Alloa Athletic 1 Queen’s Park 0

There are two things you can usually rely on in the Scottish summer. The first is that the weather will be bowfin (that’s a technical term meaning not very good). And the second is that Queen’s Park will take a while to get into their stride.

Given the annual changes in personnel at Hampden, it’s almost inevitable that we will take some time to gel at the start of the new season. It’s happening this year again, but there are definite signs that the corner is in sight … if not yet quite turned.

While we lost our fourth game on the bounce at Alloa yesterday, few in the ground would have begrudged us a point – and many from the Hampden camp felt we could easily have taken all three.

The line-up announced by Gus had a more settled look to it, with Kevin Green not surprisingly missing out after the midweek clattering that left him needing several stitches to a face wound. We had Willie Muir in goals, Michael Bailey and Sean Burns at wingback; a central defence of Ross Millen, Adam Cummins and Bryan Wharton. A midfield of Conor McVey, David Galt, Gregor Fotheringham, and Anton Brady, with Thomas Orr up top. The bench comprised Chris Duff, David Green, Scott Gibson, Dominic Docherty, Luke Whelan, Ewan MacPherson and Michael White.

We almost made the dream start with Burns romping up the flank inside the first minute and swinging in a delightful cross that Orr just failed to direct on target. Unfortunately, the early scare certainly wakened up our hosts and they began to pour down the slope with alarming regularity.

Inside the first 10 minutes, Cawley had a shot saved by Muir; Renton had an effort blocked by Cummins – and Malcolm saw a close-range header plucked confidently out of the air by the Queen’s keeper.

Credit to Gus’ men, however, they weathered the storm and clawed their way right back into proceedings. As we passed the quarter-hour mark, Orr held the ball up delightfully before releasing Galt for a shot that was blocked by Meggatt, then Burns let fly from distance and was inches away from finding the top corner.

Queen’s were now looking the likelier side and Galt in particular was causing problems on our left. His quick feet helped him produce a series of dangerous crosses, which sadly found no takers.

The wind was also causing problems for all concerned, with gusts making players look silly as it carried corners and free kicks harmlessly out of play.

When we kept the ball on (and in) the ground, we carved out opportunities and as the half-hour approached, Burns saw one goalbound effort blocked near the line, with Bailey also having an attempt hooked clear from right underneath the Alloa bar.

The home side were clearly rattled at this stage – nobody more so than striker Craig Malcolm who carried out a running war of words with the officials. He was lucky to stay on the park when his temper boiled over and he led with his elbow as he barged into Millen – and then continued chirping away after receiving a yellow card.

The last action of the half saw Queen’s again going close. Brady broke towards the box and with everybody expecting a shot, he slipped the ball wide to Bailey. He did crack off a shot, but it whistled just the wrong side of the post from a QP perspective and the half-time whistle sounded soon after with the score:

Alloa Athletic 0 Queen’s Park 0

The home side raced out of the blocks at the start of the second period and Cook was given far too much space on the left-hand side. Fortunately, he was crowded out before any real damage was done. Queen’s then countered swiftly and Galt had a decent effort saved low down at Parry’s post.

Just as in the first period, once the initial skirmishes were over Alloa enjoyed a threatening spell. Queen’s had Muir to thank as he produced two excellent stops in as many minutes. First he denied Malcolm as the striker found himself one-on-one with the keeper and then Willie flung himself across his goal to keep out a free kick effort from Flannigan.

Once again, it was a case of Deja Vu as Queen’s worked themselves back into proceedings before taking the upper hand, just as they had in the first half.

Around the 60-minute mark we went close from a corner and then wasted a free-kick opportunity before Fotheringham cracked a shot just wide from outside the box.

That was enough for Alloa boss Jim Goodwin to ring the changes, replacing Renton and Cook with Hetherington and Martin.

Both sides had their moments as the half wore on, with Muir saving well from an Alloa corner, before Burns and Galt went into the book for a couple of “sturdy” challenges.

It was now looking very much like first goal’s the winner … and Queen’s came so close to getting that goal with 11 minutes remaining. Orr – as he had tried to do all afternoon – held the ball up splendidly inside the Alloa box. He twisted and turned until he managed to fashion a shooting chance, but his effort lacked the power to beat Parry. It was the last action of a tremendous shift by the striker who was replaced soon after by Ewan MacPherson.

With the clock ticking down, Queen’s were stung by the Wasps’ sub. Martin had lots to do as he picked up the ball at the corner of the QP box, but he cut inside well and from our vantage point in the stand, we could see his curling shot was destined for the far corner the minute it left his right foot. Not even the defiant Willie Muir could keep that one out.

The home side played out the last four minutes relatively comfortably, despite the best efforts of the Spiders, and the final whistle signalled another narrow defeat.

It was a sickening way to lose a game where Queen’s had enjoyed the bulk of the possession, and had defended well for the most part. We may well be nought for three in the games played stakes, but there have been enough encouraging signs to believe that better times may lie ahead.

Two thoughts to leave you with … the only way is up … and we all need to Keep the Faith!