SPFL Development League
Tue 9 February, 2016. Kick Off: - 14:00
Victoria Park, Dingwall
Scott MacKenzie’s development squad travelled to Dingwall to face Ross County in the latest round of the Development League. The venue was the Highland Football Academy, scene of a dramatic injury time equaliser by Declan McDaid when the side faced Inverness Caledonian Thistle in December.
MacKenzie made three changes to the side which was hit with a late equaliser against Dundee at Broadwood last week. Antonio German and Gary Fraser dropped out to be replaced by Andrew McCarthy and Neil McLaughlin. There was also a return for Michael McMullin, free from suspension, with Scot Whiteside dropping to the substitute’s bench, meaning there was another opportunity for Edin Lynch to continue his fledgling Development League career in the centre of defence.
Thistle started the game brightly with Kevin Nisbet first to attempt to trouble the scoring charts with a lob which was just a little too high and cleared Foden’s crossbar.
Greg Morrison, who played as a lone striker for Ross County created most of the host’s early threat with a shot that was shepherded away from goal by Matthew McInally. Minutes later he glanced a header wide of goal from less than 10 yards out.
Marc Waters was the first goalkeeper to be tested when a Chris McLaughlin free kick had to be tipped over the bar from 35 yards, before the goalkeeper showed confidence to claim the ball from the resulting corner.
Morrison was proving to be a handful for Lynch and McMullin to handle and when he cut in after 25 minutes, his low effort appeared destined for the bottom corner of the goal. Fortunately for Thistle, however, it bounced off the base of the post and away to safety.
Dominic Docherty had a glorious opportunity just before half time when he was played in by Mark Lamont. The low drive from just inside the box had the County goalkeeper at full stretch to tip the ball around the post.
The second half began with Thistle imposing themselves on the game in strong fashion. Thistle’s attackers were having a battle with the County goalkeeper who had to produce a number of strong saves to keep County level but his efforts were in vain when Thistle bagged the game’s first goal with 57 minutes on the clock.
A couple of clever runs dragged County markers out of position as James Penrice got ready to deliver the ball into the box. This created the space for Kevin Nisbet, on his 50th Development League appearance to sweep the ball home at the near post.
No sooner had Thistle gone in front than they had relinquished the lead. A Chris McLaughlin free kick was nodded down inside the Thistle box and Greg Morrison was able to prod the ball home from six yards out, despite pressure from Edin Lynch.
The game was becoming open with play stretching from end to end. Mark Lamont was denied by a last ditch tackle after being played in by Neil McLaughlin. James Stokes, on as a substitute, was able to utilise his pace to break through the rear-guard of County, but he too was only able to force a save from Foden.
As the heavens opened, Ross County took the lead. McInally had done well to track the run of Tony Dingwall, but his back post cross found its way to Moffat at the back post. His cross was partially cleared by Edin Lynch who could only find the lurking Tony Dingwall who took one touch to control before finding the top corner with an excellent effort.
Thistle were frustrated at the concession of two poor goals and that began to show with some of the challenges they were making on the pitch. Dominic Docherty and Michael McMullin had efforts cleared off the line while Russell Dingwall pinged the top of Marc Waters crossbar with an effort from 20 yards.
Ross County could have wrapped the game up in the dying moments, but Marc Waters was equal to Blair Malcolms effort.
After three minutes of stoppage time, Thistle’s defeat was confirmed by the referee’s whistle and left Scott MacKenzie wondering, not for the first time this season, how his side hadn’t emerged with three points.
Next up for MacKenzie’s side is a game against Aberdeen. Kick off at Airdrie is 2pm next Tuesday.