Queen’s Park 1 Clyde 0

QUEEN’S host Clyde today under very different circumstances from the last meeting of these two ancient derby rivals.

Who among the Spiders faithful will ever forget those heady days of May 2016? Yes, it was epic, Ukraine winning the 61st Eurovision Song Contest.

The QP stage back then was darkest Cumbernauld, when we called the tune and condemned the Bully Wee to another season in League Two with victory in the promotion play-off.

Now – after QP’s brief League One adventure – the teams are back together, or at least playing in the same division.

Clyde are three points off the top of League Two, clear in third place, and already 10 points better off than the stuttering Spiders after just eight games.

And the nearby ghosts of Shawfield (ask your father) will be roused as Danny Lennon’s men go for five wins on the bounce, while soon-to-be evicted Queen’s try to avoid four defeats on the trot.

Clyde have been beaten just twice – on successive August Saturdays to promotion rivals Peterhead and Edinburgh City – and Queen’s can boast only two league wins. Add in the bookies having Clyde odds-on, and a home win looks a shoe-in!

After last week’s late penalty agony in Elgin, caretaker boss Mark Roberts had some good news before kick-off with the influential Gerry McLauchlan recovering from his injury at Borough Briggs to take his place in the unchanged starting XI.

Given the run they’ve been on of late, the Spiders could have been excused for adopting a cautious approach to secure a foothold in the game … not a bit of it. Right from the off, Queen’s took the game to Clyde and some of their interplay was as bright as the glorious autumn sunshine that bathed the immaculate Hampden surface.

Josh Peters was first to have a go, but failed to test Currie with a volley from distance. After Jamie McKernon fired well off target, Billy Mortimer had the home supporters on their feet with a delicious cross into the middle, but neither Peters nor Lewis Hawke could get on the end of it.

The first 10 minutes had certainly gone the way of the Spiders, but Clyde showed they weren’t here to make up the numbers with a dangerous break that was only halted by the offside flag.

Back came Queen’s, with Peters and Scott McLean both going close before the dangerous David Goodwillie saw a goalbound effort charged down by McLauchlan with Jordan Hart beaten.

It was entertaining stuff as the first quarter of the match flew by … and it got even better for the home ranks after 25 minutes. Another dangerous ball into the middle looked to have the name of Hawke written on the end of it, but Nicoll pushed the striker out the way. Everyone in the ground saw the foul – and Ref David Lowe signalled for the inevitable penalty and booked the defender. Peters was the man who stepped up to take the spot kick and managed (just) to beat the diving Currie and put the Spiders 1-0 ahead.

The goal stung the visitors and they responded in determined fashion. Belmokhtar went close with a half-volley from 25 yards before the same player forced Hart into his first real save of the afternoon.

Queen’s were still a threat on the break and McLean saw a close-range effort blocked before Peters beat Currie with a lob that finished just off target.

Rankin produced the best effort of the half for the visitors with a shot that was far too close for the blood pressure of all hoping for a home victory.

Half Time: Queen’s Park 1 Clyde 0

Clyde made one change at the break, replacing Nicoll with Stewart. And there was no denying who made the better start as the visitors surged forward in search of an equaliser.

Grant went close after 51 minutes and then came a key moment. The Spiders defence had coped well with the threat of Goodwillie, but after 54 minutes, the striker bore down on goal with only Hart in his way. Thankfully for the home support, Jordan was up to the task – standing tall to deny the former Scotland front man.

Queen’s made their first change of the afternoon just before the hour with Euan East replacing McLean, and the youngsters was straight into the action with a weaving run that ended with a teasing cross into the box. There were no takers in a Spiders jersey, but the near miss roused the home section of the 1000+ crowd.

Goodwillie went close for Clyde, while Peters saw a header flash just wide as the action continued to flow from end to end.

Both sides made further changes in search of the moment that could turn the game in their favour; Queen’s replacing Mortimer and Peters with debutant Kieran Moore and Smart Osadolor. The visitors hooked Belmokhtar and Lamont to bring on Boyle and Lyon.

It was the visitors who went into the last 15 minutes on the front foot and McStay spurned a huge chance when he headed wide when totally unmarked on the edge of our six-yard box.

Rankin went close with a thunderbolt of a free kick and then a testing afternoon became even more of a challenge for the Spiders. With eight minutes left, Gibson ran back to deal with a dangerous high ball, but as the skipper crumpled to the ground after clearing the danger, it was clear he was in trouble. After receiving attention for several minutes, he left the field on a stretcher.

That left the home side with 10 men and around 10 minutes to survive. Hawke went back into defence to partner McLauchlan as they prepared for a final siege. The pressure did mount, but Moore – who had looked lively since coming on – earned us some relief with a good run that only ended with a shot deflected wide for a corner.

Every Spider was working his socks off to keep the lead intact, none more so than McLauchlan who produced a brilliant goal-line clearance right on the 90 minutes to ensure we stayed in front.

Gibson’s injury meant a big chunk of added time, which did nothing for the frayed nerves in the home camp – but the only addition to the notes in those five minutes was a booking for Rankin following the afternoon’s only really nasty looking tackle.

The final whistle was greeted gleefully by all in the home camp and this result and performance will give the players a huge lift ahead of successive cup ties. The one downer was the injury to Gibson. Captain Courageous has forged a good partnership with McLauchlan and was enjoying some of the best football of his Hampden career. We can but hope that what looked like a torn hamstring is not quite as bad as these can sometimes be.

So it’s Derby Day victory for the Spiders, but given the way the odds were stacked against them from the start could you ever expect anything less than our 50th league victory over our old rivals?

Keep the Faith.

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, James Grant, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Scott McLean, Kurtis Roberts, Lewis Hawke, Josh Peters and Billy Mortimer. Subs: Smart Osadolor, Dominic McLaren, Kieran Moore,  Alistair Miller, Gregor Fotheringham, Euan East, Elliot Anderson (SK).

Clyde: Blair Currie, Barry Cuddihy, Scott Rumsby, Martin McNiff, John Rankin, Chris McStay, Kevin Nicoll, Ray Grant, David Goodwillie, Mark Lamont, Karim Belmokhtar.     Subs: Jordan Stewart, Ross Lyon, Tom Lang,  Ally Love, Joe Gorman, Jack Boyle, Michael McGee (SK).
Referee: David Lowe.