Stranraer 2, Queen’s Park 3
Shaun Niven at Stair Park
Queen’s Park secured second place in Division Three thanks to their fourth victory of the season over Stranraer.
Despite a late rally by the home team, few would disagree that the amateurs deserved the victory as they had appeared sharper, faster and keener. The Blues will have to up their game if they are to have any chance of victory in the two-legged play-off matches in a fortnight against the same opposition.
Manager Keith Knox rested top scorer Craig Malcolm and decided to go with the robust strike force of Martin Grehan and Michael Moore, the latter making his 200th starting appearance for Stranraer. And the pair caused early trouble for the visitors’ defence, coming close with headers.
Ryan Borris then tried to take the game to Queen’s Park, but to no avail as his pass into the central danger zone was easily dealt with by Ricky Little. With virtually their first attack of note, after 10 minutes, the visitors took the lead. A corner was swung in and Daryl Meggatt won the header, Steven Noble hacked it off the line but the ball was played in to Jamie Longworth by Little and the striker poked it past David Mitchell.
The home team had a height advantage and swung in plenty of crosses that Moore won a fair percentage of, one such effort striking the post but being deemed offside. A period of midfield pinball ensued with neither side looking like scoring. Stranraer’s Borris was on the receiving end of a few agricultural challenges as he skipped past Queen’s defenders but unfortunately for home fans their favourites could not capitalise on the resultant free kicks.
The Blues started the second half with renewed vigour, the management team of Knox and Stephen Aitken’s words of encouragement still ringing in their ears. Scott Taggart, Noble and Borris peppered the Spiders’ box with crosses but the cutting edge that had made the home team Scotland’s leading goalscorers was lacking. However, Stranraer’s Zakaria Belkouche can feel somewhat aggrieved not to get on the score-sheet as twice in as many minutes he was denied by goal-line clearances from Giuseppe Capuano and keeper Parry.
There was the welcome sight of the return of Stephen Stirling after 59 minutes as he came on to replace the tiring Borris.
Moore was taking more than his fair share of heavy challenges from Queen’s defenders but such a challenge on the home number nine was to lead to the equaliser. Moore was fouled and, while questioning the decision, the visiting defenders lost focus as Chris Aitken slipped the ball to Martin Grehan and he guided it past Parry for his first goal since Boxing Day.
Home fans had hardly time to sit down when the Hampden side were back in front. Burns and Meggatt combined with the latter firing in a cross that found Jamie Longworth unmarked and he duly headed home at the back post. Things were going from bad to worse as, two minutes later, the advantage was doubled with Burns again the provider as he sped past Taggart to deliver a low cross that found Tony Quinn to flick it past Mitchell.
Stranraer replaced defender John Kane with Stuart McColm as they chased the game. Reverting to three at the back, Stranraer pushed forward but the chances of further goal looked negligible as Queen’s Park held firm. That was until Moore felt the hand of a visiting defender on his back and went sprawling in the box, referee Clancy having no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Chris Aitken fired home the penalty.
Moore had one more chance before the end to tie things up, when Stirling fired in a drive that Parry spilled, Moore twisted and shot but the visiting keeper saved well.
Knox once again rued the cheap goals his side are losing while Gardiner Speirs was happy to tie up second place and keep the momentum going.
Saturday’s final league match away to Berwick Rangers will no doubt be used to give a run to players needing match practice but a morale boosting victory would not go amiss.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Taggart, Steven Noble, John Kane (Stuart McColm 68), Zakaria Belkouche, Chris Aitken, Sean Winter (Nathan Shepherd 80), Grant Gallagher, Michael Moore, Martin Grehan, Ryan Borris (Stephen Stirling 59). Subs Not Used: Dean Agnew, Ryan Marshall
Booked: Moore, Taggart
Goals: Grehan 64 Aitken 73 Pen
Queen’s Park: Neil Parry, Paul McGinn, Daryl Meggatt, Ricky Little, James Brough, Giuseppe Capuano, Owen Ronald (Michael Daly 88), David Anderson (Paul Gallacher 46), Tony Quinn, Jamie Longworth, Sean Burns. Subs Not Used: Steven Baillie, Craig Smith, Blair Lochhead
Booked: Quinn, Little
Goals: Longworth 10, 65 Quinn 67
Referee: K Clancy