Queen’s Park 2 East Fife 2

ALL of us with Queen’s Park in our bones will be hoping that Gus MacPherson is rewarded for his efforts in the January transfer window.

On Tuesday night when the window closed — or “slammed shut”, as the red-tops like to tell it — the Hampden head coach had signed four 19-year-old players on loan.

Left back Aidan McIlduff (Celtic), midfielder Dominic Docherty (Partick Thistle), and strikers Dario Zanatta (Hearts) and Kalvin Orsi (St Mirren) were all included in the squad for the visit of East Fife.

Zanatta, of course, is making a welcome return. His earlier loan ended in December just when he was getting into his stride for the Spiders.

Docherty, too, will be familiar to some Queen’s fans. He was actually signed before last week’s game at Peterhead, but the boy was spared a debut drubbing and kept on the bench. He also played for Thistle’s U-20s against Queen’s at Firhill in the Irn Bru Cup back in August, and by all accounts had a few tasty challenges as we gubbed the kids on penalties!

Young Orsi has made the breakthrough into the Paisley first-team, while Aidan is an attacking full-back in the mould of Anthony Ralston, and you’ll remember the impact he had here on loan from Parkhead.

So, welcome lads, and we wish you nothing but the best here at Hampden and in your careers.

The fall-out from the Peterhead defeat sees Ryan McGeever suspended today after his Balmoor red card, and he joined fellow central defender Scott Gibson on the sidelines.

So it was a five-change team and a new-look defence put out by Queen’s, with a back three of Bryan Wharton, Ross Millen and Adam Cummins and wing backs Gavin Mitchell and young McIlduff.

Jamie McKernon anchored the midfield as usual, with Anton Brady alongside him and Liam Brown and Paul Woods pushing on to support Zanatta. Docherty and Orsi were on the bench.

The new boys picked a good game for their home start, against a Fife team comfortably the form horses in League One.

Since Barry Smith took over at Bayview after Gary Naysmith left on December 1 to boss Queen of the South, they are unbeaten in seven games, with successive draws ending a run of five wins that started after we beat them 2-1 at Methil in November. We also beat them 1-0 in the first game here in October.

East Fife currently knock Queen’s out of fifth place on goal difference, with both teams four points off second top — and nine points off the bottom. Yes, it’s tight all over.

It was good to see former Spider Chris Duggan back in action. He has been out for most of the season with a hamstring injury and returned off the bench last week in the draw with Stranraer.

Let’s hope Chris stays fit and starts scoring again — starting next week at Alloa.

The early-morning weather horror show had abated by kick-off and it was rain free and bright with a chilly breeze, but standside during the visitors’ warm-up the pitch looked in danger of cutting up, such had been the downpour.

With all those changes, it was perhaps not surprising that Queen’s looked distinctly disjointed early on, and the Fifers created early problems.

Millen created a problem of his own in five minutes when he let a high ball bounce under pressure from Duggan, and there followed in the Queen’s area a bout of pinball and mishit hoofed clearances that we somehow survived unscathed.

The first 10 minutes passed without further incident but not until the 14th minute did we get anywhere near their danger area, Woods winning a corner on the right which was comfortably cleared.

Would you believe we had sunshine bathing parts of the east stand as we won our second corner in 18 minutes. This time keeper Goodfellow punched it out, and Woods just failed to control the clearance on the edge of the box and it was cleared.

We had another bout of pinball sparking alarm in the Queen’s area in 25 minutes, started when Mitchell’s headed clearance unluckily struck Ross Brown and put Duggan clear on the left for a cross, but again Willie Muir was untroubled.

But all was well in 27 minutes when Queen’s took the lead, and it was a splendid goal the action so far had failed to merit.

Zanatta had been putting himself about and his persistence paid off when he played a back back to Woods, took the neat return pass, and under pressure struck a right-foot shot low past the advancing Goodfellow and in at his right-hand corner. Welcome back, young man, you’ve been missed.

If anything could settle this new-look Queen’s side, then surely a goal would do it?

Liam Brown was booked for jersey pulling, a decision the ref held back for advantage as the Fifers won a corner, which was twice retaken after some argy-bargy in the box.

But what a difference a goal can make, as Queen’s went 2-0 up in 35 minutes, and again Zanatta played a key role.

The young Canadian took advantage of a wayward Fife pass in midfield and burst forward. His lay-off to Brady on his left was perfectly weighted for the wee man to take the ball in his stride into the box, steady himself, and drill a low shot past Goodfellow. Two splendid strikes.

The talkative Brady then blotted his copybook with a silly booking for dissent, Robinson followed him for pushing in the wall as Queen’s repelled a free-kick, and Page got his name taken for downing the lively Zanatta.

Queen’s reached half-time with the sun still shining and their lead intact, surviving a Fife corner that Wharton booted clear and Watt sent back with interest and just cleared the bar. And there was just time for Penrice to go in the book for pulling down … yes, you’ve guessed it, that man Zanatta.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 2 East Fife 0

The weather had improved considerably, but Spiders fans would have been smiling had there even been thunderstorms at the interval.

Duggan almost wiped away those smiles in two minutes, working his way into the box on the left and letting fire with a right-foot shot that Muir did well to parry away.

But the relief among home fans was short lived, as Duggan a minute later fired the Fifers back into the game.

And a fine goal it was, in keeping with the first two, taking a pass from Watt on the edge of the box and guiding a right-foot shot wide of Muir. Game on.

The Fifers looked sharper now, and Cummins needed a good tackle to prevent Ross Brown getting in a shot after Duggan had set him up.

Docherty got his debut in 55 minutes, coming on for Brady, and he arrived in time to see Zanatta work an opening into the box on the left that almost led to a chance.

Muir was certainly busier now and he had another good block to keep out a piledriver from Smith on the hour.

McIlduff was having a steady game for his debut and he was tenacious to get in front of Duggan and play the ball away and stop another attack.

The Fifers had the ball in the net in 68 minutes but the flag had been raised for offside before the strike, much to the Spiders’ relief, but the pressure was building on a backtracking home defence.

It was no surprise when the Fifers equalised in 72 minutes. Queen’s had been under the cosh when Duggan played a cross down to Robinson and he was all on his own six yards out to sidefoot past the stranded Muir.

It was an emphatic turnaround, and Gus MacPherson brought on fresh legs with Galt and Orsi replacing Mitchell and Zanatta.

The Fifers had their tails up and it took an acrobatic fingertip save from Muir to turn a Smith rocket over the bar in 77.

Queen’s were not unhappy to see the back of Duggan a minute later, when he was replaced by Insall after a very productive return.

Ross Brown was booked for hauling back McKernon as Queen’s steadied the ship and tried to put on some pressure of their own.

Liam Brown did well to take down a pass on the edge of the box, but he was off balance as he turned and shot wide.

Galt also came close a minute from time, a strong angled run from the right taking him all the way into the box, where his attempt just cleared the keeper and the bar.

Young Orsi almost had a dream debut with a goal right on the 90 minutes. He took a pass from McKernon in our half, burst away and fed Docherty, and then took the return pass just outside the box and fired a right-foot shot agonisingly past the post.

Orsi certainly looked happy to put himself about, which augurs well, and he was booked before the end for not retreating quickly enough at a free-kick.

So, a fighting draw. Only half-a-dozen home games left for the old nerves to endure. Keep the faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ross Millen, Bryan Wharton, Jamie McKernon, Gavin Mitchell, Adam Cummins, Paul Woods, Liam Brown, Dario Zanatta, Anton Brady, Aidan McIlduff. Subs: David Galt, Gregor Fotheringham,  Conor McVey, Sean Burns, Dominic Docherty, Kalvin Orsi, Ewan MacPherson.

East Fife: Ryan Goodfellow, Pat Slattery, Jonathan Page, Jason Kerr, Ross Brown, Chris Duggan, Kevin Smith, Scott Robinson, James Penrice, Nick Paterson, Luke Watt Subs: Mark Hurst, Jordan Austin, Trialist, Jamie Insall.

Referee – Gavin Ross.

Highlights from behind the goal

Anton Brady makes the score 2-0 to Queen’s


Dario opens the scoring