SPFL Development League
Tue 15 March, 2016. Kick Off: - 13:00
Ainslie Park Stadium, Edinburgh.
Thistle travelled to Ainslie Park for the second time this season looking to take inspiration from their previous result at the ground; a terrific 4-2 defeat of Hibernian. Instead on a damp and drizzly day, Thistle turned in one of the poorest performances of the season to bring a run of two wins to a shuddering halt.
Scott MacKenzie made just a single change to the side which defeated Kilmarnock the previous week and it was to have a crucial bearing on the match. Kevin Nisbet, injured in the closed door friendly against FC Edmonton, was missing with his place being taken by David Wilson. Neil McLaughlin, who usually occupies an attacking midfield role, was thrust into the attacking duties.
Thistle started shakily and were fortunate not to be caught out in the opening seconds as David Hutton’s long goal kick scooped high into the sky almost allowing Thomas an opportunity through. It was an ominous sign of things to come.
Thistle won a string of corners but were unable to press home an advantage from any of their deliveries into the box before falling behind on the 15 minute mark. James Thomas was allowed acres of space on the edge of the Thistle penalty area and he was afforded the time required to pick his spot beyond the helpless Conor Cullen.
The loss of a goal sparked Thistle into life as they went on to dominate the remainder of the first half proceedings. Dominic Docherty was first to get a sight of goal when crisp one touch play between Thistle’s midfield presented Docherty with the chance 12 yards from goal. Sadly though, he was unable to give the move the finish it deserved and fired wide of target.
Thistle were providing a lot of support for Neil McLaughlin who, at times, looked a little unsure of what to do in a striker role he was unaccustomed too. After he had dropped deep to collect the ball, before firing David Wilson down the wing, the resulting cross flashed too far in front of Andrew McCarthy.
Again McLaughlin was the architect of a Thistle move, this time spraying the ball to McInally. An excellent cross should really have been turned home by Lamont but good defending ensured the Pars goal remained intact.
Andy McCarthy was the last to have an effort on goal, but his 25 yard effort was comfortable for the experienced David Hutton.
Thistle continued to have the better of things at the start of the second half and if Leyden had squared the ball inside the box, the Young Jags might have dragged themselves level. Instead he shot, only winning a corner and soon Thistle were two goals down.
Thistle were continually playing the ball out from defence in a bid to build attacks. A stray pass was pounced upon before Thomas was once again able to steer a low effort beyond Conor Cullen in the Thistle goal.
Thistle did get on the scoresheet just a few moments after falling further behind with McLaughlin curling a tremendous effort beyond the despairing Hutton from 20 yards out. Hoping that the goal would give his side a lift, Scott MacKenzie used his substitutes to freshen the game up but, instead, it was all Dunfermline from there on.
Brave defending had kept the Pars at bay, with crosses coming in from both flanks to trouble the Thistle defence. But with less than ten minutes to go, Thistle found themselves three goals to one down. Thomas hit an effort off the post of Conor Cullen, and Thistle simply could not clear the loose ball. Williamson cut the ball back to Horne who had a shot hit off Thomas before flying past Cullen to complete the Pars hit-man’s hattrick.
Thomas added his fourth of the game, the second time Thistle have been on the end of a single four goal haul in two seasons at Ainslie Park, when a cross was lofted in from the right. Cross dummied the ball allowing Thomas to run onto the bouncing ball and slot it home from six yards out.
Thistle had no response to the rampant Pars who kept the ball comfortably in the closing stages and even had the opportunity to add more goals to the scoresheet. Thankfully for Thistle, Cullen produced a couple of good saves to keep the deficit to just three games.
All in all, an afternoon best forgotten for Scott MacKenzie and his young side.