Sunday, March 13, 2011

Matchday 5: Queens Park 3-3 Stranraer

12th March 2010

Irn-Bru League Division 3
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 607

Queens Park are the oldest Association football club in Scotland, founded in 1867.

They won 6 out of the first 10 Scottish Cups and have won it the third most times, after the Old Firm.

Queens Park are also the only official amateur team to be playing in the Scottish League - reflected by their motto, Ludere Causa Ludendi – to play for the sake of playing.

A club with serious pedigree and one who play at a ground whose history also speaks for itself – Hampden Park. Scotland's national stadium. Capacity 52,000 seats - although only (a comparatively impressive) 600 turned up for a Third Division top of the table clash.

I'm not going to describe the stadium, or post up pictures of it – it's Hampden, people know what it's like.

For this occasion (and all Queens games), only part of the BT Scotland South Stand (i.e. the big one) was open. Turnstiles P & O, located to the left of the main entrance, received fans from both teams. £11 to get in. Not too shabby.

Having only been in Hampden for Scotland and Scottish Cup games though, the scarcity of people was a bit unnerving.

Next up? The usual catering run for a cup of tea and a pie which in total, came to an absolutely ludicrous £4.00.'s part and parcel of the day. Now to find a seat which, usually is quite simple. Not on this occasion!

Only two turnstiles were open, so you wouldn't think it'd really matter where you sat! Well, I was turned back from 3 different entrances by female stewardesses – dungeon dragons the lot of them – before being aggressively informed that “area 51 is where you can sit son”. I managed to hold back the angry 'is that where your family's ship landed?' reaction.

So eventually, I sat in those comfy seats where you see Rod Stewart et al. sit during Scottish Cup Finals. Rod wasn't there on this occasion, sadly. Just me and an old man that smelt like sweaty ass. And even though the crowd around me filled up rather nicely, you were very conscious that you were one of only 600 in a 52,000 seater stadium.

It really did nothing for the atmosphere before or during the game. At times, it felt like a reserve game. Or even worse, when they get those fat guys in their ill-fitting Levis to come out at half time to try and beat the goalie for charity.

The insanely loud Hampden PA system also didn't really fit – the choice of Hits from the 1950s were equally bizarre. That said, I won't hear a bad word about Buddy Holly - tragic loss.

Anyway, surroundings aside, I was here to see a football game being played....and what a game!

I've been very fortunate to see a lot of goals scored in the games I've taken in, with an average of 3.5 per game in the 4 prior to this. Another six at Hampden has taken that total up to a tidy 20 goals in 5 games and an average of 4 a game.

I should've figured it'd be high scoring when Queens smashed one against the post within a minute. Pretty much straight away you could also tell that the two sides adopted very different approaches to the game of football. Queens obviously liked to knock it around, using the midfield two and wide men as a route to goal. Stranraer on the other hand seemed to prefer to miss out their midfield every single time, and either hit big Armand One into chest or his strike partner Craig Malcolm down the flanks.

Stranraer's Armand One has scored more than 1 in 2 for the Blues...and he's frickin' massive!

Neither team had an obvious advantage until a mix up between goalie and centre half cost Queens a cheap corner against....from which a penalty box scramble saw Nicoll put Stranraer 1-up. Queens responded well, with midfield duo Anderson and McBride pulling the strings. There are as good a pairing as I've seen in all the games this season. Creative, plenty of flair and energy and good in possession. It was McBride that levelled for Queens, smashing in from a tight angle. Half Time: 1-1

The PA system continued to confuse the proverbial out of me at half time with a Vengaboys medley including Uncle John from Jamaica (what a tune that is btw) while the freezing Glasgow conditions and my ice-blocks of hands led to my being seriously tempted to seek help when at the urinals.

Having not wet myself, I was looking forward to the second half.

And...only 15 minutes into the second period I genuinely thought it was game over. Stranraer powered into a 3-1 lead with the outstanding Craig Malcolm's drive and Armand One's phenomenal strike knocking the wind out of Queens.

The Blues fans celebrated by "doing the Armand One" - to the Hokey Cokey...of course.

Marshaled by the superb Ryan Marshall (see what I did there?) Stranraer didn't look under threat at all....

Until a 30 year screamer from Little made it 3-2 Stranraer with only 10 minutes to go. The comeback was on and the fans around me were optimistic. I wasn't. Shows what I know!

3-3 with two minutes left. Longworth finishing at the second attempt to send Hampden wild. Well, a tiny corner of tiny section of Hampden.

Full Time: 3-3.

Division Three, people say, is the best in Scotland for entertainment. On this evidence, I can see why. But having been thoroughly entertained in Divisions One and Two, I'm starting to wonder if it's just the SPL that's a let down?

Granted, I only watched it on TV before I went to Hampden but St Mirren v Aberdeen in the Cup was an atrocious game of football. It was void of quality and entertainment and lacked atmosphere. I was one of only 600 in a 52,000 seater stadium, but on this evidence Queens fans will at least get entertained each fortnight if nothing else! 

Star Man: Martin McBride (Queen's Park) – difficult to choose between him and Malcolm of Stranraer but the Queens man just edged it.

Time for the judge's scores:

Atmosphere: Weird. Never experienced anything like it in my life. Can't score it ??/10

Facilities: It was Hampden so it's a bit of a cheat when compared with the likes of Cliftonhill! I'd give it 10/10 if it wasn't for the confusing nature of where to sit and the growlers in luminous yellow vests. 8/10

Catering: From the best yet to the poorest yet. £4.00 for a pie and a tea. No milk available for the tea, which was also small. Pie was a wee bit cold. A let down. 5/10

Quality: Very decent indeed. Queens will always entertain - natural attacking side, play it on the deck, look like a goal threat. Stranraer are more direct, I'm not certain have a plan B minus Armand One, but showed a lot of quality on this day - 8/10

Access: Get to Glasgow and you're only 10 mins away. Central Station to Mount Florida and a 5 minute walk. Simples 9/10

Recommendation: Didn't have as much fun as I did last time round at Stenhousemuir, but was again delighted with what was on offer. Another two teams that didn't disappoint. Six goals, great entertainment and worth a trip to Hampden. For most could be the only chance you get to see club football there!

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