Persistence paid off for Queen’s Park as the Championship title hopefuls moved five points clear at the league summit.

Cove Rangers more than played their part in a tight Friday night tussle at Ochilview, but were eventually made to pay for not taking their chances. Defender Morgyn Neill’s goal proved decisive on the night – it just happened to be at the wrong end of the pitch.

Spiders manager Owen Coyle pumped his fist at the home fans as he celebrated victory at the end – he’ll be fully aware just how important this result could be for his side.

Here are three talking points from Ochilview.

Pivotal moment for Queen’s?

Some of their football is impressively slick and sharp, but at this stage of a title race it’s all about being able to grind out victories. Freezing Friday nights against a Cove side middling around the bottom end of the table may not be the most glamorous of outings, but are massively important in getting over the line.

As time ticked away, there was growing anxiety around Ochilview that route to goal might just elude them. There was, of course, an element of fortune about the winner, but Coyle will insist that his team made their own luck in continuing to chip away at Cove’s stout resistance.

Victory gives the Spiders some breathing space from Dundee in what will be a fraught sprint to the flag over these next weeks and months. Crucially, too, it just cranks up the heat that bit further on their Dens Park rivals.

Chances galore

These two sides have vastly different priorities, but both can justifiably stake a claim to have taken something here, based on chances created. Mind you, when you’re challenging at the top end, these occasions tend to fall in your favour a tad more than if you’re toiling at the bottom of the pile.

Stephen Eze looked certain to head home from a Queen’s Park corner, but the ball somehow fizzed past his head at the crucial moment. He did connect with the next one, but found the palms of Cove keeper Scott Fox in his way, and Malachi Boateng could only turn the rebound over the bar.

Boateng is one of a few impressive technicians in the Queen’s midfield, but it was Jack Thomson who cut Cove open with a searching ball in behind from deep. Connor Shields’ touch and turn was impressive, but he could only shoot wide of the target. Thomson then had a penalty shout turned down in the box, and the unmistakable sound of boot on shinpad, clearly heard even from afar, suggested he had a case.

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Cove had offered little until former Spider Luis Longstaff released Leighton McIntosh in behind, but he shot straight into the body of keeper Callum Ferrie. Longstaff and McIntosh combined again minutes later, but this time the latter’s header clipped the post.

After the interval, Jackson Longridge whipped in for McIntosh to hit the woodwork again, his header crashing against the bar. At the other end, neat interplay eventually fashioned Shields half a yard in the box, only for the striker to be denied by Fox’s diving save.

It was beginning to feel like we were destined for a stalemate. However, the old ‘mistake or moment of magic’ cliché provides hope right until the last second and, unfortunately for Neill, the former harshly rang true for him. He tried his utmost to get in the way of a low cross from the left, but succeeded only in finding his own net.

Sore one for Cove

The last time these teams met, Cove found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-0 battering. By contrast, they were very much in this contest for its entirety, although that will provide little comfort as they make the long journey back north with nothing to show for it.

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Hartley and his players will several hours on a bus to mull over the succession of opportunities that just didn’t fall in their favour, as well as the match-winning misfortune that ultimately handed Queen’s victory. Defeat means they, Hamilton and Arbroath remain inextricably linked at the foot of the league table.

If they are to survive, away to the league leaders is perhaps not where they’re expected to pick up the necessary points, but the way this defeat panned out will sting for a while yet.