Flair but not the result Preston Athletic wanted

A rowdy fan lets off a flare during Preston's tie with Queen's Park. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
A rowdy fan lets off a flare during Preston's tie with Queen's Park. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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More than 800 fans descended on Pennypit Park to see if Preston Athletic could claim the scalp of Scottish League Two side Queen’s Park, having already earned a draw when the two sides met at the national stadium last week.

In the event, a first half double from Blair Spittal proved enough to seal the Spiders’ passage into the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup, but after pulling a goal back through Ricky Ramsay five minutes after the break, Preston fought with grit and determination right up until the end of a drama-filled match featuring dismissals, smoke bombs – and a pitch invasion.

“The Scottish Cup is over for another year, but I think we can be proud of our achievements,” said Preston manager David Bingham, below. “We lost to a higher ranked team, but with a break in front of goal it could have ended up differently.”

“If I’m honest I think I was a wee bit disappointed by our first half performance, and so were the players, but I thought our second half performance was excellent, and for long spells of the match it really could have gone either way.”

Preston overturned a two goal, half-time deficit in the first round in order to get the better of Highland League side Huntly, and they were faced with having to do it all over again on Saturday as an attack-minded Queen’s took a two goal cushion into the break.

Spittal opened the scoring on 12 minutes, pouncing in between Ricky Ramsay and goalkeeper John Gilbertson to capitalise on a gift of a loose ball from six yards. Spittal was on target again in the 37th minute, this time heading a corner into the top corner of the net.

But Preston, who struck five minutes after the restart in order to begin their fight back against Huntly, began the second half against Queen’s Park in similar style, with Ramsay rising to head an outswinging Michael Osbourne free kick into the net in the 50th minute.

“I’m pleased to have got my first goal in The Scottish, and it was an important goal to get – I just wish we could have got another one,” said Ramsay. “We’ve done ourselves proud over the three [Scottish Cup] games this year, and I think we deserved to at least take this match into extra time.”

In the immediate aftermath of Ramsay’s goal, the teams were ordered into the dressing-rooms while police and club officials worked to clear away a minor pitch invasion, as well as escort a small number of fans, who had been responsible for letting off smoke bombs and firecrackers, out of the ground.

The break in play stretched to seven minutes, but Preston returned to the pitch to continue where they left off, fighting and scrapping for an equaliser and at times sending Queen’s scurrying to clear their line.

The visitors however had the clearer chances – albeit coming on the counter attack – and Gilbertson made two outstanding stops to keep his side in the game until the death. Preston’s Mark Stewart was ordered off in the closing moments of the match after picking up a soft looking second yellow, and his manager followed close behind after referee Nick Walsh sent him to the stand in response to his protests against the dismissal.

“I let the players down with my conduct at the end there but I think sometimes [the match officials] don’t quite understand the passion involved in a match like this,” said Bingham. “The players gave me everything in the second half and I’m just disappointed we’ve got nothing to show for it. But then again it’s not the end of the world; we have the opportunity to come back and try again next year.”

Preston Athletic: Gilbertson, Cherrie, O’Hara, Dodd (Stewart 46), Ramsay, Philp, Brown (Moore 79), Osbourne, Reilly (Martin 46), McCormack, Devlin. Subs:. Thomson, Strachan, Foster, Robertson

Queen’s Park: Lochhead, Gallagher, Burns, Gold, Fisher, Lamie, McVey (Davison 72), Anderson, Keenan, Quinn, Spittal. Subs: Gibson, Coll, Mitchell, Gormley, Vitoria, Sinclair.