Shire’s seventh straight league defeat was a match that turned football’s received wisdom on its head. The logic that says teams who are awarded a penalty at 0-0 have an advantage, and that a side forced to play more than a half a match with ten men should be on the back foot, did not apply on this occasion.
In fact, Shire lost heart after Steven Jackson saw his poorly-hit 38th minute spot kick easily saved by visiting keeper Neil Parry, and the Spiders, who had Ricky Little sent-off for a foul on Ally Love that produced the penalty award, played far better after the red card than they had until that point.
As a game of football it was all school playground hash-and-bash, with the only quality moments provided by Queen’s Park’s dynamic wing men, Ian Watt and David Murray.
Both got on the scoresheet in the second half, Watt’s goal was well-deserved as he had already hit the post and the crossbar in the first period while a third Queen’s Park goal from Martin McBridge gave the scoreline a look that suggested a rout, something that the match itself did not indicate. Ally Love’s late consolation for Shire at least redressed that particular imbalance.
Shire coach John Coughlin’s hand was forced when it came to team selection. David Cane, Jordyn Sheerin and Scott Maxwell all missed out do to injury, leaving little room for flexibility.
The Shire boss decided to watch the game from the directors’ box to see if he could do more there to influence the shape of the game than he had been able to from the dug out in previous weeks.
His view might have been better than from the touchline but what he saw in the opening half hour could hardly have impressed him, or anyone else in a healthy Ochilview crowd.
Neither team managed so much as a shot on goal in the opening 30 minutes and as the two sets of players battled in vain for the room to create scoring opportunities, the crowd were only engaged by their ire at the decisions made by referee Euan Anderson.
Shire did manage one moment of danger in the visitors penalty box after 17 minutes when Andy Stirling’s free-kick was headed back across goal for Kevin Turner to shoot again the crossbar but the action was made irrelevant by the linesman’s offside flag, raised during the build-up to the shot.
At the other end Shire keeper Calum Antell was only employed to keep a watch on the number of crosses flying harmlessly across the face of goal until the 36th minute when he had to look smart to tip McBride’s looping 18 yard shot over the bar after the Spiders’ man’s effort took a deflection off a home defender.
But he should have been beaten three minutes earlier when Jamie Longworth sent Watt clear, however the winger’s shot came off Antell’s near post and was hacked to safety by the Shire defence.
After 38 minutes a poor pass out of defence landed nicely for Love who raced into the Queen’s Park area only to get a push in the back from Ricky Little that sent him tumbling to the ground before he could get a shot on goal.
The referee awarded a penalty, which came as no surprise to anyone, but then played his joker by producing a straight red card for the Spiders defender which seemed more than a little harsh.
Jackson, who had scored Shire’s only penalty so far this season, was trusted with the kick but fluffed it badly, allowing Parry to make an easy save. Worse could have followed almost immediately as the keeper sent a huge clearance downfield which was flicked into the path of Watt and his first-time shot crashed back off the crossbar.
The first half incident was far from over. After 42 minutes Love burrowed his way into the Queen’s Park box and was clearly tripped by David Anderson. But, to everyone’s amazement, the referee waved play on rather than award Shire another penalty.
Whatever was said by the respective coaches during the interval will never be known but the second half was a different match entirely. Shire withdrew Craig Scott and replaced him with Nico Gibson to give the home team an extra attacking option.
But it was Queen’s Park who looked the more purposeful side; even with a man down they dominated possession and created far more danger in and around the Shire box than they had done with a full compliment of eleven players on the pitch.
Shire never looked as though they would do much even with the introduction of Gibson and the game flowed towards Antell’s goal. After 54 minutes a short corner routine produced a cross which was headed onto the Shire crossbar and rebounded back to McBride. Although his shot was blocked the ball came back to Watt who gave Queen’s Park the lead with a low shot from 12 yards out.
The home team struggled to respond, the best they could manage was a weak snapshot from Turner which hardly troubled Parry, who by now was a virtual spectator.
Queen’s forced some dangerous corners and sent in some long-range efforts that failed to hit the target but their menace was evident and they took a 2-0 advantage after 79 minutes when McBride’s free-kick high into the Shire box from alomst the half-way line was missed by everyone except Murray, lurking unmarked at the back post, and he could not miss finding the net from six yards.
Another poor attempt at a clearance gave McBride the chance to make it 3-0 on 84 minutes and he shot home from 18 yards.
Shire reduced the leeway on 88 minutes when Andy Stirling tapped a free-kick wide on the right to Love who curled in a great shot high into the opposite top corner of the net.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Jackson, Beveridge, Hunter, Lurinsky(Savage 70), Scott(Gibson 46), Turner(Team 77), Stirling, Love.
QUEEN’S PARK : Parry, McGinn, Meggat, Little, Brough, Anderson, Watt, McBride, Longworth, Quinn, Murray.
REFEREE : E. Anderson.
ATTENDANCE : 384.