Spartans 0 Queen’s Park 2

Mention the Scottish Cup and Spartans to many QP fans and you’ll get a one-word answer not normally associated with the beautiful game …sombreros.

There will be those of you out there like your scribe still traumatised by the memory of groups of “relaxed” students doing a conga round what was then City Park as Spartans celebrated sending Billy Stark’s very good Spiders side tumbling out the cup away back in 2006.

One of that team is the now coaching assistant Tony Quinn, who admitted in a recent interview that he still flinches every time he sees a sombrero on holiday as his mind drifts back to that awful day.

True, we did even the score a bit with a League Cup victory over Spartans last year, but that was at Hampden and today was a different kettle of fish all together. Victory for the Spiders might finally allow us to lay that City Park ghost to rest … and more importantly, would see our name in the hat for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup 3rd Round draw.

The Spiders went into the game sending out mixed signals. We have produced some decent football in patches of late, but there’s no hiding from the fact that we haven’t tasted victory since the end of August. A wee cup success this afternoon would taste very sweet and might give us the opportunity to kick on again when league business resumes at Elgin next week.

There were a few injury niggles in the run-up to the game, leaving plenty room for speculation about Mark Roberts’ line-up. In the end, he made three changes from the team that started the defeat to Annan last time out, with James Grant, Creag Little and Jack Purdue stepping down to make way for Scott Gibson, Alfredo Agyeman and Calvin McGrory. Tommy Block moved to right back in a side that bristled with attacking intent.

Despite that intent, however, it was the home side who started brighter, with Atkinson in particular looking as if he might prove a real handful for our back four.

The Lowland League side fashioned the first chance after five minutes when Allan fired a low ball across the face of the Queen’s goal and McFarland was not far away from converting at the back post.  The Spiders responded with a nice break on the right and a great ball in from Alfie. Salim powered a header goalwards and was only denied by a reaction save from keeper Carswell.

It was already evident that the first goal would be a big one in this game, and Queen’s got a rare, but welcome break after eight minutes when another cross in was played up and onto Summers’ arm.  In the mad world of today’s football rules, it looked a stonewall penalty (truth be told, under any football rules, it looked like a penalty), but despite a loud appeal. the officials turned away and the visiting fans let out a huge, collective sigh of relief.

Perhaps spurred on by that warning, the Spiders began to get more of a grip on the game. Spartan attacks became fewer and further apart, while Big Alfie looked in the mood to cause a bit of mayhem down the flanks.

He came close to setting up the opener with another run and cross to the back post. Salim got the shot away, but his effort was blocked by Bolochowecky.

With a third of the match now gone, Queen’s stepped up the hunt for the opener. Lidouren and Galt tried their best to capitalise on free kicks, but found Carswell up to the task on both occasions.

It was a different set piece, however, that provided the opener after 33 minutes. Summers swung in a deep ball from a corner, and when it was nodded back into the mix by Tommy Block, Alfie pounced in the six-yard box to smack the ball into the net.

The smiles on the pitch and in the ranks of the visiting support told how much the goal meant, but those who remembered the sombrero day weren’t ready to say “Game Over” just yet.

But they could breathe a bit more easily within a minute of the restart as the Spiders scored again. Alfie weaved another of those spells that can mesmerise opponents (and occasionally team mates). Galt was on hand as the ball was played in and he stepped in before any defenders to plant the ball firmly into the net.

With a two-goal cushion, Queen’s didn’t have to do anything daft, and the home side began to enjoy a bit more possession, without forcing Muir into serious action. The closest they came was a corner that we struggled to clear and were thankful when Joffrey popped up at the back stick to hoof the ball to safety.

The closing seconds of the half saw chances at both ends. Atkinson overhit a cross with options aplenty in the box before Queen’s broke and Salim headed narrowly wide from another inviting cross.

Deep into injury time, Brown let fly from distance, but his effort sailed wide and the Spiders headed for the sanctuary of the dressing room with a healthy lead.

Half time

Spartans 0 Queen’s Park 2

There was a change at the interval, with Atkinson being replaced by Reid. Given the problems the wee winger had caused on occasions, the QP defenders will not have been sad to see him unable to continue.

Despite the two-goal cushion, most visiting supporters expected some form of onslaught as our hosts tried to get back in the game. It never really materialised and large parts of the second period were all a bit flat. Not that your scribe was complaining about that – flat was just fine as it meant we were in no danger of throwing away a goal and having to endure a sweaty closing spell.

Indeed, we could have added to our lead with Agyeman continuing to worry the home defence, and Galt keeping Carswell honest with another trademark free kick.

All was going well until we entered the final 20 minutes and Joffrey had to hobble off. He and McGrory had looked inventive in midfield, but we had a good replacement standing by in the shape of young Reagan Thomson. He slotted into the midfield and the pattern of the game hardly altered.

Spartans tried to change things by replacing Murrell with Greenhill and then bringing on Dawson for Hoskins. The changes did see them earn two corners in quick succession, but any fears of growing pressure were relieved when Bolochowecky headed over the top from a decent position. The veteran defender followed that up by copping the game’s only booking as he clattered Galt from behind.

The free kick came to nothing, as did all the home side’s efforts to get a foothold back in the tie. Greenhill shot over from distance before Mark gave a wee rest to Salim and Alfie, replacing them with Mortimer and Purdue.

The last action saw Davidson go close with a shot from a tight angle, and when play restarted referee Grainger brought proceedings to a close.

So what rating does this get for the Spiders? First and foremost, it was a cup tie and the objective in all such fixtures is to ensure progress into the next round. Mission accomplished on that one.

Secondly, Spartans and Edinburgh City both now play at Ainslie Park, a ground where we’ve won as many games as Boris Johnson has Commons’ votes. We needed a first success, and there again it’s Mission Accomplished.

If we were being objective (there’s a first time for everything) we might say that playing Tommy Block at right back denied us his considerable presence in midfield. But on the other hand, we kept a clean sheet, and posed a threat every time we went forward with McGrory, Galt and Lidouren pulling the strings for Salim, Alfie and Moore. On the subject of young Kieran, that’s perhaps the only disappointment from the tie … that his incredible efforts and running off the ball weren’t rewarded with the goal he certainly deserves.

All we can do now is wait for the names to come out of the hat tomorrow night. Mark Roberts says he would like another fresh challenge for his players. Your scribe wouldn’t mind a wee trip to pastures new, as long as those pastures aren’t the Beechwood Park home of Auchinleck Talbot. Challenges like that would definitely not do these ageing nerves any good.

On the subject of challenges, next up in the league is the long trek to Elgin. Here’s hoping today’s result gives us the confidence to kick on again and move back up the table.

Keep the Faith.

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Tommy Block, Ciarán Summers, Calvin McGrory, Nicky Jamieson, Scott Gibson, Alfredo Agyeman, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt, Joffrey Lidouren, Kieran Moore, Subs: Jacques Herraghty (gk), Reagan Thomson, James Grant, Creag Little, Jack Purdue, Billy Mortimer, Cameron Clark.

Mark speaks to QPTV after the game