Queen’s Park had previously seen football as a summer sport but now followed the English lead of regarding it as a winter game. However, as no one else in
appeared to be playing to the same rules, the future seemed fraught with
difficulty for Queen’s Park. Only one
fixture against another club could be arranged in 1871, with Queen’s beating
Granville by one goal and two touches to nil on Saturday 7 October. Six Queen’s Park men played for Granville.
Airdrie had challenged Queen’s Park to a match in June 1871 but withdrew their challenge when Queen’s insisted that the use of hands was prohibited.
In the fixture list in the North British Daily Mail in February 1872, a Queen’s Park v All Comers match appeared but it is unclear if the match took place. However, in the following month came one of the most important matches in the history of Scottish football – Wanderers v Queen’s Park in the FA Cup semi-final.
The match in November 1870 between
England and a
team of London-based “Scots” had been the second such fixture arranged by the
famous player and administrator Charles W Alcock. Following strong criticism of the composition
of the Scottish team, Alcock, who was captain of the English side, wrote to The Scotsman stating that he was ready
to accept a challenge on behalf of his club, the Wanderers FC, from the best
eleven of Scotland resident north of the Tweed to play a match somewhere in the
north of England “for any trophy of eleven badges, or any honoraria
commemorative of the match”.
In November 1871, Queen’s Park sent a challenge to the Wanderers to play club upon club upon equal terms. The players were to be all Englishmen on the one side and all Scotchmen on the other and the match was to be played as near the border as possible.
The challenge was accepted and consideration was given to finding a suitable venue. But, as it happened, Queen’s Park were drawn against the Wanderers in the semi-final of the inaugural FA Challenge Cup competition and the match was switched to
Queen's Park were one of 15 clubs to enter the inaugural FA Challenge Cup competition. Queen's were drawn at home to Donington School of Lincolnshire in the first round but both clubs were permitted to advance to the second round as they could not agree a venue for the tie. As it happened, they were then drawn together again in the second round. On this occasion, however, Donington School withdrew due to the prohibitive cost of travelling to Glasgow for the match. Queen's Park then received a bye in the third round and thereby progressed to the semi-finals without playing a match. In that semi-final, their opponents were Wanderers.
The rules of the competition stipulated that all games after the second round had to be played at the
ground, the Kennington Oval. The Wanderers v Queen's Park match
was arranged for Monday 4 March 1872. Admission was to be free.
Two of the Queen’s Park team chosen to face the Wanderers, James and Robert Smith, lived in the London area. The other nine left Glasgow on the Saturday evening by the East Coast Line and reached London at 9.40am on the Sunday morning.
Despite being clear underdogs, Queen’s Park gave a very creditable account of themselves against the Wanderers, particularly given that Donald Edmiston received a disabling injury soon after kick-off. The Scots players were much lighter than their opponents but showed great energy throughout. The Wanderers played well individually but collectively did not show up as well as Queen’s Park. Play was generally even over the 90 minutes and, although the Wanderers went close in the last ten minutes, the match finished in a scoreless draw. The Sportsman reported - "A proposition from the Wanderers to continue the game for another half-hour was not accepted."
The Queen’s Park team that faced Wanderers was, according to the Glasgow Herald, North British Daily Mail and The Sportsman, R Gardner (captain), R Edmiston, J Hepburn, W Ker, R Leckie, J Smith, R Smith, J Taylor, J A E Walker, D Wotherspoon and J B Weir. Richard Robinson gave the team as R Gardner; Joseph Taylor and Donald Edmiston; W Kerr and James Smith; D Wotherspoon, R Leckie, W McKinnon, R Smith, A Rhind, and W Gibb. Did Robinson have information that showed the team line-up in the newspaper reports to be incorrect? It seems very likely.
Reputedly, Queen’s Park had only £4 in the bank before travelling to
London. To wait in London for a replay against
Wanderers, and then possibly to have to return to the Oval after the other
semi-final between Royal Engineers and Crystal Palace had been settled, was
simply not possible. Queen’s had no
alternative but to scratch from the competition.
The match had generated a deal of interest back home and a number of new clubs sprang up in the Glasgow area. Queen’s Park were no longer virtually the only club playing to the Association rules and Scottish football, as we know it today, was up and running.
The Queen’s Park membership had been growing steadily and it was decided to set up a second team. The Second Thirteen played their first match in the Queen’s Park on Saturday 23 March 1872, beating Southern 2-0 with goals from Alex Rhind and William Keay.
Two more matches were played before the end of the new winter season. The first team met Granville in the Queen’s Park on Saturday 6 April “in the presence of a large turnout of spectators”. After an even first half, Queen’s dominated the second period but could not score and the match finished goalless. A week later, the Second Eleven (rather than thirteen) won 1-0 away to
Kilbride. The pitch was
described in the North British Daily Mail
as “very rough and uneven, and rather short and narrow for the game. Instead of eight, the goal was rather under
five yards wide – very advantageous for defensive play.” The goal came from goalkeeper James Thomson,
who was moved forward in the second half.
07/10/1871 Queen’s Park 1 goal and 2 touches Granville 0
04/03/1872 Wanderers (London) 0 Queen’s Park 0 (FA Cup semi-final)
06/04/1872 Queen’s Park 0 Granville 0
23/03/1872 Second QP 2 Southern 013/04/1872