Queen’s Park manager Owen Coyle is convinced his side can knock Partick Thistle out of the cinch Premiership play-offs despite being on the wrong end of another high-scoring thriller.
The Spiders fought back to level the tie at Firhill with two goals in the last seven minutes of normal time but Brian Graham scored deep into stoppage time to earn the Jags a 4-3 quarter-final first-leg victory.
Queen’s were two down to goals from Kyle Turner and Jack McMillan inside 28 minutes but Dom Thomas netted the first of two spectacular strikes.
Aidan Fitzpatrick restored Thistle’s two-goal cushion after a slack back-pass but Marcel Boateng’s deflected strike was soon followed by an even better solo effort from Thomas.
However, a late blow consigned the Spiders to a sixth defeat in eight games and came four days after a 5-3 defeat by Dundee in the Championship title decider.
Coyle, whose side host Thistle at temporary home Ochilview on Friday, said: “What I do know from what I have seen, is that we can win the game on Friday night.
“What we need to do, and it’s very clear, we need to defend better because if we do we can score. We know we can score goals.
“We will take the kick in the teeth to lose the game in the seventh minute of added time when there was three minutes of time added on.
“What I do know is people must certainly enjoy watching us play because we play to win games, and that won’t change, we are trying to build a team that’s pleasing on the eye.
“But we want to be winning at the same time, but we need to defend better as well as having that flair going forward.”
Thistle manager Kris Doolan felt a mistake by referee Kevin Clancy changed the course of the game but he praised his players for their character.
Turner appeared to be fouled by Marcel Oakley just before the ball broke for Boateng 25 yards out.
Doolan said: “There was a clear foul on Kyle Turner just before their second goal, I can’t believe it wasn’t given. The referee was five yards away, it wasn’t a difficult one.
“They get a goal and they get back in the game and feel they have the impetus. Dom Thomas has real quality, we know that, but the second goal was the real catalyst for them. At 3-1 down they are almost out the game.
“We have to tighten up a wee bit, we don’t want to be giving away three goals, but to score four, and a last-minute winner, it shows the character.
“I think it gives us even more confidence. We can see across the 97 minutes we have the fitness, the stamina, the desire to keep going, and the mentality as well. We kept that mental strength all the way to the end and in the play-offs the mentality is massive.
“There is a real togetherness among us anyway and I feel that galvanises us as well.”