There’s still a long way to go before the prizes are dished out – but the next seven days could have a major influence on whether Queen’s take part in the end of season bun fight or look back on how things might have been.

It starts today with a testing trek to Arbroath, continues on Tuesday with another lengthy trip, this time to Berwick – and then finishes off with a crucial clash against an in-form East Fife team at Hampden.

Three good results could go a long way towards cementing a top four place; three repeats of last week’s debacle could send us spiralling towards the wrong end of the table.

So there was plenty at stake as Gayfield beckoned, and the first question was whether the Gaffer would wield the axe and try to freshen things up with a few changes.

The answer was a definite yes. Out went Bryan Wharton, Paul Woods, Chris Duggan and Joe Bradley; in came Ryan McGeever, new signing Scott Hooper, Duracell man John Carter and perhaps most significantly of all, Vinnie Berry. Gulliver is by no means alone in thinking that wee Vinnie has been a big miss in recent weeks, and he was to prove a huge influence in what turned out to be a good afternoon for the Spiders.

The changes meant Queen’s resorting to their favoured formation on the road with Willie Muir behind a central trio of Hooper, McGeever and Gibson. Mitchell and Burns flanked them, with Jamie McKernon and Berry holding court in midfield. Young Liam Brown retained his place ahead of those two, while David Galt and Carter were tasked with ending our barren run in front of goal.
it was a bold decision to make so many changes, but Gus may have had his hand forced a bit after the Shire result.

Given the miserable conditions as we left Glasgow, it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in Angus to lovely sunshine. What was no surprise was that it was blowing a gale and Queen’s had to play against that wind in the first half.

Logic said that we would be under the cosh from the start with a much-changed lineup, confidence low – and the elements against us. So what did we do … open the scoring in the first meaningful action of the game. Mitchell managed to advance the ball towards the Arbroath goal, but Carter was very much second favourite as he and Rutherford pursued the clearance. However, JC never knows a lost cause and won the race, before outmuscling the defender, bearing in on goal – and calmly slotting home from a tightish angle.

It was a start that few in the ranks of the visiting support saw coming, but the problem was there were still around 86 minutes to hang on. But the old saying suggest that goals change games … and Carter’s strike did more than change the outlook, it transformed Queen’s into a team that looked like footballers again. Despite finding it difficult to get any distance on clearances, we took control of the midfield and passed the ball with purpose and conviction.

Burns caused more problems in the home box with a corner after 15 minutes, and then Henry became the first player booked after taking out Galt, who looked to be right in the mood.

Queen’s were coping remarkably well at this stage, but were given a reminder of how fragile that lead was as the half hour approached. Linn whipped in a free-kick from the right and the wind-assisted effort caused mayhem in the box as it deflected off a Queen’s defender, rattled the bar, and was hoofed to the safety of the terracings.

The home side were forced to make changes moments later as Watson fell awkwardly after a challenge with Galt and left the field on a stretcher. It looked a bad one, and the hope must be that it’s not as serious as it appeared. Munro replaced him and Lowden came on for Ramsay at the same time.

The changes didn’t alter the course of the game, with Queen’s looking better than they have for some weeks, and Arbroath looking to exert pressure whenever they could.

Burns set up a wee chance after 33 minutes, but his inviting cross found no takers. Linn then got a shot off from outside the box, but it was easy for Muir.

The keeper was more troubled in the dying minutes of the half as the Red Lichties bombarded us from another couple of fouls. The only casualty was Gulliver’s blood pressure as the ball bobbled about our box before we reached the sanctuary of the dressing room with our noses still in front.

Half Time  Arbroath 0 Queen’s Park 1

The hope was that we would make use of the elements in the second period, turn the screw on our hosts and quickly make the game secure. That might have been the hope, but this is Queen’s we are talking about, so it was never going to happen.

It started off on script, and Burns almost scored direct from a corner, with only the post saving Arbroath.

We again went close from a good break which saw Brown and Burns combine before Sean’s wicked cross was nipped off the toes of the waiting Galt. That, however, was almost as good as it got for the Spiders. Arbroath began to put us under pressure and we started to rely more and more on counter attacks.

Five minutes in, the home side got the benefit of a couple of lucky ricochets and Lowden suddenly had his sights set on goal. Thankfully for Queen’s, Muir stood tall to keep out the powerful shot.

The bookings started to mount up as both sides showed their desire to get a result. Whatley was carded for a foul on Galt before the Spider went in the book for a high boot. Hooper also fell of the ref for a foul on Linn.

The fouls gave Arbroath the chance to load our box, but Muir denied Linn and then Skelly as they got shots on target.

Just on the hour, Queen’s carved out a great chance to give themselves some real breathing space as McKernon danced past defenders, but couldn’t get a shot off in time and he was crowded out.

As the game entered the last 20 minutes, Gus started to make changes, replacing Galt with Woods, before Craig McLeish came on for  Brown.

Carter set up another opportunity for McKernon, but the ball bobbled just as he prepared to shoot and the seagulls were troubled more than keeper Fleming.

Linn was looking like the best option for the home side to get back in the game, but Queen’s were in no mood to let this one slip, and Gibson and McGeever were particularly resolute.

Frustration got the better of Henry in the dying minutes as he booted the ball away after being penalised for a foul, leaving referee Lowe little option but to flash a second yellow card and then the inevitable red for the midfielder.

It was the last real talking point of an excellent afternoon for the Spiders and the final whistle soon sounded with the score Arbroath 0 Queen’s Park 1

So that’s step one taken, and after our disappointing run of late, it was a big step. However, what we simply can’t do is take anything for granted on Tuesday when we visit Berwick. Our record against teams at the wrong end of the league is not the best this season, and we need to start putting that right, sooner rather than later.

We have got the ability to get a result and hopefully, there will be no absentees after today’s endeavours.
As ever, it will be interesting to see what the Gaffer does with his team selection, but it’s a nice problem to have some serious competition for the starting places.
Keep the Faith … and keep the Valium handy; the nerves are about to get tested big time.