Albion Rovers 0 Queen’s Park 4

SPIDERS fans travelled to Coatbridge off the back of enduring two consecutive goalless draws meaning goals – and continuing to keep them out – was the order of the day if we are to challenge for a fifth place finish.

Whilst Albion Rovers – despite losing out to Clyde last week – have managed to drag themselves off the foot of the table following a recent upturn in form. Their need for points is certainly greater as only a single point separate them from Berwick Rangers in the fight to avoid the relegation play-off spot.

As is always the case at Cliftonhill a fiercely contested scrap was expected and the rainfall before kick-off made for a muddy battlefield for both sets of players. It was a cold, dreich early April afternoon in Coatbridge to witness this battle between two longstanding rivals, where else would you rather be?

Head coach Mark Roberts was forced to shuffle the pack – particularly in the midfield area – with Kurtis Roberts, Calvin McGrory and Jamie McKernon unavailable for selection. Lewis Hawke also dropped to the bench as the gaffer made four changes to the starting line-up that drew last week at home to Stirling Albion.

In came Billy Mortimer at right wingback and Gerry McLauchlan into the heart of the defence. Lewis Magee also came in and was deployed in a central midfield role and youngster Michael Ruth led the line following his impressive cameo appearance the previous Saturday. The changes also saw Scott McLean shifted from a wingback role to the centre of midfield.

Our previous visit to Cliftonhill this season saw the Spiders run out comfortable 3-0 winners. More of the same please. Smart Osadolor – who is now on loan at Albion Rovers – rounded off the scoring for Queen’s that day, however he was ineligible to play this afternoon. There were still a couple of ex-Spiders to compete against with midfielder Gregor Fotheringham and captain Bryan Wharton both starting for the Rovers.
Kieran Moore kicked off the contest as both teams set out to win their individual battles early on.

The first chance of note came in the ninth minute after Galt was fouled in the mud. He picked himself up to curl the subsequent free-kick into the danger area and Gibson managed to get his head to ball only for it end up narrowly wide of the target.

Shortly after Rovers threatened for this first time. Following a throw-in they worked a tidy passing move which created space for striker Declan Byrne on the edge of the penalty box but the frontman could only drag his shot wide of the near post.

The game had now started to open up. A miscued clearance presented Kieran Moore with an opportunity to open the scoring.nHowever the Rovers ‘keeper Peter Morrison – who had just been awarded League Two player of the month – was quick off his line to block Moore’s volleyed effort.

We did not have to wait much longer for Queen’s to break the deadlock. Moore was involved again as he knocked down Gibson’s deep cross. Mortimer ran onto the knock down and met the ball with a right footed shot towards goal and Ruth instinctively reacted to head the ball into the net. The young man’s first goal in senior football.

The Spiders went on to dominate much of the first half and played most the game in Rovers’ territory without threatening the Rovers goal. Although Gibson did have to make a full stretch challenge to prevent the opposition being presented with chance to equalise towards the end of the half.

Not long before half-time Galt fired a corner towards Gerry McLauchlan at the near post but the nearby Rovers defender only just managed to divert McLauchlan’s flick-on over the crossbar.

Half-time: Albion Rovers 0 Queen’s Park 1

The rain continued to fall in the second half as the battleground turned into a quagmire. It was never going to be a day for the silky stuff.

Chances were few and far between but Rovers steadily started to get more involved in an attacking sense with crosses being planted into the Queen’s penalty area.

Jordan Hart – who had been a spectator up until this point – dealt with each ball that came his way by either catching in a composed manner or punching clear when under pressure. Sensible decision making given the conditions.

Then a couple minutes of madness and drama ensued which sealed the game in the Spiders favour.

Referee Chris Fordyce awarded Queen’s a penalty after Galt was felled in the penalty box. Rovers were angered by the decision but Scott McLean kept his nerve and sent Morrison the wrong way to double Queen’s advantage.

The celebrations were still in full flow as referee Fordyce pointed to the spot again. Galt had been grounded again, on this occasion it was Bryan Wharton who fouled his ex-teammate. Wharton received a yellow card for his protests.

To complete the full sense of déjà vu McLean stepped up again to take the spot kick. This time he fired the ball down the middle of the goal to give Queen’s a three goal lead and knock the fight out of Rovers.
Sandwiched in-between the two penalties Lewis Hawke replaced the tireless Kieran Moore in an action packed few minutes.

The manager made further changes with the youngster Ruth making way for the experienced Alan Gow. Soon after seventeen year old Steven Bradley came on for a muddy Galt.

Moments later Bradley was in the thick of it himself. Two substitutes combined with Bradley crossing for Hawke to tap in, but the celebrations were short-lived as the assistant referee had his flag up for offside.

The final five minutes saw two Spiders defenders cautioned in quick succession. First Gibson was booked then McLauchlan soon followed him into the referee’s notebook after a mistimed challenge on the edge of the penalty box. The resultant free-kick saw Rovers first shot on target but the well-struck effort was straight at Hart who saved without much fuss.

The final action of the game saw the Spiders complete the scoring with a fourth goal. Queen’s countered quickly following a Rovers corner and Gow slipped in Ciaran Summers – heavens know how he ended up being the furthest man forward – and despite Morrison getting a hand to his shot the ball nestled in the bottom corner to the delight of the unsheltered travelling support behind the goal.

From one win in seventeen and without a clean sheet in even longer – ignoring the memorable 3-0 default victory against Clyde – to five games unbeaten and three clean sheets on the bounce.

It has been an impressive turnaround in recent weeks. Enjoy yourself and most importantly keep the faith at all times.

Queen’s Park: Jordan Hart, William Mortimer, Ciaran Summers, Dominic McLaren, Gerry McLauchlan, Scott Gibson, Scott McLean, Lewis Magee, Michael Ruth, David Galt, Kieran Moore.

Subs: Lewis Hawke, Alan Gow, Euan East, Steven Bradley, James Grant, Luke Main, Kieran McDougall.

Albion Rovers: Peter Morrison, Sean Fagan, Ross Clarke, Bryan Wharton, Lewis Wilson, Guiliano Morena, Gary Fisher, Gregor Fotheringham, Ben Reilly, Declan Byrne, Gary Phillips.

Subs: Gerard Hernando Escuriola, Jack Gordon, Brian Ross, Lawrence McMahon, Daniel Potts, Paul Fee, John Guthrie.

Referee: Chris Fordyce.