Blues earn cup reward

Queen’s Park 0, Stranraer 4

Shaun Niven at Hampden Park

Both sides knew the reward for winning was the opportunity to test themselves with a home tie against SPL side Dundee United in the next round.

In a bid to retain the momentum that the Blues had towards the end of the original tie, boss Stephen Aitken selected the 11 that had finished that match.

Stranraer began brightly, pressurising the Spiders defence and when Chris Aitken robbed James Brough, Craig Malcolm got a run through at goal but the home back four recovered to crowd him out.

Queen’s Park responded and Jamie Longworth was given space to tee up a shot from the edge of the box but Frank McKeown deflected the effort wide. Andy Robertson set off on a mazy run and reached the edge of the box but McKeown was not to be beaten and when Longworth struck with the follow-up it was Mick Dunlop who got himself in the way.

It took 16 minutes for the game to open up with the first clear opportunity and it was all down to Sean Winter. He collected a loose ball 40 yards from goal and covered about half of that distance before curling a superb left-footed effort beyond Neil Parry to silence the home support.

Queen’s response was a forward surge by Giuseppe Capuano who found Michael Keenan on the left. His mis-hit cross almost deceived David Mitchell and it threatened to drop beyond him into the net but for an outstretched hand to tip the ball over. The resulting corner was headed clear by Michael Moore and not for the first or last time in the afternoon, the Blues centre forward won an aerial exchange that he would continue to dominate all day.

Malcolm was enjoying the extra space and freedom that was created as the Queen’s defence struggled to cope with Moore and he almost picked a Robert Love pass but Robertson was alert to the danger. At the other end, the Blues defence continued to stand firm and Owen Ronald was left to try his luck from long range. Mitchell cleared long and, once again, Moore won the header which was picked up by Winter and from a similar position to the goal he tried his luck again but dragged the ball wide.

Capuano tripped Malcolm as he broke clear and picked up an inevitable caution as the Blues began to exert increasing influence on proceedings.

With half time approaching, Queen’s Park carved out their best chance of the match. Tony Quinn was the pivot in a one-two with Longworth, who burst through and squared across goal where Quinn waited but with Dunlop in close attendance he blasted the ball over.

Stranraer were able to create again as Malcolm proved too quick for Paul Gallacher but his pass couldn’t be controlled by Moore and he fired high from 12 yards.

On the hour, as the visitors tried to break, Capuano cynically chopped Moore down with another tackle from behind and he could hardly complain when he picked up his second caution and an early bath. With the Spiders tangled in a web of their own making Stranraer struck another blow within a couple of minutes and doubled their lead. Aitken crossed from the left and the ever alert Malcolm picked up the loose ball and, keeping calm, looked up and chipped the ball perfectly to the back post for Winter to rush in and ram an unstoppable header past Parry.

Minutes later and the home team’s self-destruction was complete as Brough lunged into Winter recklessly and was dismissed by the referee, leaving the nine men remaining an uphill task that was soon to be rendered impossible. Once again the Blues punished the Spiders’ indiscretion by adding to the score. A superb move by Stranraer, enjoying their new found space as Chris Aitken began it with a pass to Moore and ended it himself when the striker turned after being forced wide and crossed perfectly for the onrushing midfielder to score with a fine header.

Craig Smith tried to break forward but his attempt at lobbing Mitchell was well off target and that was the end of any offering from Queen’s as Stranraer turned on the style. Malcolm broke into the box and was denied by a superb one-handed Parry save but there was nothing the giant keeper could do about the next attack. With 13 minutes remaining, the hero of the hour, Sean Winter, completed a memorable hat-trick with another solo run and shot that again he struck sweetly to give Parry no chance.

The Blues retained possession and rejoiced in the acclaim from their supporters as the Spiders couldn’t wait for the final whistle. Before that could arrive there was time for teenager Kyle Rafferty to get a first-team debut at the national stadium with a five-minute cameo that the youngster will never forget.

Blues boss Stephen Aitken understandably beamed with pride and was delighted with the performance and result. “The players had put in a tremendous effort, scored goals at the right times and caused lots of problems for Queen’s Park all over the pitch,” he said. “Now the club has a great reward with a big tie against Dundee United but the priority is the next league game at Ayr and we will be focusing on that for now.”

Queen’s Park: Neil Parry, Ricky Little, Andrew Robertson, Paul Gallacher, James Brough, Giuseppe Capuano, Owen Ronald (Tony McParland 72), Michael Keenan (Peter Bradley 86), Tony Quinn (Craig Smith 66), Jamie Longworth, Lawrence Shankland.

Subs not used: Ian Watt, Blair Lochhead.

Booked: Capuano, Keenan

Sent off: Capuano, Brough

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Mark Staunton, David MacGregor, Frank McKeown, Mick Dunlop, Grant Gallagher, Sean Winter (Dean Agnew 80), Chris Aitken (Kyle Rafferty 86), Michael Moore (Max Wright 72), Craig Malcolm, Robert Love.

Subs not used: Lloyd Kinnaird, Russell Cadwell. 

Booked: Staunton

Goals: Winter 16, 63, 77, Aitken 70

Attendance: 551

Referee: D Robertson