Forfar Athletic 0 Queen’s Park 3
Christmas came early for Gus MacPherson’s gutsy Spiders as they thumped Forfar to move off the bottom of the league table.
Given the importance of the game, any victory would have been well received. But all our presents arrived at once as we scored three without reply … including a first senior goal for Robbie Leitch.
We’ve enjoyed, and endured, some very different emotions at Station Park over the years, but this was certainly one of those good days for all with Hampden in their hearts. The fun started before a ball was kicked as a variety of dodgy jumpers and Santa hats emerged from the supporters’ bus. It got even better once the action began with a goal from Adam Cummins inside the first two minutes. It ended well with Dominic Docherty on the scoresheet right at the death – and the bit in between wasn’t too bad either as Leitch got in on the scoring act.
It was no real surprise that the Gaffer stuck by the same XI who took a point from Airdrie last weekend, with Michael White in goals and a back four of Sean Burns, Adam Cummins, Jack Iredale and Ciaran Summers. Conor McVey, Anton Brady, Robbie Leitch and David Galt formed the engine room, with Luke Donnelly supporting Billy Mortimer.
And given the fact that it was late December in the north-east of Scotland, nobody should have been shocked to find there was a very strong wind blowing down the park.
What did catch quite a few people on the hop, however, was the way the Spiders raced out of the blocks – despite playing into the teeth of the gale. They took the game to their hosts from the off and that bold approach was soon rewarded with the game’s first corner.
For all those moaning Minnies who like to belittle the training ground efforts of the coaching staff, this routine was a joy to watch. Galt played it short to Mortimer; collected the return, and curled the ball right onto the napper of the inrushing Cummins who gleefully powered a close-range header past McCallum.
It was the perfect start, with just 117 seconds on the clock – even if the more pessimistic in the visiting ranks were already shouting for the final whistle.
Their concerns grew as the home side tried to hit back immediately, winning two corners inside the first 10 minutes. The second set piece brought White into action for the first time as he got down smartly to save at the feet of the lanky Ousman See. Millar was next to try his luck and he wasn’t far away with an effort from distance.
Even this early, it was clear the wind was going to be a big factor and some of McCallum’s kick-outs could almost be counted as shots on target. The good thing was that the wind made it pointless for Queen’s to do anything other than get the ball on the deck and play their football.
They did that to good effect after 13 minutes when Galt, Mortimer and Donnelly were all involved in a swift counter-attack that was only halted by a passback that was picked up by the keeper. It had to be one of those indirect free-kicks inside the penalty box, and that was the decision the officials finally reached. With 11 defenders between Galt and the goal line, it was no shock to see his effort charged down and the danger averted.
The Spiders spurned a chance to double their lead midway through the half when another well-worked corner saw Iredale nod Galt’s cross back towards Mortimer, but Billy’s header sailed over the top. We were almost punished right away as Easton saw another shot from distance whistle narrowly wide.
The game had been bubbling along nicely so far, but the temperature went up quite a few degrees around the half hour, with referee David Munro at the heart of much of the action. Now your scribe would never criticise any match official, but there were some in the visiting ranks who felt Duthie should have gone in the book as he lost control of the ball while powering forward and seemed to go in a touch high on Iredale.
That sense of injustice was heightened when Travis went down injured just outside his own box. As the defender lay prone on the deck, the home side were allowed to play on and carve out a menacing attack. The threat was finally thwarted and Queen’s broke forward – only for the whistler to halt play and wave on the physio whose magic sponge soon restored Travis to full health. (On the subject of physios, this seems an opportune moment to extend best wishes to our own Bob Findlay, who managed to carry out his duties yesterday despite having fallen recently and cracked a bone in his leg.)
McVey then went into the book for a challenge on Easton who escaped a yellow card when he was late with a tackle on the Queen’s midfielder. There was no doubt at this stage that the visiting support would have happily cast referee Munro in the role of pantomime villain – especially when Travis, Duthie and Easton all caused alarm bells to ring with efforts much too close to White’s goal for comfort.
Thankfully, the focus returned to the football just in time for Queen’s to establish a two-goal cushion three minutes from the break. Former Scotland defender Kevin McNaughton was short with a headed backpass and Leitch nipped in to intercept and kept his cool to stroke the ball past the helpless McCallum.
It was the last action of an eventful first period which ended with the scoreline:
Forfar Athletic 0 Queen’s Park 2
The unfortunate McNaughton was replaced for the start of the second half by Aitken, and the sub was first to threaten our goal but shot over from a decent position. See then headed wide after a free-kick was swung into our box.
It had been hoped by the travellers from Mount Florida that with a two-goal lead and the wind at our backs, we would capitalise on our excellent efforts in the first 45 minutes. It was becoming apparent, however, that the home side were enjoying playing into the wind, while we were having difficulty getting the pace right on our forward passes – which all too often sailed harmlessly back to the home keeper.
We did get one right after 50 minutes when Mortimer (who was turning in another Duracell shift as he chased every ball) got on the end of a nicely weghted dink down the left. Billy’s cross failed to trouble McCallum and Forfar regained the momentum – without ever troubling White too seriously.
Just as in the first period, the tackles and the tempers, got a bit tasty as tension mounted. With an hour gone, Travis and Cummins had a head-to-head in the Forfar box. Their full and frank exchange of views saw a number of players getting involved. When the dust settled, both No.5s went into the book, quickly followed by Mortimer for voicing his opinion a bit too forcefully.
Forfar brought on Starkey for Lochhead and then replaced See with Peters and as the game entered its final quarter, it was all a bit nervy for Gus’ men. It would be fair to say that White didn’t have to perform any heroics as the entire team defended and worked as a unit to keep the lead intact. However, the aerial menace of the home side, and the tricky conditions, meant that a single mistake would mean it very much becoming a case of “game on”.
Gus made his first change of the afternoon with five minutes left, replacing Donnelly with Dominic Docherty. Leitch then blotted his copy book by tugging back Bain and he had to join the others on the naughty step as he received a yellow card.
James MacLennan came on in the dying seconds of the 90, but there was still plenty of drama to come. Firstly, Iredale produced a stonking tackle at White’s post to prevent what looked like a certain goal. The resulting corner gave Cregg the chance to let fly, but he couldn’t find the target.
We were well into the third minute of added time when we got the game’s third flashpoint … and Queen’s third goal.
Burns and Easton exchanged angry words after the QP skipper was taken out by the Forfar player. The pair continued their disagreement after the foul was played forward. Half the crowd watched that wee altercation to find out what would happen next, while the rest looked on as MacLennan chased down what seemed to be a lost cause and pressured the home defence into another error. The youngster then rolled the ball into the path of his fellow sub, and Docherty happily smacked it into the net.
Easton and Burns went into the book as the rest of the Spiders celebrated the goal that made victory absolutely certain. And the result was confirmed seconds later when the final whistle sounded.
The sheer glee on the faces of the visitors showed just how important this 3-0 victory was. Nobody is kidding ourselves that everything in the garden is rosy, and we still face a massive task to get anywhere near the sanctuary of mid-table safety. However, there is a definite feeling in the camp that we have turned a wee corner, and our performances in recent weeks have given us all renewed hope.
If you’ll allow your scribe the liberty, Gulliver and the rest of the media team would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody involved in anyway with this glorious football club a very merry Christmas – and extend our thanks to all the players and the backroom staff for their efforts.
It’s always interesting following QP around the country, and the turkey will certainly taste much better on Monday with us now able to look down on at least one team in the league.
Keep the Faith.
Queen’s Park: Michael White; Sean Burns, Adam Cummins, Jack Iredale, Ciaran Summers; Conor McVey, Anton Brady, Robbie Leitch, David Galt, Luke Donnelly, Billy Mortimer. Subs: Chris Duff, Dominic Docherty, Lewis Magee, Kevin Green, James McLennan, Thomas Orr, Owen Stott (S/K).