SPFL Development League
Tue 10 November, 2015. Kick Off: - 18:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
Thistle’s development squad returned to Firhill after an absence of almost a month to play their latest Development League fixture against Dunfermline. This was a fixture that has previously had high elements of drama, along with goals, and tonight’s clash was to prove no different.
Scott MacKenzie made just a single change to the side which had drawn 3-3 with Kilmarnock last week with Gary Fraser returning to the first team fold, allowing Ethan Docherty to make his first start for the club. Dunfermline’s side was packed with players with first team experience in Josh Falkingham, David Hutton, Robbie Crawford and Shaun Rooney.
The game’s opening goal took only 60 seconds to arrive. Thistle conceded a free kick 25 yards from goal and Josh Falkingham managed to curl a low free kick past the despairing Waters and the Pars went a goal up.
Thistle were struggling in the early stages with the gusting wind around Firhill visibly causing them issues on the ball. They were fortunate they found themselves against an opponent who weren’t able to pounce on reckless midfield play. A half that had few chances ended with Michael McMullin appealing for a penalty after appearing to be bundled over inside the penalty area, but the referee waved away the appeals ushering Thistle to play on.
If the first half was a tame affair, the second half was anything but. It started with Dunfermline on the front foot and after Crossan had scampered away from the defence, Waters had to be alert to spin the ball away for a corner kick.
Thistle committed their first substitution after 54 minutes with the introduction of Andy McCarthy and it changed the game for the Young Jags. He brought a calmness and vision to the midfield that was previously lacking for the side.
Just before the hour mark, Thistle were level. McDaid managed to wriggle free from his marker and cut a powerful cross back from the bline. His cut back was met by Mark Lamont who guided the ball high into the net. There was a worried look on the youngsters face as he made the connection, but the ball collided with the roof of the net, rather than spiralling over the crossbar.
Thistle had played poorly for most of the game previously, but soon found themselves in front. The ball was played across the box, McInally won the ball and played it to the lurking McCarthy who found the corner of the net, with the aid of a slight deflection. Having been on the back foot for so long it was Thistle who led as the game entered its final 30 minutes.
A game that had been sizzling nicely, took a bit of a twist as the referee was forced to clamp down on some of the more industrious challenges going around the pitch, with a flurry of yellow cards being waved in the direction of players who strayed over the disciplinary line.
The game became increasingly stretched with both teams being denied goalscoring chances with last ditch blocks. Kevin Nisbet fired a free kick over the bar from the corner of the box, he will be ruing the fact he never at least hit the target. Dunfermline immediately went back on the attack and there looked tobe a strong shout for a penalty kick. The referee was unmoved, a decision the Pars did not agree with and Shaun Rooney’s protestations earned himself a second yellow card meaning Dunfermline had to navigate the closing 13 minutes with ten men.
Thistle were spreading the ball about with confidence, using the extra man to stretch Dunfermline and after Wilson played in Dominic Docherty the midfielder’s effort skimmed the goalkeepers far post and flashed agonisingly wide of goal.
The game was still wide open at this point and Dunfermline were proving to be a potent threat on the break. Spence was afforded far too much room at the edge of the box and Thistle were fortunate to see his excellent drive smash off the post and away to safety.
Within 30 seconds, the game was over as Thistle bagged a third. Nisbet showed great determination to latch onto a through ball. His cross for McMullin was met first time by the defender and, although the goalkeeper saved his first attempt, the rebound struck him on the chest and ended up in the back of the net.
Thistle recovered from a poor opening hour to clinch a well-deserved three points, but MacKenzie will be hoping the performances improve ahead of next week’s trip to face Hearts.