Annan Athletic 3 Queen’s Park 1

We’re only two away games into the new league season and Queen’s have already travelled the length of the country. Our early fixtures have seen us head north to Peterhead and then south to Annan.

We knew before a ball was kicked that we’d put some miles on the clock in 2018-19 … and we heard this week that our next outing in the Irn-Bru Cup would be a trek to England – to face a Welsh team that was competing in Europe just days ago. It’s certainly never dull following Queen’s Park.

The cup day (weekend?) away was our reward for an excellent home triumph over Championship side Ayr United on Tuesday night. The downside from that tie was a lengthening injury list that left Gaffer Gus MacPherson facing the prospect of having to disrupt what was beginning to look like a relatively settled line-up.

Before a ball was kicked in Annan today, Gus knew he would be without Josh Peters, Dominic McLaren and Calvin McGrory, and had a number of other players battling to be fit enough to start. The better news was that he’d managed to add 20-year-old Scott McLean to the squad. The former Killie wideman arrived on Thursday night … and went straight into the travelling party for the journey down the M74.

All the uncertainty over availability meant the teamsheets were awaited more keenly than might otherwise have been the case. When the starting XI was finally confirmed, the news was better than anticipated. Ciaran Summers was added to the casualty list, but Jamie McKernon was fit to take his place in midfield, and there were no other unexpected absentees.

Ally Miller continued to fill in for Summers, while Dean Kindlan came straight in to McGrory’s spot and McLean replaced Adam Martin up front.

Queen’s started the game playing up the Galabank slope, but with the wind at their backs. It took just 13 seconds for the first incident of note, when McKernon made his presence felt too forcefully for the liking of referee Steven Reid and Jamie earned what could turn out to be the fastest yellow card of the season.

The game (and the Spiders) settled down a bit after that and it was the visitors who looked livelier.

Kindlan, Osadolor and Roberts all had efforts inside the first 15 minutes, but none was able to really test keeper Mitchell.

The only things seriously tested in that opening spell were the eardrums of the visiting support as Annan’s Sonkur squealed every time he was challenged. There was also more than a little discontent in the ranks of the travelling support as Muir continued to build up his personal foul count … with no sign of a yellow card coming his way.

The niggling fouls meant precious little in the way of constructive football, although Queen’s looked the better of the two teams. They did have the ball in the net after 21 minutes when Gibson got his head to another McKernon free-kick delivery, but the offside flag cut short the celebrations.

The Spiders came close to opening the scoring after 31 minutes when Roberts and Osadolor combined to give McLean the chance to make it a dream debut. Unfortunately, the wee man’s shot flew just the wrong side of the post and the chance was gone.

As the half drew to a close,  Muir was penalised for another late challenge, this time on Gibson, but despite the Spiders skipper suggesting it was Muir’s 7th offence of the game, Reid took no action other than to issue a word of warning to the offender.

The free kick brought no end product and the first 45 came to an end with the scoreboard still blank.

Half time

Annan Athletic 0 Queen’s Park 0

The first half had begun with a booking; the second period also exploded into life early … with a flurry of goals.

Annan started it off when pantomime villain Muir capitalised on some slack defending by QP to fire home inside the first 90 seconds.

But Queen’s were back on terms within a minute of the restart as Osadolor smacked the ball into Mitchell’s net after a good old penalty box stramash.

The hope was that now they were back on terms, Queen’s would get their concentration back. The reality was quite the opposite.

After 50 minutes, we went 2-1 down as Sinnamon beat Hart with a shot from just outside the box. And things got even worse two minutes later when a punted clearance from keeper Mitchell caused all sorts of confusion in the QP defence and Smith nipped in to head the ball home and put Annan 3-1 ahead.

Gus made his first change 12 minutes in, replacing Osadolor with MacPherson. And within a couple of minutes we had a great chance to equalise as Grant swung in a gorgeous cross to the head of Roberts at the far post – but Curtis could only find the side net.

That was almost as good as it got for Queen’s in the chances created column,  but Annan came close to adding to their tally after 67 minutes when a header from Smith rattled our crossbar.

Mortimer then went into the book following a long conversation between Reid and his standside assistant. He was followed by Swinglehurst, who injured himself in a foul challenge and was shown the card as he limped off to be replaced by Watson.

The game had lost any real flow by now, and both managers rang the changes. Gus brought on Sharpe and Martin for Kindlan and McLean; while the home side took off Muir and Roberts, replacing them with Wallace and Fergusson.

The changes made little difference to the scrappy nature of the play, and the only additions to the notebook were bookings for Watson and Smith.

Gerry McLauchlan did come close inside the dying minutes when he got his head to a McKernon corner, but his effort flew inches wide.

It’s never easy to pick the bones out of a defeat, but despite the disappointment, there were plusses from this afternoon. Apart from those mad minutes at the start of the second half, this was not the worst performance you’ll see from a fledgling QP team. And if you’re going to lose a game, better to lose it in August than at the business end of the season.

The hope is that Queen’s will learn from today and be better equipped to deal with opponents who adopt the “up and at em” approach in future.

We’ve now got two home games in a row to get back to winning ways in the league before heading off on our Irn-Bru travels. And when you think about it, isn’t it remarkably lucky that we were drawn away in the cup as the alternative would have been Hampden having to stage a Spiders match less than 24 hours after one Scotland game … and just 48 hours before another vital international qualifier.

Keep the Faith

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, James Grant, Alistair Miller, Jamie McKernon, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Kurtis Roberts, Dean Kindlan (Sharpe), Smart Osadolor (MacPherson), Scott McLean (Martin), Billy Mortimer. Subs: Adam Martin, Gavin Lachlan, Brendan Sharpe, Cameron Foy, Kieran Moore, Ewan MacPherson, Jack Dunlop.