Stirling Albion 1 Queen’s Park 2

It’s just over a month since Queen’s went down 1-0 on their last visit to Forthbank. That was as bad a game as you’re ever likely to endure, with precious little to stir the passions of either side’s supporters. Thankfully, today’s return visit on Scottish Cup duty was a very different kettle of fish, with action aplenty, more late penalty drama … and the right result for all those who follow the Spiders.

Gaffer Mark Roberts made just one change to the line-up from Paisley last week, giving Euan East his first start at the expense of Billy Mortimer. And if the youngster was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it as he set off on a mazy run within seconds of the opening whistle. That got the crowd on their feet and they had more to cheer moments later as the Spiders won their first corner. The home defence cleared the initial cross, but Jamie McKernon swung the ball back in – right onto the head of Dominic McLaren. It looked as if the big man had to score, but his effort somehow failed to find the target, much to the disbelief of the visiting support.

There were only six minutes on the clock, but we’d already seen more goalmouth action than we did in the entire game on our last jaunt to Stirling.

The pace didn’t let up, but the direction of play changed as Albion began to settle more into the game. They could have taken the lead after 11 minutes when former Spider Dom Docherty was given space to set up Stewart. It took a great block by the combined efforts of Gerry McLauchlan and Jordan Hart to deny the striker.

Hart made a routine save to gather a 20-yard shot from McLaughlin and came quickly off his line to gather Allan’s high cross after referee Munro angered the visitors by penalising James Grant for a robust challenge on Jardine.

The Spiders were soon back on the offensive, with East leading the charge on several occasions, and the Binos seemingly incapable of stopping him legally. The only worry was that for all the momentum we were building, the goal that we deserved proved elusive. Lewis Hawke went close after 20 minutes with a header over the top, then Scott Mclean got in on the act with a darting run that earned us another fruitless corner.

The breakthrough arrived in the 25th minute from another corner. McKernon’s delivery was right on the money and The Hawke swooped in at the far post to steer a header beyond the helpless Binnie.

Queen’s went looking for a second to give them some breathing space and East almost provided Josh Peters with the perfect opening with our next attack. The youngster left three home defenders looking for a taxi to get back into the game and then cut the ball back to Peters. Unfortunately, Josh couldn’t get the ball out of his feet in time and McGeachie managed to clear the danger.

Jardine became the first player booked when he went in high on Kurtis Roberts. The Queen’s midfielder suffered no lasting damage, and could have added to the goal tally as the half-hour approached, but he dragged his shot wide from a promising position.

Albion managed a couple of corners as the action continued to go from end to end. McGeachie found too much space from one set piece delivery, but couldn’t keep his header down and Queen’s escaped. The pace of the visitors on the break was causing all sorts of problems and we should have done better when East and Peters broke free. The final ball from Josh just wasn’t right, however, and the lead remained a slender one.

With the interval approaching we doubled the lead. Unlike some of the sparkling football we’d produced so far, the goal was distinctly scrappy. East again did well to find space and when the cross came in, McLauchlan was determined to get on the end of it. Gerry slid in and managed to make contact among a melee of home defenders. It wasn’t clear if the big man forced the ball over the line, or whether Marr got the final touch. What was beyond doubt was the fact that Queen’s were now 2-0 ahead … and your scribe is certainly not going to be the person who tries to suggest taking the goal away from our centre half.

Albion were forced into a change before the restart, with Stewart going off to be replaced by Miller.

Right on the interval came the one disappointing moment of the afternoon to date as McLean was booked for kicking the ball away. Daft bookings have come back to haunt us in the past, but the half-time whistle sounded with the scoreline reading:

Stirling Albion 0 Queen’s Park 2

Neither side made any changes, but the home side re-appeared very quickly, suggesting harsh words had been exchanged in the dressing room.

They certainly started better than they had in the first period, enjoying a decent share of possession and McLaughlin should have done better than find the side net after 51 minutes as the QP defence produced a rare moment of slackness.

Marr took the determination to get back into the game a bit too far and couldn’t argue with the yellow card he received for a crunching tackle on Roberts.

If McLaughlin’s shot was a warning for the Spiders, it was one they ignored … and paid the penalty on the hour mark. A headed clearance from our McLauchlan fell kindly to McLaughlin of the Stirling variety. He dinked a lovely ball to the far post where Docherty was waiting in splendid isolation to nod the ball home.

It was a different game now and Mark Roberts soon made his first change of the afternoon, bringing on the lively Kieran Moore for Peters.

Docherty blotted his copybook with a dodgy aerial challenge on James Grant that earned him a booking.

Although the home team were seeing more of the ball, they failed to force Hart into serious action, while Queen’s looked as if they carried a real threat going forward. East wasn’t producing quite the magic he had in the opening 45, but still carried the game to Stirling whenever opportunity knocked.

As we entered the last quarter of the game, the Spiders produced a flurry of attacks. McLean forced Binnie into a good save low down, before McKernon fired wide following another East-inspired set-up. Moore’s perseverance gave McKernon the chance to deliver another dangerous corner, but Allan got his head in front of McLaren’s and the moment passed.

Ten minutes from the end, Mortimer came on for East, who deserved the rousing ovation he got leaving the field.

Albion adopted a more direct approach as they hunted the equaliser, but the QP defence was up to the challenge, with Hart coming to claim any crosses that did get past the McLaren-McLauchlan double act.

Needless to say, Queen’s had to make us suffer as we waited for the final whistle. A scramble in our box ended with Docherty shooting wide from a decent position.

With 90 on the clock, Hawke was replaced by Smart Osadolor. Anybody who thought that would be the last note of the afternoon obviously doesn’t know Queen’s Park. Three minutes into added time, the ball was driven into our box and struck a blue-shirted arm. It was difficult to see how the defender could have got out of the way of the cross – and there was certainly precious little intent about the handball.  However, Munro decided it was a penalty and flashed a yellow card as the protests grew.

We’ve seen enough of Hart’s heroics already this season to know he quite likes saving penalties. He was at it again this afternoon as he dived low to his left to palm away Allan’s powerful effort.

It wasn’t quite up there with the TNS celebrations, but the relief was palpable as the prospect of another cup success loomed ever larger. The victory was confirmed seconds later and the players took time leaving the field to acknowledge the travelling band of Happy Hoops followers.

The result earned us the right to host Raith Rovers in the 3rd round and while that’s not the draw that many would have wanted, the most important thing is the Mark Roberts’ men have recorded another cup success. What’s more, the manner of the victory gave us reason to believe that this could be an entertaining season. Here’s hoping we can transfer our cup form into our next league outing … away to our old foes Albion Rovers.

Keep the Faith

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, James Grant, Ciaran Summers, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Dominic McLaren, Euan East (Billy Mortimer), Kurtis Roberts, Lewis Hawke (Smart Osadolor), Josh Peters (Kieran Moore), Scott McLean. Subs not used: , Gregor Fotheringham, Gavin Lachlan, Alistair Miller, Elliott Anderson (SK).