It was a disappointing return to action or Thistle this afternoon at Blyth Spartans with the home side fully meriting their 2-0 victory. Indeed had Blyth not struck the frame of the Thistle goal on no fewer than three occasions during the course of the second half their winning margin could have been even greater.
It is important, of course, not to place too much emphasis on results in pre-season matches and the fact that Thistle made no fewer than 9 changes at half-time did contribute to what was at times a disjointed second half display. Even in acknowledging that fact manager Jackie McNamara wasn’t doing a good job in hiding his frustration when he spoke to ptfc.co.uk after the game;
“We’ve only just started and we saw today a big difference between the first half and the second half when the kids came into the team. We looked really disjoined in the second half and there is much to work on. Yes, it was hot today and the pitch wasn’t in great condition but it was exactly the same for Blyth and I’m a wee bit angry at the manner in which we lost the goals in the second half and at simple things that we did wrong.”
“You don’t gain much from simply breezing through pre-season but equally it is important to try and start well and build morale and we didn’t do that today.”
Perhaps surprisingly given that Blyth fully deserved their win, it was Thistle that actually started this game the better, winning a corner inside the first 60 seconds before Tommy Stewart, after being set up by strike partner Martin Grehan, tested the home keeper at his near post.
Thistle could, and perhaps should, have been in front in the 7th minute. The Blyth keeper could only half save a Chris Erskine shot but no Thistle player was alert, or sharp enough, to bundle the loose ball into the back of the net.
That was in truth Thistle’s best chance of the first 45 minutes. Indeed it was Spartans that had best two chances to open the scoring in the first half. Ryan Scully saving well at the feet of a Blyth striker and Iain Flannigan being forced to clear a net bound shot off the line.
Wholesale changes were made at the break and after Blyth had struck the post just four minutes after the restart the home side did finally take the lead in the 53rd minute through a well struck shot from outside the box from Vipond.
Blyth struck the frame of the Thistle goal again in the 66th minute when a header hit the bar before Thistle came close to levelling the scores through Kieran Burns. Burns, who missed virtually all of last season through injury, did well to control a cross field pass and was unlucky to see his shot turned round the post for a corner kick.
That was very much an isolated raid on the Blyth goal though and the hosts again struck the Thistle bar in the 73rd minute.
It was Thistle’s turn to hit woodwork 7 minutes later when Shaun Fraser’s effort thumped off the post and bounced clear.
It would have been debatable if Thistle would have deserved to draw level at this point and with 7 minutes of the game remaining Blyth secured their deserved win. Phil Cave converting a penalty following an infringement inside the box from Johnny Lindsay.
Team first half: Scully, Campbell, Trialist, Cairney, Kinniburgh, Archibald, Trialist, Erskine, Stewart, Flannigan, Grehan.
Team second half: Fox, Campbell, Trialist, Lochhead, Lindsay, MacBeth, Trialist, Flannigan (Erskine), Bannigan, Burns, Fraser.
The more observant among you will have noticed the absence of Kris Doolan and David Rowson from those list of names and the manager was able to provide us with an update on the reason for their absence.
“David’s toe nail has come off and Kris went over on his ankle the other day but neither injury is too bad.”
Finally, it would be remiss of us not to pay tribute to the quite magnificent travelling support this afternoon who made up a sizeable proportion of the 590 crowd. Equally we must take time out to thank all associated with Blyth Spartans Football Club for the warmth of the welcome they gave us. We wish them well and look forward to renewing our friendship with them in the future.