Queen’s Park 1 Cove Rangers 3

HOMER and Gulliver won’t be alone in experiencing mixed feelings today as Queen’s Park play their last game at Hampden Park in 2019.

The visit of League Two leaders Cove Rangers will herald a 2020 of evolutionary and revolutionary changes for the 152-year-oldest football club in Scotland.

Very soon, we will no longer be the oldest amateur football club in the world playing at the oldest international football stadium in the world. Professionalism and eviction to Lesser Hampden are upon us.

Cove timed it perfectly to rise up the pyramid and earn their first visit to the National Stadium. It’s unlikely to happen next season (unless they go potty in the cups, of course).

And while it’s a first visit to Hampden for the Highlanders, they will have inside info from the most experienced man here today.

Boss Paul Hartley won the Scottish Cup here with Celtic and Hearts, played for Scotland, and also managed Alloa against the Spiders.

Queen’s were given a lesson in finishing in a 3-0 defeat at windswept suburban Aberdeen in August, and today will certainly be another uphill task against odds-on Cove if we don’t improve on last week’s 1-1 draw here with Stirling that followed a 2-0 reverse at Albion Rovers.

Creag Little was back from suspension to take his usual place in defence alongside Nicky Jamieson, with young Cammy Foy returning to the bench, and Ryan Finnie kept his place at right back after his late equaliser last week.

It was considerably warmer than last week as Cove, all blue from head to toe, kicked off attacking the home end.

Early stalemate was followed in five minutes by Cove’s first corner, comfortably cleared, then Joffrey showed good skill to skip past Leighton down the left and swing over a cross that was equally comfortably cleared.

There was little of note in the first 10 minutes, which was no bad thing from a Spiders defensive perspective, but so far the action was centred on the middle third of the pitch, and it was a nice contest between two ball-playing midfields.

Not surprisingly, Cove held the greater attacking threat, but Queen’s were holding their own as we hit the 20-minute mark and neither keeper had been required to get his gloves dirty.

That changed in 25 minutes, when Cove scored twice within a minute to confirm that attacking threat.

 Megginson’s opener had more than a hint of luck, when Clark slipped while tackling the striker out on the byeline, but he still showed class to waltz into the box and shoot low under Muir.

And straight from the restart Queen’s were under pressure again.  Cove could have had a penalty when Megginson went down in the box but the ref played advantage, Fyvie had a shot blocked, and Masson ripped the rebound into the net.

Cove had started slowly, but that was devastating for Queen’s. Game over? You’d have to think so.

Queen’s came so close to getting a goal back in 35 minutes. Galt won a free kick to the right of the box, Summers angled it low across the box, and the ball beat everyone before slipping agonisingly wide of the far post.

Salim shot well wide after another promising move for Queen’s, but it was an uphill struggle. Cove looked under no pressure and were content to knock the ball around until openings presented themselves.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Cove Rangers 2

Calvin McGrory replaced Luke Main for the start of the second half, and what a positive start it was for Queen’s as the sub set up a goal within four minutes.

A corner on the left was cleared straight out to McGrory, he picked out Salim with a pinpoint pass into the box, and the striker got ahead of Strachan to guide a lovely header wide of keeper McKenzie and in at his right hand post. Much better, Queen’s.

Declan Glass, a young prospect on loan from Dundee United, finally got Muir’s gloves dirty when his fierce left foot shot from 20 yards was turned round the post by those mitts at full stretch.

Joffrey was booked for a pro foul on the breaking Glass just after the hour, and a minute later Scott sent a good chance over the bar from close in. Things were suddenly interesting again!

Ross needed lengthy treatment after coming off second best in a blatant barge into Salim’s back, and from Joffrey’s free kick into the box, Salim won it again to head wide.

Muir was called into full-length action again in 72, turning away a right foot effort from shoot-on-sight Megginson.

Ross finally admitted defeat in 73, limping off to be replaced by Robertson, who missed a good chance five minutes later when he failed with a cheeky chip attempt on Muir.

In 80 minutes we had the second Queen’s change, Moore on for Block, then Cove sent on Brown for Scott.

We definitely had a game on our hands now. Queen’s fired a succession of balls into the Cove area – Salim heading wide and then finding McKenzie with an overhead kick – and for the first time in the game the visitors were clearly rattled.

Fyvie was only booked for a cynical hack on the breaking McGrory two minutes from time when it could easily have been straight red and McKenzie was booked for time wasting.

But it was perhaps inevitable that it should be Cove, despite all their antics, who should score again, and no surprise it was Megginson, ending a spot of time wasting down at the corner flag with a low shot after a rebound in the box.

Credit to Queen’s for making a game of it, but an unsavoury finish from the visitors.

Meantime, Merry Christmas from Homer and Gulliver and let’s see out the old year at Annan next week. Keep the festive faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ryan Finnie, Ciaran Summers, Tommy Block, Nicky Jamieson, Creag Little, Cameron Clark, Luke Main, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt, Joffrey Lidouren. Subs: Jacques Herraghty, Cameron Foy, Kieran Moore, Billy Mortimer, Calvin McGrory, Scott Gibson, Jack Purdue.

Cove Rangers: Stuart McKenzie, Blair Yule, Scott Ross, Connor Scully, Ryan Strachan, Tom Leighton, Fraser Fyvie, Jamie Masson, Mitch Megginson, Declan Glass, Martin Scott. Subs: Jamie Redman, Jordon Brown, John Robertson, John McCafferty.

Referee: Craig Napier.

Mark speaks to QPTV after the game