Berwick nil-Queen’s Park nil
On Saturday, Queen’s Park made the long trip across the border for their last game of 2014.
The QP faithful had to endure their second blank Saturday in succession as neither Queen’s nor hosts Berwick could find the net.
But, looking forward rather than back,
That said, they are third in the table, and well on course for a play-off place.
In addition, football really will come home next Saturday when QP return to Hampden for the first time since decanting for the Commonwealth Games.
Only Scott Gibson of the Spiders old guard was left to start this time.
One of the hallmarks of the Gus MacPherson reign has been the consistency of selection but he was forced into a couple of changes. Darren Miller was the only outfield player to have started every match this season, but he was ruled out through suspension. Shaun Fraser was also absent for the same reason. Those absentees were replaced by Vinnie Berry and Pat Slattery, while Sean Burns was given the nod ahead of Cieran McElroy.
The Spiders were kicking up the Shielfield slope in the first half but tried to take the game to their hosts from the start.
Within the first couple of minutes, Gibson won a foul on the left and as the first ball was cleared Woods had a wee chance, but fired over.
Berwick then gained the upper hand, without forcing Queen’s into too many really worrying situations. Currie and Notman both shot wide when they might have been expected to at least hit the target.
Woods and Lavery exchanged pleasantries after 12 minutes but referee Ross saw it as nothing more than handbags and kept his cards in his pocket.
Queen’s official match reporter puts it thus: “As we approached the midway point in the first half, we had the first save of the match to record; Muir dealing comfortably with a low shot from Willis.
“A series of niggling fouls meant there was little chance of the game flowing, but the home side did threaten after 27 minutes when Lavery found space in the box and only a last-ditch block prevented the striker from opening the scoring.
“The stop-start pattern continued, with Currie becoming the first player to be booked. It was somewhat ironic considering the number of fouls that had been conceded during the game that the first caution was for speaking out of turn.
“Queen’s best moments came from corners and they could have taken the lead moments from the break when Rooney couldn’t get the right contact on a Burns cross.
It was the last action of a first half which had done little to warm the spectators on what was a bitterly cold afternoon.
“The hope was that Queen’s would threaten more as they attacked down the slope but the game continued to lack a spark as the conditions deteriorated. Hail and wind combined to make it a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon for players and spectators alike.
“Temperatures were, however, raised briefly when Carter chased a hopeful ball into the Berwick box and seemed to be blocked by keeper Bald.
“The notebook continued to look like a minor crime report as the foul count built up. None of the offences was particularly serious, but the outcome was a frustrating afternoon for all concerned.
Queen’s had their first shot on target after 56 minutes when Berry let fly from distance. Bald wasn’t troubled as he made the save.
“The effort did liven up proceedings for a spell as Queen’s tried to mount some sustained pressure. A deflected shot from Burns could have sneaked in on a good day, but this wasn’t looking like one of those.
“Young then talked himself into the referee’s book before Gus made his first change of the afternoon, replacing McVey with McPherson. Dargo came on for the hosts at the expense of Russell.
“Berwick were looking the more likely side to break the deadlock and Fairbairn found the side net with a header.
“Both subs were obviously keen to make an impact and McPherson shot narrowly past before Dargo wriggled clear and gave Currie a shooting chance which went a bit too close for this scribe’s comfort.
“As the game entered its last 20 minutes both sides had half-chances. Rooney wasn’t far away with a decent effort from distance, and then Queen’s got themselves into an awful fankle as they struggled to clear a corner. Row Z finally beckoned for the ball and we breathed again.
“McElroy came on for Carter and Dalziel replaced Lavery as both sides sought a late winner. Dargo came close on a number of occasions but his aim was just out.
“Wharton had been excellent at the heart of the Queen’s defence, and could count himself unlucky to be booked for what has to be described as a soft foul.
“With time running out, Fotheringham replaced Woods, but it was the home subs who threatened more as Dargo and Dalziel both forced Muir into fairly routine stops.
Referee Ross had been by far the busiest man on the park, and while Gulliver would never criticise an official, the whistler and his assistants did provide many of the talking points with some of their decisions.
“One right at the death almost turned the game on its head. As the ball was fired into the Queen’s box, it looked to most as if a Berwick head had made the last contact. However, a corner was awarded and – naturally – a header bulleted the ball beyond Muir and into the net. But as the home side celebrated, the whistle stopped them in their tracks and Queen’s were awarded a free-kick.
“It would have been unjust for the game to end in defeat for either side, but it certainly wouldn’t have been the first time we had suffered a cruel, late slap in the face.”
Queen’s Park: Muir, Rooney, McVey (McPherson), Gibson, Quinn, Wharton, Woods (Fotheringham), Slattery, Carter (McElroy), Berry, Burns. Subs: Mitchell, McGregor, Mortimer, George (GK).