Queen’s Park 0 Elgin City 4

IT’S our last points-shopping day before Christmas, but unfortunately Santa will arrive too late to smuggle any centre-back presents down the Hampden Park chimney.

Regular central defensive pairing Gerry McLauchlan and Dom McLaren are both suspended for Queen’s Park’s last home game of 2018 against Elgin City today.

Of our three other recognised centre-backs, Scott Gibson and Cammy Foy are injured – so that leaves 18-year-old Lewis Magee as the only recognised pivot available.

Spiders Head Coach Mark Roberts approached that defensive dilemma by moving striker Lewis Hawke back to partner Magee, with James Grant and Ciaran Summers filling their usual full-back roles.

Martin, Roberts, and McKernon were in midfield, with Gow and East playing between them and front man Moore. 

Gow was playing his first game as a signed player, having come on board until the end of the season after his successful trial games.

With last week’s game at Berwick Rangers being frozen off, Queen’s have had a two-week break since ending a four-match losing run with the 1-1 draw with Stirling Albion at Hampden.

Elgin currently occupy a play-off spot in fourth, but Queen’s – now having played one game fewer – could overtake them with a win today.

City beat us 2-1 at Borough Briggs in September with a late penalty, and they will be nursing a few bruises after last week’s 4-1 loss at Edinburgh City.

We were almost in darkness before the teams came out and before the floodlights came on. It was a dreadful day, truly horrid, bitterly cold, with a curtain of rain falling from a sinister-looking sky.

It didn’t seem to dampen Queen’s spirits, as we started brightly with a Martin run down the right and a cross that Gow shot wide.

Our new-look defence were given an early touch in a tame Elgin foray, Hawke showing good pace to overtake the offside Sutherland, but most of the action in the first 10 minutes was in the visitors’ half.

Martin and Gow had linked up well against Albion here, and they showed the same awareness with the veteran’s fine cross-field pass picking out the young winger for a cross that was cleared.

But in 12 minutes Queen’s had an early Christmas gift for Elgin when they conceded a very soft penalty.

Young Grant stuck out a foot in 12 minutes in an attempted tackle, Omar went over, and there was little surprise when the ref pointed to the spot.

Sutherland comfortably beat Hart and Queen’s we’re suddenly trailing.

Young Martin was proving our most potent outlet so far, winning two quick corners that were cleared.

Elgin showed their own set-piece threat in 18 minutes, when McHardy headed wide from a free kick.

But Queen’s problems got considerably worse in 23 minutes, when Hawke had to go off. The makeshift centre back crashed into Hart as the keeper came out to claim a free kick. Hawke went down, then had to be helped off, visibly dazed and with a towel being held to his damaged nose.

Dean Kindlan was then sent on to try and help shore things up at the back.

Queen’s stuck to it, though, and Martin again looked as if he could create something with a run on the half-hour that produced only another corner.

But it didn’t look like being our day as Elgin went 2-0 up with an opportunist goal in 32 minutes. Gow had a shot blocked on the edge of the City box, the ball cannoned upfield to Sutherland, and he played a delightful quick pass that bisected our retreating defence for Cameron to race clear, draw Hart, and calmly shoot low into the net. Simple.

An uphill battle now for Queen’s, although for the moment the rain had relented.

It was a different game now, though. Elgin were enjoying it, and it could have been 3-0 as another move cut through our at-sea defence, but McLeish shot straight at Hart.

Omar was booked for a foul on McKernon in 39 minutes, but the Elgin player came off worse and had to be replaced by Hay.

Queen’s came within inches of pulling a goal back right on half-time. Summers threw over a free kick from the right and Gow, with the merest of glances, didn’t change the ball’s trajectory but watched in agony as it slipped past the far post.

A first-half from Queen’s to match the weather. Yes, an eminently forgettable wash-out.

Half-time: Queen’s Park 0 Elgin City 2

Queen’s started the second 45 the way they started the match, in positive mode.

Gow fired over from distance, then East won a free kick on a good position on the left of the Elgin area, but it was wasted.

But it was all over in 54 minutes as Elgin score a third. Roberts was booked for a foul on McLeish, 

McGovern laid the free kick off to Sutherland, and he crashed a shot past Hart.

This would be a good time to get in some pointless Christmas shopping.

On the hour, Queen’s sent on Mortimer and Peters for Moore and Gow.

And they arrived just in time to see Elgin score a fourth. Queen’s lost the ball in their own half, Morrison latched onto it, and Queen’s didn’t lay a glove on him as he raced all the way through before beating Hart from inside our box.

The combative McHardy exchanged angry words with Mark Roberts and the home support when he went off injured, to be replaced by veteran Craig Beattie.

Cooper was booked for bringing down East in 71 minutes, and a minute later Peters missed our first (and only?) chance of the match when he shot wide from 12 yards after a McKernon pass.

Grant was next in the book for a foul in 74, and three minutes later Peters summed up a miserable display for the Spiders when he fired a penalty wide after winning it from a Cooper foul.

Bronsky was booked before the end.

So, one to forget. Now it’s the small matter of a New Year derby at Clyde. Let’s hope we have some central defenders back.

Meantime, a Very Merry Christmas from Homer and Gulliver (who will shortly be getting full of the festive spirit).

Keep the festive faith.

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, James Grant, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Lewis Magee, Kiaran Moore, Adam Martin, Kurtis Roberts, Lewis Hawke, Alan Gow, Euan East. Subs: Scott McLean, Calvin McGrory, William Mortimer, Josh Peters, Dean Kindlan, Smart Osadolor, Kieran McDougall (SK).

Elgin City: Kyle Gourlay, Matthew Cooper, Jordan London, Darryl McHardy, Jon Paul McGovern, Rabin Omar, Brian Cameron, Chris McLeish, Shane Sutherland, Stephen Bronsky, Greg Morrison. Subs: Tom McHale, Craig Beattie, David Wilson, Aidan Sopel, Kerr Hay, JamesMcGowan, Owen Loveland.

Referee: David Lowe.