Peterhead 1 Queen’s Park 1
There’s something insane about football that can turn grown men and women into emotional wrecks.
When it goes right, they’re like weans given the keys to a sweetie shop; but when it goes wrong, oh dear, they’re like lottery players who find that their regular numbers have come up – on the one day they didn’t buy a ticket.
And there was definitely something in the air this morning that confirmed the insanity was back. We’d a 364-mile round trip ahead of us, with the possibility of defeat always lurking, but the thought of staying home never entered our heads. And we soon realised we weren’t alone.
As the Sean chariot headed north, we witnessed a Stranraer FC bus heading in the other direction, and then before 10am, saw the Elgin team bus heading for Annan. At that time, they still had more than 130 miles to cover, having already been on the road for the thick end of three hours. So our opening day outing was far from the worst.
We also had some cause to be hopeful as we faced the joys of the yellow perils on the road to Dundee. After all, we’d run premiership outfits close in our last two league cup outings. And although it’s early doors, Gus looks to have the basis of a well organised team.
To make sure we didn’t get carried away, however, you only had to look at the opposition.
Peterhead will be many bookies’ favourites to lift the League 2 title, and it’s normally as easy for QP to get points at Balmoor as it is for the taxman to get cash out of Amazon. The Blue Toon have a potent strike force, with Rory McAllister in particular taking great delight in plonking the ball in our net.
But there was something different as we arrived at Balmoor. For starters, there was precious little wind … and then there was the personal welcome from the stadium announcer to “Alison, Higgy and the rest of our friends from Queen’s Park”. What a nice touch.
Gus had hinted in his match preview interview that we had a couple of injury niggles. The absence of Ciaran Summers from the teamsheet revealed at least one of those players.
With Summers failing to shake of a slight strain from last week, young James Grant kept his spot at right back while the returning Gavin Lachlan moved over to the left. The only other change was Adam Martin replacing Billy Mortimer out wide.
So the team lined up: Jordan Hart, Grant, Lachlan, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Kurtis Roberts, Dean Kindlan, Smart Osadolor, Josh Peters and Martin. The bench comprised Mortimer, Brendan Sharpe, Daniel Nimmo, Alistair Miller, Cameron Foy, and Jack Dunlop.
Queen’s started well, looking to take a touch and keep the ball on the deck, but there was precious little goalmouth action in the opening minutes.
In fact, the game’s first serious attack, produced the first goal … and it was the Spiders who grabbed it.
Martin won a corner on our left and when the ball was swung in, it was deflected towards the far post where that prolific poacher Gibson was lurking to lob the ball back across Fleming and into the net.
It was a dream start and the only slight worry was that there were only six minutes played.
The home side tried to hit back right away and Hart had to be alert to clutch a header from Lyle.
Then it was the Spiders’ turn as the clock reached 11 minutes. Another corner on the left gave Osadolor the chance to glance in a header which flew inches the wrong side of the post from the visitors’ point of view.
Again the home side tried to respond, and McAllister knocked the ball back to Brown, who should have done better than fire his shot way over the top.
That was the pattern for much of the rest of the afternoon. Peterhead tried to make the most of their physical presence, while the Spiders worked their socks off to keep them out, while trying to do some damage of their own on the break.
Although we were under pressure, Hart didn’t have too much to worry him … until the 25th minute.
The impressive Stevenson broke forward and let fly from distance. Jordan got to the shot, but couldn’t hold on and as the ball rebounded, McAllister was waiting to poke the ball home.
He looked to be offside, but the flag never went up and the effort counted.
It was a blow for Queen’s, and a huge lift for the home side. They piled on the pressure, but well marshalled by Captain Gibson, the Spiders kept them at bay.
We had our moments at the other end, notably after 37 minutes when some lovely interplay between Martin and Kindlan saw a dinked through ball only inches away from the onrushing McKernon.
Normal service was resumed until the break, with a series of corners and free-kicks giving the home side the opportunity to launch the ball into the danger area, but Hart never had anything more than routine saves to make and we reached the interval all square.
Queen’s Park 1
Gus made one change at the break, bringing on Mortimer for Peters.
As they had done in the first period, Queen’s started brightly. Osadolor was putting in a power of work, and almost got his reward right after the restart. He got the drop on Eadie, but just lost control as he tried to manoeuvre into a shooting position.
The Blue Toon then got back into their stride, but couldn’t find a way past a determined Spiders back line. McLauchlan and co put their heads in where it hurt, and any time the home side did get in a cross, Hart was up to the task.
McKernon had put in a power of work in the middle, but overdid things just after the hour with a foul on Stevenson that earned him a yellow card.
He was followed into the book by Grant, but the youngster could count himself unlucky as referee Graham became more involved.
Into the last 20 minutes, and Osadolor gave Mortimer the chance to fire off an angled shot, but Fleming gathered the effort with ease.
Both sides made changes as the clock ran down; Queen’s bringing on Sharpe and Miller for Martin and Osadolor, while Peterhead swapped McLean and Home for Norris and Kavanagh.
It was clear by now that any goal would likely be the winner and the visitors came so close to snatching it with eight minutes left. Roberts did well to cut out a clearance from Fleming and then tried an audacious chip from distance.
His effort beat the keeper, but also drifted wide of the post and a real chance had gone abegging.
However, the near thing buoyed the visitors and Stevenson had to haul Mortimer back as we tried to mount a late break. The defender couldn’t argue about the yellow card.
Inside the final minutes, and Sharpe was taken out on the right edge of the box. McKernon whipped in a great ball and Roberts seemed to be bundled over, but Graham saw nothing amiss and waved the penalty claims away.
Peterhead did their best to snatch a late, late winner themselves, but despite what seemed like an eternity of added time, they couldn’t deny the Spiders a well-deserved point.
So the first game of the League season has come and gone and Queen’s have put their first point on the board. That alone made the journey home a lot more pleasant for the travelling fans. Your scribe, for one, enjoyed seeing some glorious scenery unfold in the late sunshine without the red mist clogging his vision.
Judging from the manager’s post-match interview, the team bus would also have been a happy place. The Gaffer was full of praise for the effort of the players – and their composure under pressure. That feeling was shared by the ranks of the travelling support.
It’s good to see the side taking shape, and if we can develop a wee cutting edge, then this could just be a season to enjoy.
It will be a very different challenge next week when Berwick come to Hampden, but for now let’s just enjoy that rare sensation of coming home from Peterhead with a point in the bag.
Keep the Faith.