Queen’s Park 1 Albion Rovers 1

Given recent results for the home team at Hampden, Queen’s supporters could have been forgiven for approaching today’s game with a sense of foreboding.

We’ve started the season better than many expected, but have yet to record a home victory in the league. And as for the other team that calls Hampden home, well, the less said about them the better after the visits of Russia and Belgium.

That sense of foreboding looked like becoming reality as the regulation 90 minutes came and went. Then came injury time, a dramatic dash upfield by keeper Willie Muir … and some happy Hooped supporters leaving Hampden at the end of the game.

We’ll come to that in due course, but for now, let’s start at the beginning. Apart from getting Scotland back on track, the international fixtures were supposed to give Queen’s a chance to get some injury victims returned to fitness. It didn’t quite work out that way. Although Kieran Moore did get over his knock, a mixture of fresh fitness problems and tactical changes meant there were five faces in the starting XI who hadn’t begun at Cove.

James Grant, Cameron Clark and Scott Gibson came into the back five, replacing Billy Mortimer, Lewis Magee and Ciarán Summers. Calvin McGrory started in midfield in place of Jack Purdue and the last change saw Alfie Agyeman replace Salim Kouider-Aissa up front.

Rovers, with ex-Spiders Smart Osadolor and Euan East up top (and Bryan Wharton at the heart of their defence), had the first foray, and the home defence had to work harder than they should have to hook away Lynas’ early cross.

Queen’s response was a decent break from Big Alfie and David Galt which earned us a free kick that Galt took, but his effort cleared the bar.

It was all a bit frantic in the opening exchanging and referee Scott had to produce his first yellow card after 10 minutes when Lynas went through Galt from behind.

The Hampden surface looked magnificent, but the ball was spending too much time in the air for the liking of purists such as your scribe 😉.

The 13th minute looked like being unlucky for the Spiders  as a beautiful ball from Graham sent Osadolor in on goal, but Muir raced out to smother the striker’s effort.

That seemed to spark Queen’s into life and Joffrey Lidouren swapped passes delightfully with Galt before setting up Tommy Block for a powerful drive that needed defending.

Alfie then showed his skills to skin Home and fire over a cross that was taken off Galt’s head. The defender hurt himself in the challenge and limped off to be replaced by Wilson.

Queen’s looked to be getting on top at this stage, so naturally lost a goal after 22 minutes. Wilson was left unmarked as a free kick bobbed about our box. He headed it down and East volleyed goalwards. Muir got his hands to the shot, but couldn’t keep it out.

The Spiders tried to hit back quickly and McGrory led a 3-on-2 break. His ball through pushed Alfie just a shade wide, and a promising situation fizzled out.

Then a free kick into the Rovers box allowed Alfie to set up Jamieson for the shot, which unfortunately sailed wide.

Just after the half-hour, Grant earned Queen’s a corner. Clarke’s delivery was excellent, but the goalkeepers’ preservation society came to the rescue and referee Scott awarded a foul to the visitors.

Five minutes from the break, Osadolor went into the book for a flick out at Jamieson.

That was the last action of the half, which ended with the scoreline:

Queen’s Park 0 Albion Rovers 1

Mark Roberts made his first change at the interval, replacing McGrory – who had been a doubt pre-match – with Reagan Thomson.

Five minutes in, the wee sub made his mark with a thundering challenge on Graham. It was a belter, and fair play to Graham, who made nothing of it. Fair play also to the whistler who saw nothing wrong in the challenge.

Graham did go into the book after 54 minutes for upending Lidouren.

The Frenchman came close seconds later with a superb strike from distance. But things got gloomier for the Spiders immediately after that when Galt joined the casualty list and was replaced by Salim.

As Queen’s tried to settle Osadolor missed a glorious chance to double the visitors’ lead when he dinked a chip wide from a good position. East also shot wide as the Spiders struggled to get going.

On the hour, Osadolor was replaced by See, and four minutes later, Scally came on for Dunn.

Alfie won Queen’s a corner after 66, but Rovers cleared without too much trouble.

Sub See saw yellow for a challenge on Lidouren but Rovers maintained the upper hand as we entered the last 20 minutes.

Queen’s blew a golden chance when Alfie got the break of the ball and raced away with Salim in support. The big man spurned the simple ball and was eventually robbed … although there were claims for a penalty after the last ditch challenge.

Jamieson became the first Spider booked for a foul on East.

Fifteen minutes from time, Mark gambled, throwing on Moore for Gibbie.

The sub fashioned a great chance for the equaliser, when he skinned Clarke and cut back to Thomson. But the wee man passed the ball back rather than take on the shot and another opportunity went abegging.

Into the final five, and with Jamieson now also joining the forward line, Moore won us another corner. It was cleared to Grant, but his ambitious volley sailed over.

Just when it looked as if we’d run out of time, Queen’s won another corner on the right. Muir exchanged pleading glances with the bench and when he finally got the nod, the keeper raced upfield. And it was Oor Wullie who rose highest to Clarke’s inswinger and bulleted a header goalwards. Surely, he couldn’t have … he hadn’t … as Goodfellow threw out an arm to deflect the ball over for another corner.

You could feel the deflation in the QP ranks, but as the cross came in, with Willie still causing confusion in the visiting ranks, it was the turn of Sub Salim to get on the end of the delivery and nod in the equaliser.

The celebrations were more like a famous victory than a scrappy draw, but the fact that the team put so much into the final stages – and refused to accept the seemingly inevitable defeat – bodes well for the future.

Other positives came from some of the football played in patches by Galt and Lidouren in particular. However, while it was pleasing on the eye, it took another set piece for us to trouble the scorers.

Next week sees us get another chance to record a home victory when Cowdenbeath are the visitors. There’s the added incentive of knowing that three points then could take us up to the giddy heights of third place in the table. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Keep the Faith.

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

Mark speaks to QPTV after the game