Football: Queen'sdraw fans to palace

Queen's Park 1 Whelan 45 Forfar 1 Taylor 29 Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 818

THE TARTAN ARMY had the day off yesterday (with the exception of the task force in Sarajevo) in preparation for a nervous night in front of the television watching Craig Brown's team face Bosnia. In their place, standing guard at Hampden Park, were the Spartan Army.

Just 818 people were at the spiritual home of Scottish football to see Queen's Park confirm their status as leaders of the Scottish Third Division, leaving another 51,128 seats unfilled in this revamped stadium, which has been transformed from a rusting historical relic into a wonderful modern arena. The pounds 63m of public money which paid for Hampden's makeover means that the Glasgow club are no longer the sole owners of what was once the world's largest stadium (149,000 came here in 1937 to see Scotland play England). Queen's Park are now merely partners in the National Stadium plc, but no other amateur football club in Britain can boast of such a des res. Queen's Park moved back on to their beloved turf at the start of the season after three years playing at nearby Lesser Hampden. The spin-off from their return has been a surge in confidence and interest from supporters.

The 818-strong crowd represented a 50 per cent increase on the number last season who eschewed the attractions of the Old Firm to see John McCormack's team, who began the day as the only team in British football apart from Rangers to enjoy a 100 per cent record.

"I can't pay my players any bonus money [Queen's still cling to that amateur rule], but they have the bonus of playing at Hampden," McCormack said. "Going out here is a fantastic experience."

Treading on such a prestigious stage clearly motivates opponents too. Forfar, second in the table, played a neat passing game on the huge bowling- green surface, although there looked to be a suspicion of offside attached to Alex Taylor's 29th-minute goal, when the veteran Forfar midfielder turned in a raking shot from Ralph Brand.

However, Queen's Park have a robust edge to their game, and that dogged determination saw Johnny Whelan equalise seconds before half-time when he stole in to deliver a glancing header after Dennis Connaghan had lumped Tom Little's corner back into the box .

The same trio almost combined to fashion another goal in the 49th minute, but the Forfar goalkeeper, Stuart Garden, parried Whelan's shot to deny McCormack's team their fifth successive win.

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