The mighty soccer juggernaut that is Queen’s Park moved inexorably on with another comfortable win, this time at Stenhousemuir. Boss Ray McKinnon made three changes from the side that won 3-0 against Cowdenbeath on Tuesday. Luca Connell was taken off at half time then and, whilst available, was rested. Darren Lyon, Simon Murray and Bob McHugh came in from the start, with David Galt and Will Baynham moving to the bench.
The game started off at a cracking pace, with Simon Murray and Bob McHugh playing up front and given plenty of the ball. It only took Queen’s 5 minutes to score another of what have now become almost traditional early goals. From a corner, there was some slick interplay before McHugh banged the ball into a ruck of players, for it to appear before Murray, who had a simple chance to score.
But it had actually started a wee bit more stickily with Peter Grant wrestling Tommy Muir to the ground, earning a booking. That was to prove costly later on.
The Warriors, though, shrugged of the early goal and had a real good go. The experienced Mark McGuigan was utilised on the right and proceeded to give Brody Paterson, still preferred to Tommy Robson at left back, a challenging day. McGuigan was backed up by Tommy Muir and the two of them proved to be a handful, backed up by the energetic Tapping and Biabi.
17 minutes in and Muir gave Paterson a sore one, tramping on his ankle, but the play was waved on and the breakaway move ended with Quitongo, again a joy to watch, breaking down the right and thrashing a shot off the post and wide.
Stenie had a couple of decent chances, with Biabi twice being sent away in a good position, but Grant was sharp to dispossess him on one occasion and he was possibly harshly judged to be offside on another. In fact, it was hard too see why Stenie weren’t a few points better off as they played an aggressive game and replicated the effort that had them ahead at Hampden for a while and holding us for a good spell earlier in the season. In the 21st minute, McGuigan was in the clear but Paterson jumped in at the last minute to clear.
But the game slowly slid Queen’s Park’s way. Louis Longridge, on a terrific run of form, was the man causing the problems, switching from right to left and showing a massive appetite for the ball. Much of the inventive play went through him. He was linking up well with Murray, feeding him with some decent service, but Stenhousemuir’s defence, marshalled by ex-Queen’s player Craeg Little, held out.
Murray smashed one over the bar in the 25th minute when in the clear then Doyle charged forward and had a shot blocked by Tapping and, despite claims that he had handled it, the referee waved play on.
The Warriors kept the aggressive play going and Muir pressured Paterson into a mistake, but wasted a decent effort when through on goal.
In the 31st minute, Blair was then booked for a foul on the tricky Quitongo and, from the free kick, some excellent teamwork involving four Queen’s players ended with Longridge putting over a perfect ball for McHugh who showed a great touch to score.
Paterson took a wee break from coping with his defensive duties to jook past there players and feed McHugh, but his shot didn’t trouble Stenie goalkeeper Martin. Queen’s stepped it up and we had a long spell of almost relentless Queen’s pressure. Again, though, the goals didn’t reflect this. A 70-yard ball from Lyon to Murray had promise as the latter controlled the ball and shrugged off his marker, but Martin saved again. Quitongo simply bundled Fairley out of the way to deliver a teasing low cross, but we had no takers. He followed this up by banging Fairley out the way again, but Martin came out to block when a goal looked certain. From the resulting corner, Longridge passed a quick ball to Gillespie, who had sneaked up on the quiet, but he didn’t quite catch the ball properly and the ball spun past.
It was great stuff to watch from a Queen’s perspective, but still those goals didn’t come. Murray came close just before the break after another outstanding run and pass from Longridge but it remained 2-0 for Queen’s at half time.
A couple of minutes after the break, Grant got in a tangle with Muir on the half way line, bundling him to the ground. To be fair, he couldn’t really complain about his second yellow card and Queen’s were faced with 45 minutes and a man down. Morrison replaced McHugh as Queen’s moved to a 4-4-1 formation and, if truth be told, they coped very well.
In fact, it only took a minute to move further ahead. From the free kick leading to Grant’s dismissal, Queen’s cleared and broke. Quitongo somehow controlled an awkwardly bouncing ball, fed it to Longridge on the left and he did well himself to control the ball before shooting past Martin. At moments like this, you really do believe that this is going to be our season. Your captain is sent off and you score a goal, all in 60 seconds. The stuff of legends!
Stenie started to look tired; the hectic schedule of four games in eight days on top of losing a third goal to ten men certainly excused that. 52 minutes and Quitongo, a constant problem for the Warriors’ defence, dispossessed Little, fed Murray, but Martin came out at a pace to block. Martin being sharp off his line to block was a theme of the day.
Two minutes later, a perfect ball from Longridge for Murray was taken off his head, then Longridge made another chance, this time via a perfect crossfield ball to Quitongo, but his shot was deflected wide. From the corner, Murray should have scored with a header.
63 minutes in and Paterson swung over a superb cross for Quitongo but he couldn’t quite control the ball and his shot was saved.
The usual slew of substitutions followed. For Queen’s, it was Ross MacLean and Salim Kouider-Aissa on for Quitongo and Murray. There seemed to be a sense of purpose for Kouider-Aissa as he bundled his way about, continuing the same physical pressure on the Warriors’ defenders as Quitongo had been exerting all afternoon. He came close on a couple of occasions; he had an effort headed off the line by Little and one touched over by the keeper, but there was to be no more scoring from Queen’s.
Not so for Stenhousemuir. In the 68th minute, Kilday put a challenge in on Muir and the big guy went down in stages. But penalty it was and Muir scored. This seemed to galvanise the home team and they perked up considerably. A game that had threatened to slip away was brought back to life and you have to give the home team a lot of credit for that.
The game took a wee towsy turn with niggling and frustration all over the place. Ross Maclean was lucky not to be booked and how Stenhousemuir’s young Hibs loanee Paul Brown avoided that too was a mystery. He had come on to replace Tiffoney early on and had a great game, an aggressive wee terrier of a player who is tipped for great things.
McGuigan and Fairley had decent chances to reduce the leeway, but Queen’s stood firm and whilst we should really have scored two or three more, including a last-minute effort from Galt that the keeper did particularly well to block, Stenhousemuir didn’t deserve to be on the end of a tanking.
In what was a competitive game, Longridge worked tirelessly, creating and causing problems, and was my man of the match. Paterson probably had his most challenging day and coped particularly well with a couple of seasoned campaigners playing right on top of him. Quitongo was, I’ll say it again, simply a joy to watch. Gillespie, Doyle and Kilday all had solid games, but it was one of these days when everyone put a good shift in.
The win, plus results elsewhere, put Queen’s twelve points clear and it was another unbeaten game in what is a remarkable season. It might have been disappointing to lose a goal, but it shows how far we’ve travelled when losing a goal (just the one!) is seen as a disappointment. Next up is a home match with Annan Athletic on Tuesday followed by what should be a cracker at Edinburgh City on Saturday.
Queen’s Park: Muir, Doyle, Paterson, Kilday, Grant; Quitongo (MacLean, 62′), Lyon (Carroll, 88′), Gillespie, Longridge (Galt, 88′), McHugh (Morrison,46′) and Murray (Kouider-Aissa, 62′). Subs not used: Mullen, Gillies, Robson and Baynham.
Stenhousemuir: Martin, Corbett, Brydon, Little, Tapping, Blair (Brown 62′), Hodge (Hopkirk 62′), Tiffoney (Fairley 40′), Biabi (Halleron 62′), McGuigan, Muir (Collins 88′). Subs not used: Kane, Grigor, Watters, Erskine,