Sunday 4th July, 2021 at 12:41pm
Partick Thistle’s pre-season preparations continued as the Jags took on East Kilbride this afternoon at K-Park. Fresh off a friendly win over Kelty Hearts seven days prior, the Jags took on Kilby with the first competitive game of the new season looming.
There were four changes made to the side which started at New Central Park with Kevin Holt, Darren Brownlie, Kyle Turner and Shea Gordon being replaced by Ciaran McKenna, Tam O’Ware, Billy Owens and a trialist. Ian McCall named a very young bench for the game with a number of Thistle Weir Youth Academy players getting their first taste of a first team matchday.
The first opportunity of the game fell to the home side in the seventh minute as Gregg Wylde’s corner kick caused Thistle problems. His delivery was knocked down at the back post to Blair Richardson who took a swipe at the ball but failed to make a meaningful connection allowing the ball to be cleared.
The next bit of danger was created by Thistle as Ross Docherty fed the ball through to the trialist 20 yards from goal. Thistle’s number seven collected possession and quickly shifted onto his left side before firing goalwards with a shot that was only a yard or two wide.
Stevie Aitken’s Kilby offered a threat again after 19 minutes when Neil McLaughlin found some space in the Jags box. He latched on to a well-placed high ball and Jamie Sneddon had to be out quickly to smother the former Thistle man’s effort.
With 25 minutes on the clock it was the away side’s turn to attack again and Brian Graham came very close to breaking the deadlock. Ciaran McKenna’s pass to Ross MacIver was miscontrolled by the forward but it ricocheted into the path of Graham who after one touch, tried to force the ball home. The Kilby goalkeeper, Connor Brennan, was well-positioned though and managed to turn the shot away.
Thistle’s top scorer of last season wasn’t to be denied though and Graham found the back of the net just after the half hour mark. A brilliant flick-on at the half-way line by Ross MacIver got Ciaran McKenna moving into East Kilbride territory, however, when his pass to the trialist was half cleared it seemed the danger may be over. That wasn’t the case though as Brian Graham controlled the clearance admirably before skilfully moving onto his right foot and firing home into the far corner.
Chris Millar saw a volley fly high over the bar shortly thereafter before Connor Murray had a big chance to double the advantage. Brian Graham won the ball in the middle of the park and used an unorthodox outside of the foot pass the play Murray in. The number 17 strode towards goal and found the perfect angle for a left-footed shot but could only manage a fairly central shot which Brennan turned away without too much trouble.
With Monday’s friendly against Rangers in mind Thistle made four changes at half-time. Richard Foster, Steven Bell, Ross Docherty and goalscorer Brian Graham were all withdrawn with Kevin Holt, Matthew Doherty, Zander McKenzie and Gospel Ocholi being introduced.
East Kilbride pushed for an equaliser early in the second period and forced Jamie Sneddon into a save with 57 minutes on the clock. Cameron Elliott picked the ball up on the right wing and lifted a cross into the front post area where Craig Malcolm was waiting. The Kilby number nine looked to find the near bottom corner but Sneddon got down well to save before a wayward cross led to a goalkick.
Further changes meant more youthful faces on the pitch for Thistle with Mason McCready, Oliver Black, Ji Stevenson, Greg Harrower and a second trialist all entering the field of play in the final half hour.
One of the Jags’ other youngsters Billy Owens almost grabbed a second for the Maryhill men with 18 minutes left to play but his free kick came off the inside of the post and cruelly bounced across the face of goal without crossing the line.
Thistle were left ruing missed chances when Neil McLaughlin equalised for the hosts in the 81st minute. McLaughlin collected the ball in the away side’s box before jinking onto his right foot and finishing across goal, off the inside of the far post.
There was still time for another goal, however, and it was the Firhill side who got it through Gospel Ocholi. A sweeping pass by Zander McKenzie got the number 26 moving down the right flank and after using a swift stepover to evade Gregg Wylde, Ocholi forced the ball home at the near post.
The aforementioned home friendly against Rangers is next for the Jags before next weekend’s season opener against Dunfermline at Firhill in the Premier Sports Cup; the first of four group stage games for Ian McCall’s side.