Ahh, the life of a football supporter in Scotland's lower leagues. We've had everything this year, matches off for snow, matches off for frost, matches off for waterlogged pitches and, now, matches abandoned too! We are now carrying five games in hand and, dependent on progress in the Scottish Cup, possibly face more to come. Two games a week for the forseeable future then!
To be honest this match quite possibly should never have started, certainly the conditions when it was abandoned were not noticeably any worse than when it did start, and yet it's hard to see why it actually WAS called off. It was windy, but it's always windy in Arbroath and I've been there (and in Stranraer) and seen games played in higher winds many a time. It was cold but not freezing and, whilst the pitch was pretty solid looking, it wasn't frozen. It was lashing down with rain but the pitch certainly wasn't waterlogged and the ball was running freely with no problems. Players from both sides were having problems keeping their feet but that was more to do with a bad choice of footwear for the conditions (both John O'Neill and Jon Sunderland changed their boots during the time that was played). If there was any danger to the players it was more likely to be hypothermia from a combination of all the factors above. In these situations the referee (in this case Doug Somers) has a very difficult call to make but today it was all handled badly. Given that Mr Somers decided to start the game, it certainly wasn't much worse when he called a halt to proceedings. Even then, rather than simply make a decision and call a straight halt to the match, he left both sets of players shivering and running about to keep warm while he spent a good two minutes discussing something at the halfway line before waving them in. Once that was done an announcement was made that the game had simply been abandoned. No waiting for fifteen minutes to see if conditions improved or anything like that. Now, these are all part time players, one half of which had travelled a very long way to be there. All the supporters interested in the match were already in the ground so logistically it was going to be a nightmare. In fairness, the weather showed no sign at all of abating any but wouldn't it have been worth giving it quarter of an hour just to see? One was left with the distinct impression that Mr Somers was simply giving Arbroath time to organise stewards with vouchers for re-admission to the rearranged game before calling it off.
Anyway, on to the action that did take place and the first shock for regulars came when the team was announced and Colin Scott was in to make his debut in place of David Mathieson. Queens were not long in making their mark on the match though and scored in the first attack. It came after just two minutes and from the same source as last week's goal against Thistle. Paddy Atkinson received the ball out on the right touchline and knocked a long, low cross in towards Peter Weatherson. "Nelly" controlled the ball and slipped it through to John O'Neill who advanced and then lobbed Craig Wight from the edge of the box.
The early action was dominated by Queens and in the fifth minute Jon Sunderland made a good run down the right and swept in a dangerous looking cross which the goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt. In the tenth minute, Peter Weatherson was sent clear on goal and elected to shoot early from the edge of the box only to see his effort smothered by Wight and, in the seventeenth minute, Queens missed a gilt edged chance to increase their lead. It came from an Arbroath corner which was met and cleared by Andy Aitken. His clearance was seized upon by Jon Sunderland who beat one opponent and headed upfield from the edge of his own box, supported by a cavalry charge of Angel, Weatherson and Hawke, against just one defender. However, the move ended when Weatherson knocked the ball just too far in front of himself and Wight was able to parry his toe-ender. The rebound fell for Angel but his effort was deflected wide.
Just before this opportunity, Arbroath had their first decent effort of the match when a chip floated wide of the left post with Scott watching it pass by and, out of nothing, they equalised after 21 minutes. It came when Graham Connell seemed to stand off from making a challenge in midfield, giving time for the ball to be swept wide right to Jim Mercer. The lanky wideman looked up and unleashed a superb, if wind-assisted, drive into the corner of the Queen's net from all of 25 or 30 yards out.
After this however, the balance of power returned to Queens and Angel had a penalty claim turned down after 27 minutes. The "Red Lichties" made their first substitution after just 32 minutes and, within a minute, Queens came so close to retaking the lead. Des McKeown out on the left managed to find Peter Weatherson with a pass to the edge of the box and he slipped the ball further right to Jon Sunderland. Faced with a similar situation to the one John O'Neill had in the second minute, Sunderland tried the same tactic and lobbed the ball over Craig Wight. To be honest the ball looked to be heading well over the top but was caught by the wind and came down quickly onto the top of the crossbar before bouncing over.
That was about "all she wrote" before Mr Somers elected to abandon the game after 37 minutes.
Thanks to Ewan Lithgow for this weeks report.