Division 3 Play Off 1st Leg
We have been at Hampden Park already this season for one of the League Cup Semi Finals, but similar to the situation with East Stirlingshire and Stenhousemuir ground sharing, I decided to cover all bases and watch Queens Park at home too!
So off we went to the National stadium once again, to take in the Division 3 Play Off, first leg tie between Queens Park and Peterhead. Joining us, is my youngest brother in law, Danny.
Getting here has been quite surreal. It took us twenty minutes and got parked literally outside the front doors! Very refreshing and could certainly get used to this! There was only two entry gates open for both sets of supporters, which were to the left of the Main Stand.
We got a programme just as we got through the turnstiles, before going to get something to eat and a browse round the club shop. Both are situated in the main concourse, with the shop well stocked in the latest ‘Spiders’ memorabilia. We did contemplate trying to buy the current home kit in the sale, but the sizes available were quite limited.
There was still a good fifteen minutes to go before kick off, so set about trying to get some decent seats. We eventually took up seats just to the left of the halfway line with the Queens Park supporters.
Back in January we saw Queens win 3-2 at Stirling Albion, however, to date, Peterhead are one of the very few sides to have escaped us! Both clubs have had an excellent campaign and have been in the Play Off places throughout most of this season. The visitors have been on an incredible run of form, having won their last 8 fixtures, including a 3-0 win on the last day of the season, against Queens Park, at Hampden Park, just four days go!
Queens Park are the only Amateur club in Scotland and are managed by former St Mirren midfielder, Gardner Speirs. They have Nick Parry in goals, with the main men at the back being young Andrew Robertson, Blair Spittal and James Brough. In midfield, they have David Anderson and Tony McParland, along with the skill and trickery of the diminutive winger, Aiden Connolly. The Spiders would be depending on their goals coming from Michael Keenan and Sean Burns.
In the opposite dugout, ‘Blue Toon’ Manager, Jim McInally has a bit more experience in his side and they have come good, so to speak, at the business end of the season. Graham Smith has been the number one choice in goals, with a defence which does not tend to concede thanks to the likes of Steven Noble and Graeme Sharp.
In midfield they have, Dean Cowie and the industrious Brian Gilfillan, who was signed from Clyde in January. Up front, Rory McAllister is a decent target man and has contributed a lot to the team as well with his 22 league goals to date.
There was a decent crowd in as the game got under way. Both teams looked nervous in the early exchanges, with passes going astray, niggling fouls and no real flow to the game at all. It took more than fifteen minutes to register a shot on target.
From a Queens free kick some twenty yards out, following a foul by Gilfillan, McParland got a shot away which went just over the bar. It did look like ‘keeper, Smith got a touch to it, but no corner was given, much to the chagrin of the home support!
Five minutes later, some nice link up play down the right hand side by Peterhead saw McAllister get a shot in from close range, but it was expertly turned away by Parry, who also reacted well to block the follow up.
Ten minutes from the break, Queens Park’s David Anderson lost the ball in midfield and was picked up by Ryan Strachan. His cross was met by the head of Gilfillan, but he failed to get a good connection and the ball drifted wide of Parry’s right hand post.
The last couple of minutes of the half so both teams create chances. First, Spittal fired a shot well wide for Queens Park, before McAllister was unlucky not to get a good touch on a lofted ball over the top of the Spiders defence. Right on the stroke of half time, it was McAllister again who went close for the visitors. Gilfillan chipped a pass into the eighteen yard box and found the big striker who had time to hit a fine right foot volley, but it flashed just wide of Parry’s left hand post.
At the start of the second period, it was the home team who were quicker out the traps. Ten minutes in, a Burns shot for Queens from twenty yards out was saved by Smith, before they got another chance from a free kick just afterwards. McParland’s kick was partially cleared and as it fell to Connolly, he put his shot wide of Smith’s left hand post.
Just after the hour mark, it was good news for Queens Park and despair for Peterhead and their fans, when Rory McAllister was substituted through injury. He had been a thorn in the home side’s defence all evening and was replaced by Andy Rodgers.
Rodgers did not take long to make an impact, as he cracked a shot from twenty five yards which came back off the crossbar, having only been on the park two minutes.
David Anderson created a good chance for Queens Park with twenty minutes left, when he cut inside two players at the edge of the penalty box, but his shot was saved by Smith. Both teams had made some decent forays up the pitch but their crosses into the box were not met by any attackers.
Gardner Speirs then made two changes a couple of minutes apart, when he replaced both his forwards. Tony Quinn and Lawrence Shankland came on for Keenan and Burns.
The visitors ‘keeper, Graeme Smith then had to look lively in the last five minutes, coming off his line well to collect a dangerous cross as the home team pressed for a winner.
As the game entered the fourth minute of stoppage time and with it looking like it would end goalless, it ended in some controversial circumstances. First of all, Peterhead were awarded a free kick some twenty yards from goal after McParland was adjudged to have fouled David Cox. The ball was crossed into the box and it looked as though the danger had been cleared. Blair Spittal controlled the ball and intended to run it out the box, however, Andy Rodgers cleverly put his body in front of the youngster, so the that the merest of contact would look like a penalty. There was a slight hesitation before referee, McKendrick awarded the spot kick.
It was Rodgers himself who took the responsibility and he blasted his shot high into the right hand side of Parry’s net to win the game. The young defender can justifiably feel aggrieved at the soft award, but he will hopefully benefit from such an unfortunate experience.
The Queens Park fans were extremely unhappy and let the officials know exactly how they felt as they left the field. This was possibly the worst abuse I had heard since the Clyde fans turned on their Manager, Jim Duffy last November!
There was still the second leg to come in midweek, so it was not over yet for Queens Park, although due to this result, Peterhead may fancy their chances of finishing off the tie with them having home advantage. It would certainly make the journey home a lot easier for the couple of hundred travelling fans in the Hampden crowd of 651.
We got away from the stadium quite smartly, in amongst some very angry home fans as they discussed the penalty and we were home barely twenty minutes later. Happy days! Although we have gone to games and sat in the home end, there has been no preference on which team wins. However, in order to complete the mission of attending all forty two grounds in the one season, I effectively need Peterhead to get through to the Final. Sorry Spiders fans!
Hampden Park is a stadium I’m very familiar with having attended many games here over the last three decades. I’ve stood on the old terracing, sat in the old Grandstand and also sat in all four of the revamped stands following the refurbishments that took place throughout the 1990’s.
I have always tended to approach it from the Shawlands/Battlefield side of the ground, but over the last couple of years, when I have gone I have changed that to park closer to Govanhill/Croftfoot at the other end. Either way, it’s a stadium I am not keen on and am at a loss to explain why, as I’ve been at some very memorable games over the years and equally been at some that I’d like to erase from memory!
The BT (Main) South stand is the most impressive and is the more modern of the four. I have been fortunate enough to have seen a couple of games sitting there and also been at a wedding reception in the conference suites contained within it.
When the old terracing was replaced in the early 1990’s it was an opportunity to do away with the big track behind both goals. Instead the stands are built pretty much round the shape of the way it was before and it really was an opportunity missed. If you are unfortunate enough to get tickets for rows A to F in the East or West stands (behind the goals) you will see very little of the game. The North and South stands are undoubtedly the best areas to view any games from, though again, if your seats are near the front the view is not the best.
You could also argue that a 50,000 seated facility is too small for a Scottish National stadium given there are two other grounds in Glasgow that hold the same capacity and more in the case of Celtic Park which holds 60,000. Indeed Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh, although a rugby ground holds just under 70,000. Hampden Park has however, had the prestige of hosting both a Champions League and UEFA Cup Finals in the last decade.
With the Commonwealth games now just over a year away, I am pleased to see that some money is being invested outside the ground too, with new parking areas and also the transport links around it being enhanced. Normally, no matter what way you approach Hampden Park, all routes lead to congestion, street parking can be difficult and your best bet is to park at least a mile away if you want to avoid lengthy journey times to and from the ground.
I would also point out the problems you can face if you are in Section F or G in the East stand as the directions are misleading. You can only access one of these sections from the corner of the North Stand, even though both are next to each other! I have had the misfortune on more than one occasion to have been informed by stewards based at the North stand side that I would have to walk away round to the main stand side to access the other section which is a nonsense, not to mention poor design and planning!
Hampden does look better now than it ever did, though the atmosphere is questionable a lot of the time and it remains an unpopular venue with a lot of people. The way the stands are built may be the reason for this but I am not sure how you can address this problem now and alter this opinion.