SPFL Development League
Tue 22 March, 2016. Kick Off: - 14:00
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Thistle faced Hearts at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium looking to put the disappointment of the previous week’s thumping by Dunfermline behind them. Thistle had enjoyed success against the Edinburgh side earlier in the season with a terrific 6-2 victory at Ochilview Park. MacKenzie was hoping his side would be able to harness the spirit of that victory to get a fourth victory in a row against the Jambos.
With the Dunfermline performance fresh in his mind, MacKenzie made three changes to the starting line-up. Scot Whiteside was called up to the Northern Ireland under 19s allowing Michael McMullin the opportunity to slot in at centre defence reuniting his partnership with Edin Lynch. Antonio German was afforded a rare run out at the expense of Mark Lamont with the attacker looking to link up with the fit again Kevin Nisbet. Neil McLaughlin dropped to the bench.
Thistle had missed Kevin Nisbet in the defeat to Dunfermline and the striker showed within 30 seconds what he brings to MacKenzie’s young Jags. Hearts kicked the game off, but Thistle were quickly on the attack. Antonio German appeared destined to shoot when he picked up the ball just outside the box, but instead he cleverly fed Nisbet who fired a high powerful drive beyond the despairing keeper.
Thistle continued to attack and Docherty had the opportunity to double the lead after 9 minutes. Antonio German’s free kick from 25 yards was deflected into the path of the midfielder with the goalkeeper saving well with his legs. The ball bounced around the penalty area before David Wilson’s effort was comfortable for Mason.
Thistle were playing with a fluidity and passion not seen for a few weeks and Nisbet was posing a threat to Hearts everytime he picked up the ball. He, however, wasn’t involved in the Young Jags second goal of the day.
James Penrice delivered a crossfield ball which Matthew McInally did really well to keep in play. He cut the ball back to Andrew McCarthy who saw his effort well saved by the goalkeeper. As the ball bounced away from Mason, Docherty was charging in and slammed the ball home from close range to double Thistle’s lead.
It should have been 3-0 but McCarthy didn’t show enough belief in his header and glanced a fizzing Wilson cross wide of goal when he should really have hit the target.
Hearts were showing glimpses of what they were capable of but Cullen wasn’t seriously tested in the opening half hour, with a straightforward Beith free kick being his first taste of action. HE should really have been beaten a few minutes later, however, when Penrice failed to clear a Jones cross, only for Roy to fire high over the bar from six yards out.
Thistle were continuing to attack the Hearts goal at will but were unable to add the killer third goal that their play deserved.
As the second half began, Thistle were continuing the domination they showed in the first half. David Wilson was inches away from adding a third when he sent a bouncing ball towards goal from 8 yards out, taking the mildest of deflections to turn inches wide of goal. From a curling Docherty corner, Mason was grateful to see his effort loop wide of goal by a matter of inches.
Thistle were content with their two goal lead in the closing stages, allowing the Edinburgh side to have plenty of the ball in safe areas of the park. Dale Baxter came closest to scoring for Hearts but his header powered off Cullen’s bar and away to safety.
Connor Higgins was denied a first Development League goal when he was teed up by McLaughlin. Goalkeeper, Mason was more than equal to his effort with an acrobatic save.
There were few chances remaining the game as play went from end to end. Higgins managed to pinch the ball off a Hearts defender before powering to goal. Baur managed to recover sending the shot behind for another corner.
There would be no further scoring and Thistle emerged with a confident 2-0 win that should have been much, much more convincing.