis Strapp, Peter Murphy (manager), Christian Nade, Aidan McAdams, Steven Swinglehurst, Pete Watson, Ryan Sinnamon.
Referee: Chris Graham.