Sunday, October 13, 2013

Scottish Cup: Queen's Park survive Preston Athletic challenge

As visitors have been discovering since Sir John Cope did a runner in 1745, a trip to Prestonpans often necessitates a certain forbearance.

And with a 2-2 draw at Hampden forcing the replay, Queen's Park would have felt more than a little trepidation at the prospect of this Scottish Cup replay against Preston Athletic in East Lothian.

Currently bottom of the SPFL League Two, Gardner Speirs' men have taken just one point from seven league games while Preston lie fourth in the new Scottish Lowland Football League.

And beating Queen's Park, forever on page one in any history of this old competition, would have been quite a way for Preston to progress to the third round for the first time.

After 45 minutes that looked unlikely. Blair Spittal scored twice to give Queen's a two goal cushion that reflected the pattern of the game.

Preston were struggling to get forward and their defence looked vulnerable for both Spittal's goals.

If Queen's were at all perturbed by the rather basic facilities of Pennypit Park they weren't letting it show on the pitch.

(I did hear one substitute muttering to a colleague about "amateurs" when the Preston physio took to the pitch but I'm not sure that counts as an insult when coming from a Queen's Park player.)

But at Hampden Queen's had been a goal to the good at half time before requiring a late equaliser to stay in the tie.

Had they learned from that experience?

Apparently not. Five minutes after the break Preston launched a free kick into the box and Richard Ramsay headed past Blair Lochhead.

Suddenly at 2-1 it looked like the momentum might swing towards Preston.

Until stupidity intervened.

A decent crowd included a number of youngsters giving their vocal backing to Preston.

With their glaringly unoriginal songbook insufficient in the campaign to annoy people, they included in their armoury a few flares and bangers.

This had led to the police - there were only five or six policemen in the ground - ejecting a couple of eejits.

Preston's goal sparked a fairly unimpressive pitch invasion which was accompanied by more smoke and bangs.

With the players ready to restart the game, referee Nick Walsh was deep in discussion with both managers. Soon a policeman was meandering slowly across the pitch to join them.

A decision was made: the players left the pitch and the police moved in to clear the local hoodlums, marching them out of the ground a like a handful of Pied Pipers in high-vis jackets.

The flaw in this plan became evident when the removed youths scattered to various vantage points outside the ground from where they continued to amuse nobody with their songs and still managed to lob a flare onto the pitch.

But this was no Battle of Prestonpans. My own view of proceedings was that it was nothing more sinister than a bunch of kids being idiots. Not used to leaving Prestonpans, the visit of Queen's Park was akin to the world coming to the 'Pans.

A great opportunity to find a new audience for their "who's the biggest daftie?" competition.

(I've read some comments mentioning the "Prestonpans Loyal" Union flag that was on display. From my vantage point that didn't appear to be linked to the group that was removed, although I think someone should probably tell the owner that Prestonpans can stop apologising for its role in the '45 now.)

Having spent six years at school in Prestonpans I found the whole thing quite embarrassing but hardly surprising. I could go on about the mother who was feeding her son burgers over the fence after he'd been kicked out. I could but I won't. Because I'd probably end up sounding like Michael Gove or blaming Broken Britain or something.

With the players back on the pitch Preston enjoyed more of the game but their big chance had gone with the enforced break. While the home side had chances it was Queen's who hit the woodwork and Preston 'keeper John Gilbertson who was forced into making the more impressive saves.

As the final whistle approached referee Nick Walsh - who looked as young as some of the flare throwing teens - gave Preston's Mark Stewart a second yellow card and sent manager David Bingham to the stand.

Their frustration was maybe understandable. Undone by poor defending in the first half, they'd seen a second half fightback thwarted by PC Murdoch having to step in to lead Oor Wullie, Fat Boab, Wee Eck and Soapy Soutar from the ground.

By the time Bingham left the touchline the game had slipped away - Queen's Park happy to get the job done, Preston reflecting on what might have been.

Scottish Cup second round replay:

Preston Athletic 1 v Queen's Park 2


(Pic: www.queensparkfc.co.uk)