Stranraer 0 Queen’s Park 2

Gus MacPherson called for a reaction from his players after the disappointment of last week … and by jingo, did he get one today. The Spiders ran their socks off and contested every ball on their way to a well deserved three points in sunny Stranraer.

Throw in a special goal from Anton Brady and a first in QP colours from Dario Zanatta and you can understand why the visiting supporters had a smile for those beloved average speed cameras on their way back up the A77.

Changes had been expected after the Stenny drubbing, and the Gaffer made no fewer than four switches in personnel. Scott Gibson, Jamie McKernon, Anton Brady and Sean Burns coming in to replace Craig McLeish, Darren Miller, Liam Brown and Aiden Malone. So the starting line-up had Willie Muir in goals, with Ross Millen, Adam Cummins, Ryan McGeever and Gibson on defensive duties. Jamie McKernon was their shield, with Gregor Fotheringham, Brady and Sean Burns in midfield, while Paul Woods was the main support for Zanatta.

Like Queen’s, Stranraer have not been at their best in recent weeks, and it was not the prettiest of starts as both teams struggled to get a rhythm going.

It took 11 minutes for the first serious goal threat to materialise, with the Spiders winning a free kick in a promising position just outside the box. Fotheringham hit the target, but it was catching practice for Belford.

However, it was not long before Queen’s were back on the attack as another free-kick just eluded the lurking McGeever at the back post.

As the first 15 minutes came and went, the home side enjoyed their first spell of pressure. The speedy Thomson looked a menace on the flank and wasn’t far away with a shot from distance.

But it was the visitors who came closest to breaking the deadlock after 18 minutes when a lightning break on the left involving Woods and Zanatta gave Burns an opportunity to fire in a shot which flew narrowly over the top.

Queen’s were looking more like themselves now and thought they had won a penalty after 29 minutes when Zanatta burst into the box and went down under the challenge from McKeown. The whistle went – but only to signal that referee Ross felt the striker had dived … and was booked as a consequence.

McGeever followed him into the book a few minutes later for a foul on the breaking Turner. In football parlance, it was a classic case of taking one for the team.

The defence had coped well with anything provided by Stranraer at this stage, however, they got themselves into a right royal tangle after 38 minutes as they just couldn’t clear the ball properly. The final cross that came in reached McKeown at the back stick, but he finished like a true centre half and blasted the ball over the stand.

Apart from that brief scare, Queen’s were ending the half the stronger side, but looked like getting to the break with nothing to show for their efforts … until Dario made his mark. He did superbly well to turn his man out wide and then made a beeline for goal. Woods made a good decoy run and Zanatta took full advantage as he drew Belford and stroked the ball past him into the corner of the net.
It was a lovely finish and a great way for the loanee to open his account.
The lead was no more than the Spiders deserved, and they made it through the four minutes that remained to the interval without any real scares.
Half time
Stranraer 0 Queen’s Park 1

Queen’s were on the attack right from the start of the second period, winning a corner after just seven seconds. It was easily cleared and the Spiders then had to dig deep as the home side began to look a totally different proposition following their dressing room “pep” talk.

We helped bring some pressure on ourselves by giving away a few silly fouls, inviting Stranraer to load balls into the box – an invitation they were never likely to refuse.

Fotheringham was harshly booked for a tug on Turner before McKeown was replaced by Morena.

Although Queen’s were having to do their share of defending, McGeever and Cummins more than held their own against the home strikers. And when the Spiders did break, they looked dangerous, never more so than right on the hour when Zanatta’s flick from a free kick was fired across goal by Cummins … but inches too far from the onrushing supporting cast.

It was now the home side’s turn to foul foul of Ross, who booked Dick for a foul on Zanatta, before dishing out the same punishment to Robertson after he completely lost the plot following a tangle with the Queen’s frontman.

Dario had the chance to double the lead moments later, but was denied by the outstretched arms of Belford as he tried to chip the keeper.

Stranraer had their best chance moments later when McGeever misjudged a long punt and was grateful to Muir for coming to his rescue as Malcolm homed in on goal.

Morena was next in the book for hauling back Woods as the wee man tried to lead a Queen’s counter attack. But it was becoming just a bit sweaty as the possession stats swung firmly the way of the home side.

They tried to turn the screw with 15 minutes left, replacing Thomson with the giant McGuigan. Queen’s also made a change, bringing on Conor McVey for Fotheringham.

Zanatta and Woods engineered a real chance with 11 minutes left. But although Dario played Paul in behind the defence, keeper Belford blocked his low shot. We were almost made to pay for that within seconds as Dick went perilously close with a header from about 12 yards.

There were just four minutes left when Queen’s finally made the points safe, and what a way they chose to seal victory.

Belford slipped as he cleared from the right side of his box, and the ball flew to Brady just inside his own half. As Anton stormed forward, Homer was on his feet shouting “shoot”.  Anton did just that – despite being only a couple of yards in the Stranraer half. Belford was never getting back in time to stop the shot and the wee Spider was off on his celebrations long before the ball actually hit the back of the net.

The celebrations on the field were wild; the joy among the visiting support in the stands was almost palpable.

When things settled down again, The injured Woods was replaced by Carter.

With less than three minutes left on the clock, even your scribe was confident that victory was ours. The players also seemed relaxed, taking the ball for wee walks into the corner and limiting Stranraer to precious few opportunities. And any time the home side did fire the ball into our box, Muir came to claim and relieve any pressure before it became anything to worry about.

Carter seemed intent on hunting down every ball, but as he chased one lost cause into the corner, he took a sore one from Bell and had to be replaced by Malone. John’s appearance had lasted less than four minutes.
Malone had time for one run before the whistle sounded to confirm a big result for the Spiders. The mood had been a bit down after last week, but it was certainly a very different picture today as the players came to acknowledge the support from the visiting fans.

The victory moves Queen’s up to eighth spot in the league, and results elsewhere mean there are now just three points between East Fife in ninth place and Albion Rovers in fifth.

It’s looking like being quite a rollercoaster ride of a season … here’s hoping for more highs like today in the weeks ahead.

Keep the faith!


Dario Zanatta scores the first goal just before half time

Anton Brady scores the second goal from 45 yards out.