Annan Athletic 3 Queen’s Park 2

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that not too much had changed as Queen’s come to the end of yet another decade.

The “twenty-tens” had begun with the Spiders sitting seventh in League 2,  with five wins, four draws and eight defeats from our 17 games. As we travelled south to face Annan for the last game of the decade today, we sat sixth in League 2, with an identical record of five wins, four draws, and eight defeats from the same 17 league fixtures.

But while the results reported on by Homer and Gulliver at the start and end of the decade might be remarkably similar, events off the field have reflected that time stands still for no man or woman. In the last three years alone, we’ve lost legends like Ivy Ridell and Stewart (The Vicar) Hendry from the ranks of the supporters.

And whatever else the “twenty-twenties” hold in store, we already know that Queen’s Park players will be paid for their efforts – bringing an end to more than 150 years of our amateur tradition. We’ll also be playing our games in the shadow of our Hampden home at a redeveloped (and possibly renamed?) Lesser Hampden.

So there are changes afoot, but none of that mattered to Mark Roberts and his squad as they headed for Galabank aiming to make sure that we ended the decade on the right note after three winless games so far in December. They knew that would be no easy task, however, having lost on our last five visits to the Annan ground.

There had been encouraging signs in the second half against Cove last weekend, so the second half subs on that occasion – Kieran Moore and Calvin McGrory – were given their chance from the start. Cameron Foy also came in, with Cameron Clark dropping to the bench.

On a blowy, dreich December afternoon, Queen’s started quite brightly. But although they saw plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges, they never tested Smith in the home goal. The exact opposite was the case with Annan. On their first serious intrusion into QP territory, they took the lead when Tommy Muir outmuscled Foy to get on the end of a cross from former Spider Scott McLean and thump the ball past a helpless Willie Muir.

It’s fair to say that going behind after nine minutes had not been part of the Spiders’ game plan. However they tried to respond and Galt kept Smith honest with a couple of trademark shots from distance.

Even this early in the game, Annan were content to let their opponents come at them, while countering with long balls over the top. The tactic almost paid dividends after 15 minutes when Watson got on the end of one such pass (punt?) and forced Muir to stretch to his limits to grab the attempted lob.

Salim and Galt had efforts saved as Queen’s tried to mount some pressure and then Watson was booked for diving as he went down under a challenge in the QP box.

Queen’s got back on terms after 35 minutes when a neat Galt pass released Moore and the young striker kept his cool to turn the ball past Smith and level things at 1-1. It was no more than the visitors deserved, but in true Christmas spirit, we allowed our hosts to regain the lead within five minutes.

Again, the wound was largely self-inflicted. McLean won a very soft foul going down under a Jamieson challenge. The free-kick was deflected into the air by the wall and when it came down Annan’s Muir could scarcely believe his luck – or the room he was given so close to goal – to head home.

That was it as far as the meaningful action was concerned for the first period, apart from a yellow card for Joseph in the dying seconds.

Half time

Annan Athletic 2 Queen’s Park 1

It had taken the home side nine minutes to open their account in the first period; they got their third goal after just eight minutes of the second half.  And if the first two goals had given Mark Roberts nightmares, this one will have had the QP Gaffer spitting blood. Flanagan got in behind the defence after being played through far too easily  by McLean. The winger then meandered across our box and curled a left-foot shot into the corner of Muir’s net.

The Spiders tried to hit back immediately, and within seconds of the restart won a corner on our left. Joffrey Lidouren’s cross was a peach; Creag Little was in the perfect position at the back post, but his header went wide and we had passed up our first gilt-edged chance of the afternoon. Sadly, it wouldn’t be our last.

The frustration showed as Ciaran Summers went into the book for a crunching sliding tackle on Flanagan. The defender took an awful lot of the ball, but in today’s football the yellow card was inevitable.

Tempers were getting a tad frayed as the home side took every opportunity to run down the clock and any flow the game might have had disappeared under a mounting foul count. For the anoraks among you, there were a total of 30 free-kicks in the 90 minutes, along with seven corners – so it’s fair to say that the officials gave themselves a busy afternoon.

Annan’s Muir had been involved in much of the action (good and bad) and went into the book after 67 minutes for persistent infringements. The card was followed by the first change of the afternoon when Watson was replaced by McLear.

Five minutes later, Queen’s also made a change, swapping Little for Jack Purdue. The giant figure of Christian Nade appeared at the same time to replace Muir.

With just over 10 minutes left, Queen’s got a wee lifeline with a really nice goal. Summers, Purdue and Salim were all involved in manufacturing some space down our left. The sub then played the striker in and with the confidence that comes from scoring regularly, Salim was composure personified as he buried the ball behind Smith.

The final moments of the game could – and should have produced more goals as both teams squandered chances. Queen’s flung everything forward and looked certain to salvage a point in 89 minutes when McGrory’s shot was palmed out towards the onrusing Foy. Sadly, it came at him a shade quicker than he expected and although he got to the ball first, he thundered the rebound off the bar from point-blank range.

Incredibly, there was still time for one more glorious chance to go abegging. Annan could have no complaints as referee Irvine penalised their “delaying” tactics by allowed the clock to run well past the 90 minutes.

And in the third minute of that added time we saw a true stramash of the Arthur Montford variety (ask Mr Google if you’re unsure of that description). It seemed as if almost every QP outfield player was in the Annan six-yard box – along with every home player. But despite three attempts, nobody could force the ball over the line. It was finally hoofed clear and Irvine brought proceedings to a close.

So a decade ends with a disappointing December, but we now look forward to a New Year and a new decade with the fervent hope that things will get a lot better. It starts with a game against Stenny at HQ (click here to find out more about that one).  Despite recent results, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t get the 20-20s off to a good start. All we need to do is cut out the occasional suicidal moments at the back … and convert chances at the other end. Simples???

As we look forward to the future, let’s take some hope from the past.  Remember the similarities between this season to date and our position 10 years ago?  Well we made it to the promotion play-offs when that season ended, but lost out on a 6-2 aggregate to Arbroath. The optimist that is Gulliver says we could do even better this time around … so some things truly never change.

All that remains now is to wish everybody involved in the Queen’s Park family a Healthy, Happy New Year.

Keep the Faith!

Queen’s Park: Willie Muir, Ryan Finnie, Ciaran Summers, Nicky Jamieson, Creag Little, Cameron Foy, Calvin McGrory,  Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Galt, Joffrey Lidouren, Kieran Moore. Subs: Jacques Herraghty,  Cameron Clark, Luke Main, Billy Mortimer, Jack Purdue, James Grant, Alfredo Agyeman.

Mark speaks to QPTV after the game