Tuesday 5th January, 2016 at 10:35am
Thistle’s development side returned to action after a week off due to a Christmas break and kicked off the 2016 schedule with an away fixture to Falkirk. The Falkirk Stadium had previously produced two games containing four goals, at Development League level, with a 4-0 success in August 2013 dampened by a 3-1 reverse in March 2015. Scott MacKenzie was hoping his side would show form similar to last year where the second half of the campaign produced some terrific play and results for the side.
MacKenzie made four changes to the side which had ended 2015 with defeat to Celtic, Scot Whiteside returned to his customary central defence slot with Frederic Frans moving back to first team squad. Ryan Edwards, currently in Qatar on International duty, was replaced by a fit again Dominic Docherty while Declan McDaid dropped out for returning loan player Chris Duggan. Christie Elliott made his first appearance of any sort since July replacing Gary Miller.
Thistle started the game with Elliott, Nisbet and Duggan all occupying advanced roles and the trio linked up well in the early stages of the game. Elliott, playing on the left hand side, slotted the ball to Penrice who fired over a tremendous cross which Docherty could only arrow just over the bar. Mere seconds later, it was Elliott’s turn to meet a cross, this time McInally’s, but his volley spun wide of goal.
Thistle were all over a weak Falkirk side in the opening stages of the match but couldn’t find their way through with last ditch defending proving the name of the game for Falkirk. Docherty managed to find space inside the penalty area and pick out the unmarked McCarthy, but he could only sclaff his shot wide of target.
Penrice was next to have an effort with a fizzing low shot well saved by Falkirk’s trialist goalkeeper. Duggan was played wide on the pitch and fired over a sensational cross to Nisbet, who seemed destined to score, but for a poor touch letting him down giving the Falkirk defence the opportunity to clear the ball. Thistle were having plenty of joy feeding the ball behind Falkirk’s defence and with 30 minutes gone it changed the game.
McCarthy was played through with just the goalkeeper to beat when he was fouled deep inside the Falkirk penalty area. Referee, Loraine Clark, awarded the penalty and sent Alan Maybury off for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Kevin Nisbet sent a low spot kick to the goalkeepers right, but an equally excellent save palmed the ball wide of goal.
The remainder of the first half became disjointed but Thistle still had a couple of efforts on target with Falkirk’s goalkeeper being pressed into several very good saves.
Thistle started the second half with a tactical change through Mark Lamont replacing Christie Elliott, Christie keen not to overdo his return from injury. The change meant Thistle moved to a 4-4-2 and the players originally struggled to adapt to the change in formation.
Indeed it was Falkirk who bagged the first goal of the game, Ryan Blair picked up the ball in space outside the box, no red and yellow jersey closed him down, and he drilled a low shot beyond Waters.
The concession of a goal seemed to waken Thistle from their slumber and there was an urgency in their play that previously was missing. The side got level with 15 minutes remaining when Penrice delivered a deep free kick into the box, it was flicked on before Andy McCarthy bundled the ball home at the back post despite the best efforts of the goalkeeper.
Thistle threw everybody forward looking for the killer second goal against a Falkirk side that were dead on their feet having played with ten men for so long. Duggan twice looked to have set up fellow Jags players but the Falkirk defence bravely held out until seven minutes from the end.
Penrice fired in an arrow of a cross which was met at the back post by Chris Duggan. Surrounded by defenders he slid the ball wide to McInally who fired over an excellent cross which was met by Neil McLaughlin at the back post. He fired the ball high into the net to give Thistle the lead.
McLaughlin could have added a third when he bulleted a header just past the post from a Penrice cross, but Thistle were able to see out the remaining time in style to record their first Development League win since November.
Next up for the Young Jags is a game against Hibernian at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium. Kick off on Tuesday 12th January is 6pm.