Queen’s Park 2 Stranraer 2

A HAPPY NEW YEAR in our first match of what promises to be a momentous 2018 at Hampden Park, and belated compliments of the season to you and yours, dear reader.

Queen’s ushered out 2017 in decent shape. We are on a four-game unbeaten run, with the only defeat in our last six coming with a belated goal conceded at league leaders Ayr United.

Homer said decent, but it could have been so much better, as losing late goals has been the one recurring nightmare in that run.

After our two-goal collapse against Albion Rovers on our last Hampden game of 2017, another late equaliser last week denied us all three points at Alloa, albeit a draw at Recreation Park can never be dismissed.

We have lost Jack Iredale back to Morton after his loan deal expired, but Kevin Green successfully slotted back in alongside Adam Cummins at Alloa last week. Gus MacPherson wasn’t able to name the same starting X1 for the visit of Stranraer, with David Galt away on business and Anton Brady taking his place.

Now, if you’re talking about troubles, then look no further than the Stair Park Blues, who don’t have their troubles to seek. They are experiencing severe financial hardship, with talk of voluntary wage cuts being shelved in favour of contracted players being allowed to leave the club.

Long-serving captain Stevie Bell became the FIFTH player to go when he joined League One rivals Ayr yesterday, and amid such turmoil it’s hardly surprising that Stranraer have suffered three defeats in a row and have enjoyed just one win in their last six games.

Together with injuries to the experienced Scott Agnew and David Barron, they have had to promote youngsters, although they had ex-Spider Paul Woods on the bench.

Queen’s can readily sympathise with Stranraer’s predicament. We have endured more than our share of uncertainty over the years — and uncertainty will certainly intensify in 2018 with the debate over Hampden’s future.

Still, the season of goodwill is over, and would you believe it was sunny overhead if bitterly cold as Stranraer got us underway, defending the away end.

We had to wait five minutes for some action, and it was a first chance for the visitors. A poor clearance by Green dropped at the feet of Beith, but the young Hearts loanee could not get enough power in his shot and White saved comfortably low down.

Stranraer may be experiencing trouble off the park, but they were looking hot stuff ON it here. Anderson got in a good cross, Beith struck a low shot off the left-hand post with White beaten, and Burns had to boot clear off the line the return shot from Elliott.

We had 10 minutes on the clock and Queen’s had so far not appeared as an attacking force. It was the Blues calling the shots, and especially down our right.

But Queen’s came close to defying the run of play in 16 minutes. Brady played a quick free-kick into the box and Leitch was inches from connecting before Belford collected near the edge of his box.

It was certainly a slow start by Queen’s, far removed from their recent form, and 20 minutes came and went with no pressure on the visiting goal.

Two minutes later, though, Queen’s were desperately unlucky not to go ahead with their first effort on goal, Summers firing over a cross that McVey rattled against the bar with a header.

Anderson returned the compliment a minute later at the other end with a header that White saw late before holding low down on the line.

Queen’s were making hard work of this, with their most ineffective half for some time. The passing was off, the decision-making was suspect, and we couldn’t get a foot on the ball.

Maybe it was the reaction to three games in a week; maybe we were missing the creative spark that Galt has provided in recent weeks – but whatever the reason, Stranraer were much more lively, with Ryan Thomson pulling the strings in midfield – although we were helping to make them look good.

It could all have changed right on half-time as Queen’s passed up a golden chance to get us off our seats.

Leitch threaded a ball through the Blues box on the left for Donnelly, and the big man did his twinkle-toes routine to step past two defenders only to see his shot from six yards blocked.

An instantly forgettable 45 minutes.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Stranraer 0

Queen’s started the second half better (agreed, that wouldn’t have been difficult) and even forced a corner on the left in three minutes but it was cleared. Still, small beginnings.

Cummins had to be alert to clear a dangerous cross by Elliott at the near post, Green got out of jail when dispossessed by Turner, who then slipped, and then Anderson brought out a saver from White. Yes, Stranraer were still looking more menacing than the stuttering Spiders as the hour approached.

And the Blues almost proved it two minutes later. Green was booked for a foul on the edge of the box and Hamill’s free-kick whistled just wide of White’s left-hand post.

Green was then replaced by Magee, Hamill was booked for leaving and then re-entering the pitch without permission, and Cummins was booked for a trip on Okoh, who was then replaced by ex-Spider Woods. It was all happening, not.

You have to say, this was desperate stuff from Queen’s, and it took a near post save with his feet by White to deny young Elliott.

But in 76 minutes both teams got what they deserved – as Stranraer took the lead. It was fairly straightforward, Queen’s losing possession, Turner’s cross from the left clearing the Queen’s defence, and young Beith all alone at the far post to head past White.

It probably needed that shock to force Queen’s awake, because they were level inside three minutes. Again it was fairly routine, Brady’s left-sided free-kick being knocked out and Donnelly driving the ball behind Belford.

Queen’s then made two changes, Docherty for Summers and Orr for Mortimer, and Stranraer took off the impressive young Elliott and sent on Lyon, who was promptly booked for a foul on Brady.

It was no surprise when the late goal horror show continued – but this time it had a twist.

The Blues went in front a minute from time when Queen’s were ripped open down the left and Turner was given the opening to fire past White from six yards.

But we weren’t finished, and right on time Turner turned sinner with a blatant push on Docherty in the box and Cummins hammered the penalty behind Belford.

A final twist was Neill hammering a shot over the bar in time added on, but Queen’s got their unlikely point.

Meantime all the best to Stranraer, and for us, it’s onwards to Tutties!

Keep the Faith.

Queen’s Park: Michael White; Conor McVey, Ciaran Summers, Kevin Green, Adam Cummins, Gregor Fotheringham, Robbie Leitch, Anton Brady, Billy Mortimer, Luke Donnelly, Sean Burns. Subs: Dominic Docherty, Lewis Magee, Thomas Orr, James McLennan, Calvin McGrory, Aaron Mooney, Willie Muir (S/K)

Stranraer: Cameron Belford, Jamie Hamill, Scott Robertson, Morgyn Neill, Chris McGowan, Grant Anderson, Kyle Turner, Ryan Thomson, Angus Beith, Stephen Okoh, Cameron Elliott. Subs: Ryan McLaren, Paul Woods, Kieran McLaughlin, David Gray, Gavin Scott, Ross Lyon, Jai Holland.

Referee –Gavin Duncan.