SPFL Development League
Mon 16 November, 2015. Kick Off: - 19:30
Ochilview Park, Larbert.
Thistle travelled to a wet and windy Ochilview Park in Larbert to take on Hearts in the latest fixture of the Development League season. Scott MacKenzie, once again, opted to make minimal changes to the starting line up as the side came into the game on the back of a 3-1 success against Dunfermline Athletic.
The return to fitness of James Penrice saw him resume his usual berth at left back, with Michael McMullin moving back to central defence, meaning 15 year old Edin Lynch dropped to the bench after two impressive performances in the two previous games. The other change came in midfield where Neil McLaughlin replaced Ethan Docherty.
Thistle started the game sharper, with several neat passing moves bring the game to a lively opening but it was Hearts who grabbed the first goal after six minutes. The ball was worked down the right hand side through a neat Hearts interchange with a low cross from Morrison being drilled home by Russell MacLean at the near post.
The early goal sparked Thistle into life and they immediately set at a fragile looking Hearts defence. McDaid and Penrice combined well on the left hand side but the cross was hooked away by the defence before a Thistle attacker could pounce.
Thistle were beginning to get on top in the game and an equaliser came after 20 minutes. A long ball from Whiteside was run onto by Declan McDaid. He hesitated his shot to allow himself a bit of space inside the penalty area, before finishing powerfully past the stranded goalkeeper.
Thistle took great confidence from the equaliser and continued to pound the Hearts goal, with the goalkeeper doing well from a long range effort by Declan McDaid. With just over half an hour played, Thistle took the lead. Nisbet flicked a through ball to McLaughlin who allowed the ball to roll across his body as he entered the box. With just the goalkeeper to beat he dinked the ball over his arms and into the unguarded net for an exquisite strike.
Thistle had a golden chance to make it three a few minutes later when David Wilson robbed a Hearts player and set up Dominic Docherty. With two players in support the midfielder slipped the ball to Nisbet who tested the goalkeeper with a powerful strike. Michael McMullin was unfortunate not to send the rebound into the net.
It was McMullin who netted the third when he guided home a McDaid corner into the back post and Thistle would take the two goal lead into the half time break.
Thistle came out for the second half, with the conditions strongly in Hearts favour, and had to weather an early storm from the team in Maroon. At stages, Marc Waters goal kicks were struggling to meet the halfway line and Thistle had to rely on smart passing to play their way out of danger from deep in their own half.
It was smart passing that led to a fourth Thistle goal. The ball initially appeared to be stuck in midfield just inside the Hearts half, but Matthew Mcinally kept the ball alive before it ended up with Dominic Docherty was able to chase onto a long ball and divert into the back of the net with the aid of a Hearts deflection.
Thistle were buoyant and with 20 minutes to go added a fifth. An excellent high cross found Nisbet inside the box and he was able to steer a powerful header into the far corner of the net. Nisbet added another to his tally when he beat the goalkeeper to a through ball, poking home from just inside the penalty area.
Thistle were rampant and keen to go forward on every occasion as they sought a seventh goal in the contest, causing the team to get a little stretched and concede fouls against Hearts counter attacks. From one of these free kicks Hearts grabbed a consolation when Leon Jones nodded home a free kick deep inside the box.
All in all, a satisfactory outcome for Scott MacKenzie and his men as they dealt with the tough conditions better than their Edinburgh opponents.
Next up for the Young Jags is a trip to Airdrie to entertain St Mirren.