There was no Christmas cheer for Shire at Hampden as they went down to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Queen’s Park.
The visitors never really got to grips with the match at all, which was played in a continuous downpour made worse by gusty winds, and the Spiders ran out convincing winners.
Coach John Coughlin made just one change to the starting eleven that had come so close to beating Clyde a week earlier, replacing Scott Maxwell in the wide left position with Ally Love.
But within seconds of the start of the match Shire had keeper Calum Antell to thank for preventing another disastrous opening. The team gave the ball away cheaply in midfield and Ian Watt was bearing down on Antell with a little over 30 seconds gone, however hte keeper prevented any damage by making a fine save with an outstretched leg.
That was to set the pattern for a one-sided opening period. With 13 minutes on the clock a cross from wide on the Queen’s Park right reached Jamie Longworth and while his shot did beat Antell it was scooped off the line by a desparate lunge by Steven Jackson.
Not that it was all one way traffic and Shire were unlucky not to take the lead after 19 minutes. A clever reverse pass from Andy Stirling set Bradley Coyne racing down the right wing and he unleashed a great angled drive that required a top-class save from Neil Parry in the home goal to divert it for a corner.
However the general pattern was set and Antell was kept busy. Jamie Longworth was played clear through on the Shire keeper not long afterwards but he could not get enough power behind his shot and Antell saved when it looked odds-on that the Queen’s Park man would score.
Craig Smith was next to have a go and this time Antell had to be at his best to stop the home striker scoring with a shot from the edge of the six yard box. Even when the rebound came back to Smith he found Antell in unstoppable form.
The Queen’s Park strikers were having no luck and so the defenders started having a go but Daryl Meggatt’s long-range effort from more than 25 yards was well held by the Shire keeper in the very wet condition.
The pattern of the match made the blank scoreline look an odd one but the home team rectified things with seven minutes to go in the opening period. Longworth was allowed an unhindered run to the edge of the Shire box before firing for goal. His effort was again brilliantly saved by Antell but the keeper could do nothing to stop Watt collecting the rebound and shooting into the unguarded net.
Three minutes before the break it should have been 2-0 but Smith’s header from Watt’s right-wing cross somehow went wide of the target when it seemed easier to score.
The conditions deteriorated at the start of the second period and that at least had the effect of blunting the frequency of the Queen’s Park attacks after the sides swapped ends.
However Watt was determined to get a second goal and after 56 minutes he was not too far away after a long run from midfield to the edge of the penalty area ended with a shot that went narrowly over Antell’s crossbar.
Scott Maxwell had made a half-time apperarance for Michael Hunter and just short of the hour he crossed for Coyne to send in a glancing header at the near post which forced Parry into a decent save.
But after 68 minutes the points were made safe. Shire could not prevent Smith’s run to the perimiter of the box and his shot might not have been a danger had it not deflected off Joe Dingwall and looped in an arc over the stranded Antell into the net.
Queen’s Park, with the driving wind and rain in their faces, only rarely threatened to make the score 3-0 but they did manage a couple of opportunities late on, although Antell, who had been so busy in the first half, was not called into action much.
In injury-time Shire might have pulled a goal back. Substitute Alex Lurinsky broke clear of the home defence after a neat exchange of passes on the edge of the box and fired in a great shot. Parry in the home goal appeared not to know too much about it, but such as Shire’s miserable luck that the shot hit the keeper’s shoulder and was deflected wide for a corner kick.
QUEEN’S PARK : Parry, McGinn, Meggatt(Burns 86), Little, Brough, Anderson, Watt, McBride(Gallacher 32), Smith(Daly 86), Longworth, Murray.
SHIRE : Antell, Jackson, Dingwall, Winter, Cane, Hunter(Maxwell 46), Stirling, Horner, Coyne(Gibson 74), Turner, A. Love(Lurinsky 66).
REFEREE : G. Aitken
ATTENDANCE : 504.