Cup thriller ends all square

Craig Malcolm and Chris Aitken chase the ball into the Queens box
Craig Malcolm and Chris Aitken chase the ball into the Queens box

Stranraer 1, Queen’s Park 1

Shaun Niven at Stair Park

The Blues and the Spiders will have to do it all again this weekend after a highly entertaining, old-fashioned cup-tie at Stair Park ended in deadlock.

It was an absolutely fair result and the replay presents a fine reward too, for the victors will entertain Dundee United at home in three weeks.

The visitors took the initiative from the start and in less than a minute should have been in front when Paul Gallacher crossed for Jamie Longworth at the back post. With time to pick his spot, he delayed and David Mitchell saved with his legs.

Stranraer responded and Craig Malcolm got on the end of a knock down from Frank McKeown but from close range could only turn the ball wide of the post. Sean Winter was next to create for the home side and a good run was supplemented by a decent cross that Max Wright got a good header to but he missed the far post by inches.

Queen’s Park were still looking dangerous and from a corner James Brough headed over, then a dangerous cross from Andy Robertson was dealt with by Mick Dunlop as the Blues defence remained resolute.

Stranraer won the ball in midfield through Grant Gallagher and he found Chris Aitken, who tried his luck from distance but his low drive went just wide. David Anderson immediately launched a counter-attack and unlocked the defence to find Gallacher, who fired a cross-cum-shot into the danger zone but Mitchell saved well.

Stranraer gained a free kick after Brough and Malcolm tangled from which Aitken delivered into the box and McKeown hit the bar with a header. Winter and Aitken had half chances blocked but Parry eventually cleared long to launch a counter-attack. Longworth headed into the path of Sean Burns who was only denied a shot by a well-timed interception by McKeown and an end to end half that the visitors could possibly claim to have had slightly the upper hand finished goalless.

The first effort of the second period saw Winter cross for Michael Moore and, although the striker was off balance, he managed to direct the ball on target but Ricky Little cleared and Queen’s Park could make a break.

An incisive break it proved to be when Gallacher did superbly to evade the challenge of Wright, pulled the ball back from the goal line to Anderson and the diminutive midfielder capped a fine performance by finally breaking his duck for the Spiders with his first goal in more than 90 games.

Minutes later the Blues had to defend desperately to prevent the Spiders doubling their advantage. Mitchell couldn’t get distance on a clearance from a corner but then immediately redeemed himself with a great block from Anderson, and McKeown did equally well to block the follow-up from Longworth.

A key moment arrived when the influential Anderson picked up an injury and signalled an opportunity for Stranraer to take control of the game which for the last half-hour they duly did. Malcolm had a great chance when given space to lob Parry but although avoiding the goalkeeper he missed the target. Burns then fired wide for Queen’s and Moore shot straight at the keeper before Stranraer thought they had equalised. A dreadful clearance by Parry that failed to find Robertson allowed Winter to pick up the ball and charge on goal. He thundered a shot past Parry that struck the bar and post, came down on or around the goal line and came back out again. By the time any claims had been made as to it being a goal or not the officials had indicated for play to continue.

The next move was straight from the old-fashioned book of football. Mitchell punted a long clearance upfield. Moore beat the visiting defence to the ball and flicked into the path of Malcolm who passed the ball past Parry into the corner of Queen’s Park net with a sublime finish.

Both teams continued to go all out for victory in what had become a rousing cup-tie that had both sets of supporters on the edge of their seats. A welcome sight for Stranraer was the return of David MacGregor from injury with 15 minutes left but his involvement was nearly a brief one when he escaped with only a booking for a foul on Lawrence Shankland. Route one almost worked again as Mitchell and Moore combined to release Aitken on the right. His square ball found Robert Love who took a touch and the chance was gone when a first-time strike could have been difficult to stop. Three minutes from time another Mitchell delivery was fumbled by Parry under pressure from Moore and Winter slid the ball into the gaping goal only for Robertson to recover to boot clear off the goal line.

Stephen Aitken thought a draw was about fair although he felt that maybe on another day, with the way the team finished, Stranraer could have nicked it. He was happy that the players had continued to display the right attitude and stuck to the task.

Queen’s coach Gardner Speirs agreed that Stranraer had fought back well but was quite satisfied with a share of the spoils.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Mark Staunton, Lloyd Kinnaird (David MacGregor 75), Frank McKeown, Mick Dunlop, Grant Gallagher, Sean Winter, Chris Aitken, Michael Moore, Craig Malcolm, Max Wright (Robert Love 61). Subs not used: Kyle Rafferty, Dean Agnew, Russell Cadwell. 

Booked: Malcolm, Kinnaird, MacGregor, Moore

Goal: Malcolm 72

Queen’s Park: Neil Parry, Ricky Little, Andrew Robertson, Paul Gallacher, James Brough, Giuseppe Capuano, Lawrence Shankland, David Anderson (Tony Quinn 64), Michael Keenan, Jamie Longworth, Sean Burns (Tony McParland 83). Subs not used: Peter Bradley, Owen Ronald, Blair Lochhead.

Booked: Brough, Burns, Keenan, Capuano

Goal: Anderson 52

Attendance: 344

Referee: D Robertson