For Queen’s, Rugby Park has never really been a happy hunting ground, with or last victory there back in 1952, and the last visit being a fairly traumatic 0-6 scudding in the Cup in January 2020, which had more than me lying in a darkened room afterwards.
But things have moved on for both clubs, with Killie losing their then messianic manager Steve Clarke and dropping a division, whilst Queen’s have also change manager but have progressed up the leagues. Perhaps telling about the movement in the respective clubs, from what I could see, the only survivor on either side from that 0-6 reverse was the man who did the damage, Chris Burke, who was simply superb that day. And he was starting.
For this SPFL Trust third round game, current Killie boss used the game to shuffle his pack, making several changes from the side which surprisingly lost at home to Raith in the League the previous week, including the reinstatement of Chris Burke. For Queen’s, Laurie Ellis also made changes. The exciting Luis Longstaff, on loan from Liverpool, starting in place of Simon Murray, with Calum Ferrie taking over in goal, and Liam Brown, who received a right heavy clatter in the game at home to Montrose, dropping to the bench in favour of Lewis Moore. Grant Gillespie and Louis Longridge started in place of Connor Smith and Luca Connell.
And it was the latter two who certainly made an impact on the game as far as Queen’s were concerned. Longridge, as always, popping up anywhere and everywhere, the close marker’s nightmare, whilst Gillespie played his usual game, gliding about the midfield, providing the glue that generally helps make Queen’s tick.
Whilst Killie may have dropped a division, you could see that their side, not surprisingly, was a cut above what Queen’s normally face on a Saturday. Their younger guys were making the most of their opportunities, with Charlie McArthur, their exciting 16 year old defender making his starting debut, whilst the more seasoned players like Burke was looking to make a case for his retention.
Whilst Killie started off very strongly, it was Queen’s was nearly took the lead. Five minutes in and a great move involving Gillespie, Longridge and McHugh ended with Longridge whacking a shot off the bar.
Killie came back and came back strongly. Hodson was a constant threat, overlapping on the right, and both Lyons and McKenzie came close for the home side. Charlie Fox continued his recent excellent run at the heart of the Queen’s defence, clearing anything punted his way with confidence.
Calum Ferrie, the penalty save hero from the last round, was becoming a busy guy. But it only took until the 14th minute for him to be beaten. He had pulled off a couple of decent saves before Shaw punced on a rebound to put Killie in front.
Queen’s waned a bit as the half wore on, with only a shot from Gillespie to show for their efforts, but Killie had established command.
Half-time: Kilmarnock 1 Queen’s Park 0
The second half started off brighter for Queen’s who had a very encouraging percentage of the possession. Gillespie was causing problems with his runs and Chris Burke sent him tumbling in the box for a clear penalty. The big man took it himself and we were back in the game.
For a whole three minutes. Burke made the most of what seemed an innocuous challenge by Gillespie and, as so often happens, the free kick resulted in Murray heading in to give Killie the lead once again.
Killie’s Shaw upped his tempo and was causing problems, testing Ferrie more than once and a Hendry free kick just cleared the bar. The pressure told and, in the 61st minute, a slick move involving Hodson and Burke set Hendry up and he was sharp with his shot that gave Ferrie no chance.
It was a long way back for Queen’s at 1-3 down but we kept at it, Longridge pulling a great save out of Walker; Fox and McHugh both had decent efforts blocked and Longridge again had a shot blocked.
Ferrie produced another great save, this time from McKenzie, and then he had to fist away a teasing cross from the same man, but Queen’s settled a bit and the scoring was over.
A good workout for Queen’s and, perhaps, a wee lesson on where we need to be thinking of going as this journey moves on.
Good performances all round, with Longridge, Ferrie and Gillespie particularly impressive and Charlie Fox rock-like at the back. We’ll play worse and win.
Up next, it’s back to League action and a trip to Dumbarton on Saturday.
Queen’s Park: Ferrie, Doyle, Robson (Yeats 89′), Kilday, Fox (Gillies 89′), Moore (Biggar 74′), Thomson (Brown 74′), Longridge, Gillespie, Longstaff, McHugh. Subs not used: Muir, Lyon, Nicol.
Kilmarnock: Walker, Hodson, McArthur, E.Murray, Waters, McGinn, Lyons (Brindley 79′), McKenzie (Warnock 85′), Burke (Armstrong 63′), Shaw (Burrell 85′), Hendry (Robinson 63′). Subs not used: Hemming, Sanders, McGowan, Alston.
Referee: Alan Muir