Tuesday 11th July, 2017 at 11:35pm
As the first game of the competitive season edges ever closer, the Partick Thistle squad are going through their final preparations for the weekend’s game against Livingston in the Betfred Cup. One such form of preparation was last night’s friendly fixture against Dumbarton.
Thistle fielded a weakened team with some players being rested having played twice last week down in England and some carrying injuries.
The Jags started with Ryan Scully in goals behind a back four of James Penrice, Adam Barton, Daniel Devine and Christie Elliott. Stuart Bannigan and Ryan Edwards played as deep-lying midfielders. Summer signing, Blair Spittal, started on the right flank with Steven Lawless on the left. Between those two was Neil McLaughlin who, after an outstanding goal scoring season in the Development League, was getting a chance in the first team. The sole striker was Kevin Nisbet.
The game started fairly slowly with Thistle enjoying a lot of possession in the early stages without being able to break down a resolute Dumbarton defence as the hosts got plenty of men behind the ball. Unfortunately for the Jags, the Sons proved that it’s the quality of possession that matters, not the quantity, as they took the lead 11 minutes in.
Adam Barton gave the ball away in the defensive third allowing Dumbarton a chance to score. Christian Nade took a shot but Ryan Scully was equal to it and parried to the feet of Christie Elliott. The Englishman then sloppily gave the ball away to the opposition allowing a cross to come into the box. The delivery found Nade and the forward made no mistake on the second time of asking, finishing powerfully past Scully.
The Jags almost produced a quick response when Stuart Bannigan went close in the 19th minute. Blair Spittal’s corner was half-cleared by Nade and the ball came to Bannigan. The no. 8 hit the ball first time and his attempt was on target, however, it was deflected behind by Grant Gallagher.
Thistle had another chance a minute short of the half hour mark. Ryan Edwards picked the ball up five yards outside the box and decided to go for goal from just outside the area. He shot low towards the far corner but Dumbarton ‘keeper, Scott Gallacher, got down to hold the effort.
That’s how things would stay going into the break. Thistle had been allowed the majority of possession by a well-structured Dumbarton side but the home side were making the most of what they had, creating a few decent chances on the break. Alan Archibald made two changes at the break, bringing on Kris Doolan and Chris Erskine for Neil McLaughlin and Blair Spittal.
It took just three minutes of the second half for the first opportunity of the second period to present itself. Sons wideman, Tom Walsh, was able to break in behind the Thistle backline creating a scoring chance. He tried to bend a low shot into the far corner but put his effort wide of the back stick.
Dumbarton would be made to rue that missed chance minutes later when the Jags brought the game back to level terms in the 53rd minute. Christie Elliott beat his man on the right flank, breaking into the box. He then picked out Kevin Nisbet in the middle who simply tapped home into the empty goal.
One of the match’s most memorable moments was the standing ovation Stuart Bannigan received upon his substitution in the 58th minute. The midfielder has been recovering from an injury that he picked up at Tynecastle in the first half of last year and was making his first start in front of the Thistle faithful for 15 months at the Dumbarton Football Stadium. The travelling fans showed their appreciation for the Thistle youth product as he continues his journey back to full fitness.
In the 67th minute, the Jags almost took the lead. Steven Lawless lifted a delicate pass into the path of Chris Erskine who suddenly found himself through on goal. The ex-Dundee United man tried to get a decent shot away but he was charged down well by the opposition goalkeeper and his attempt was turned behind.
Thistle came close once again in the 69th minute, this time from a set play. Steven Lawless and Kevin Nisbet stood over a free kick, five yards outside the box. Lawless ran over the ball, leaving it for Nisbet to strike. The goalscorer struck it well but he saw his effort ricochet off the bar and, with Kris Doolan unable to get to the rebound, the danger was cleared.
The Firhill side would have one last chance to go ahead when Kris Doolan broke through on goal with 11 minutes left. The Thistle centurion hit the ball on the bounce, directing an effort across goal. Unfortunately, Scott Gallacher was equal to it in the Dumbarton goal.
The wastefulness of the Jags in this second half would come back to haunt them as in the 82nd minute, the hosts netted a winner. A low cross from the right was unconvincingly dealt with by Ross Fleming and that allowed a Dumbarton trialist to steal the ball in the Thistle box. The Sons’ no. 15 then calmly slotted home from close range giving Dumbarton the win as Thistle were unable to muster up any chances in the closing stages.
Despite the defeat, there were a number of positives to take from the game. Stuart Bannigan managed to get another hour of football under his belt as we move towards the competitive season. A number of development squad players were brought on in the second half such as John Kelly, Callum Wilson, Harry Granger and Aidan Fitzpatrick. And of course, most importantly, no injuries were picked up.
So, now the Jags can look towards Saturday’s clash with Livi at the Tony Macaroni Arena as the Betfred Cup gets underway. Kick-off is at 15:00 in West Lothian.
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