THEY may cling fiercely to their amateur status in defiance of a couple of centuries of change, but it was the qualities normally ascribed to hard-bitten professionals that finally saw Queen’s Park prevail against a tenacious Preston Athletic of the Lowland League in this Scottish Cup second round replay.
Scorers: Preston Athletic: Ramsay (50); Queen’s Park: Spittal (15), (37)
Determination, resilience and physical strength were to the fore as Gardner Speirs’ side finally recorded their first victory of a trying season to date, much to the undoubted relief of the manager and his players.
As in the first game last week at Hampden, a promising and dominant opening 45 minutes which saw Queen’s Blair Spittal score twice to put them apparently in control was nearly undone by a poor start to the second half as Preston almost immediately reduced the deficit through Richard Ramsay. In the end, though, they held on to secure a third-round tie away to Ayr United.
“Our guys deserve credit for the way they stood up to this test,” insisted Speirs.
“Preston put up a great show and had us under a little bit of pressure in the second half, but any time we got the ball down and passed it well, we created chances.
After their poor start to their League Two campaign, Speirs’ position might been under some pressure had they fallen at this hurdle, but any apprehension he may have been harbouring was undoubtedly eased by a combination of Spittal’s opportunistic interventions and a couple defensive mishaps on the part of the hosts in the opening 45 minutes.
A ball launched into the Preston box caught out Ramsay and his indecisive clearance was pounced on by the Queen’s striker, who prodded the ball under John Gilbertson for the opener with just over quarter of an hour gone. Then, with the East Lothian side’s other centre-half Keiran Dodd off the field receiving treatment, the visitors and Spittal again took maximum advantage as he headed powerfully into the net from a corner for his second of the afternoon.
There was however to be an element of déjà vu as the home side once again got a toe-hold in game just after the restart, with Ramsay earning redemption by directing a header beyond Blair Lochhead. But Preston’s momentum was brought to a halt as referee Nick Walsh took the players off for over five minutes in the aftermath of a minor pitch invasion and firecrackers being thrown.
It took time for both sides to settle back into the game, but it was Queen’s who had the better chances, with Gilbertson producing a brilliant stop to deny a close range effort from Tony Quinn. Matters ended on a sour note for the hosts, with Mark Stewart being sent off for a second bookable offence and manager David Bingham banished to the stand for abusive language in the aftermath.
“I’m proud of the players over the two games, but disappointed with the goals we gave away today,” reflected a slightly crestfallen Bingham.