Friday 15th July, 2016 at 9:00pm
Thistle travelled to the Excelsior Stadium for their first competitive fixture of the 2016/17 season taking on League One Airdrieonians as the Betfred Cup group stages got underway. Despite the mid-July date, the weather wasn’t glorious sun shine as the rain tumbled down before kick off, with the poor weather contributing to a slick artificial surface.
Manager Alan Archibald didn’t have his injury issues to seek with a number of first team regulars missing the match. David Crawford, signed early on Friday went straight into the starting line up while Danny Devine and Ziggy Gordon also made their competitive debuts for the club.
Thistle got the game underway after a moments silence for the victims of the terror attacks in Nice yesterday and immediately went on the front foot. The high pressing game was forcing Airdrie into giving away the ball inside their half, but the Jags didn’t display a cutting edge in front of goal during the early period of the game. Ziggy Gordon looked to have picked out Steven Lawless with an excellent through ball but a vital Airdrie boot deflected the ball away to safety.
Airdrie had their first glimpse of goal in the 11th minute when a long free kick wasn’t dealt with in the Jags box, the defence eventually hacked clear after a couple of Diamonds attackers had fresh air kicks at the attempt on goal. As play surged down the other end, Doolan mis-timed his jump and couldn’t steer his header on target from 10 yards out.
Thistle were still demonstrating good play and the attacking players were having neat interplay without seriously testing the Airdrie goalkeeper. Sean Welsh was next to have an attempt but from 25 yards he fired high over the bar.
Airdrie weren’t posing a threat in the Thistle defence but from a long ball Andy Ryan forced a terrific one handed save from David Crawford with a powerful low effort. Ziggy Gordon managed to scoop the loose ball away from danger.
After 25 minutes, Thistle had the ball in the back of the net through Kris Doolan. The striker just strayed offside from Chris Erskine’s excellent through ball. It was Erskine who passed up the next Jags opportunity when, with just the goalkeeper to beat, he opted to head David Wilson’s cross into the turf rather than firing a left footed effort beyond the goalkeeper.
Despite all the possession, Thistle didn’t win a corner until the 42nd minute. McDaid’s delivery was met by Ziggy Gordon at the near post, but his header was off target. McDaid had the next opportunity, forcing a great save from the goalkeeper before Steven Lawless fired the rebound off the post.
With the game delicately poised at half time there was a feeling amongst the stands that a Thistle goal was only a matter of time.
Thistle started the second half strongly and won a corner in the first couple of minutes. McDaid again found a Jags head with his delivery but Lindsay’s header was cleared off the line. Chris Erskine sent the rebound high over the bar from 10 yards out.
Thistle continued to press and Erskine picked the pocket of a defender but was unable to find Kris Doolan with his chipped pass. Moments later, a similar combination produced the only goal of the game. A back pass from Iain Russell remained at the feet of his goalkeeper for far too long and he was rushed into a short pass to his defender. Chris Erskine closed down the defender, robbing him of the ball before McDaid instinctively played the ball into the path of Kris Doolan. He took a touch before guiding the ball into the corner of the net, beyond the reach of the despairing goalkeeper.
Azeez was introduced as a substitute and showed Thistle fans the first glimpse of his electrifying pace with a strong showing. He provided an instant outlet to hold up the ball as Thistle looked to hold on to the goal they so richly deserved.
Airdrie brought on a number of attackers to drag themselves level as they looked to grab a draw which would bring about a penalty shoot out, but despite a number of corners and set pieces, David Crawford never had a save to make.
Thistle were professional in their performance and saw out the remainder of the clean to secure a thoroughly merited 1-0 victory and get the Betfred Cup campaign off to a winning start. Next up in the group stages is a home fixture with Queen of the South, a tie Jags Season ticket holders will get in for free.