Tuesday 26th January, 2016 at 10:34am
Scott MacKenzie’s development side travelled to New Douglas Park to take on an Accies side who are flying high in the Development League. MacKenzie was looking for his side to improve defensively having shipped five goals to Hibernian two weeks ago in a 5-3 thriller at Airdrie.
His cause for improvement was hampered by the unavailability of the majority of his development squad regulars, who were in Turkey on a Weir Academy mid-season training camp. First team weekend substitutes, David Wilson, Jordan Leyden, James Penrice and Kevin Nisbet all started with under 17s players Edin Lynch and Paul Smith both starting for Thistle. There was even room for twins in Thistle’s side with Ian and James Stokes both starting a game for the first occasion.
At a blustery New Douglas Park both sides took a while to get into their stride with both defences proving resolute in their bid to keep clean sheets in the opening stages. The wind wasn’t helping conditions and on a couple of occasions crosses flew behind for a goal kick with plenty of attacking players inside the penalty area.
The game’s first goal did arrive after 18 minutes and it was an incredibly preventable one from a Thistle point of view. Michael McMullin delayed a pass to David Wilson for too long, putting the midfielder under pressure from on rushing Accies attackers. He conceded a foul 30 yards from goal which Jesus Garcia Tena curled home with some aplomb.
Accies were buoyed by the early goal and were looking to double their advantage immediately but an excellent last ditch block from Lynch denied Morris after Redmond looked to pick out the attacker.
Thistle grabbed a quick leveller on the 23rd minute when Chris Duggan pounced on a loose Accies pass. He pressed deep into the Hamilton half, with David Wilson making a tremendous run and he was played inside the box. Wilson finished from an acute angle into the far corner of the net to bring the young Jags side level.
Hamilton had the better of the remainder of the first half with several last ditch blocks and tackles denying numerous Accies attacks, but with the half time whistle about to sound, the home side reclaimed the lead. A corner from Redmond went through to the back post and Tena powered a header beyond Scully to give Accies a 2-1 half time lead.
Thistle came out positively in the second half with James Stokes starting to come onto a good game. His pace caused Reilly in the Accies defence all sortfs of bother throughout the half and after 49 minutes, he was able to pick out Duggan having run 60 yards, but the striker was crowded out before he could fire an effort away.
Thistle managed to drag themselves level for a second time when an excellent team goal saw Nisbet finish well. James Stokes flicked the ball to Duggan who steered a powerful header in the direction of Kevin Nisbet. He held off his defender to fire powerfully beyond the goalkeeper and level the game up.
James Stokes was having a terrific time of it down the left hand side and after being brought down by Ben Reilly on several occasions, the fullback was eventually booked.
Thistle were on the ascendancy by now, knocking the ball around in the Accies half with lots of skill but the final ball prevented a Thistle attacker from troubling Martin in the Accies goal. Accies remained a threat on the break with several close to goalline clearances denying the home side.
Kevin Nisbet had an excellent chance to nab a third Thistle goal when he broke away from an Accies free kick but, despite having several options available, his pass was poor and the ball ended up in the arms of the goalkeeper.
Less than sixty seconds later there was high drama at New Douglas Park as the match swung in favour of Accies.
Accies had an effort cleared off the line by McMullin who scuffed his clearance away from goal. Ryan Scully picked the ball up seven yards from goal only for the referee, David Dickinson, to award an indirect kick for a pass back. It was an incredibly controversial decision and not one that Scott MacKenzie, or any of his players agreed with. Michael McMullin was booked for dissent before Ross Cunningham blasted home the free kick.
With the players heading back to the half way line, goalkeeper Ryan Scully was sent off for foul and abusive language. Marc Waters came into the action.
There was yet further controversy as the game entered it’s final stages. Thistle won a free kick on the edge of the box, but Wilson’s effort crashed into the wall. Nisbet won another free kick, after skipping past Reilly, but again the referee decided not to issue a second yellow card to the Accies defender. With seconds left on the clock Michael McMullin picked up a second yellow card for a poor challenge on Mandiangu and Thistle saw out the remaining injury time with nine men.
There will be a grave sense of injustice about the way Thistle lost this fixture, but positives should be taken that a young side matched up well against an Accies team that had over 140 first team appearances amongst them.
Next week Scott MacKenzie’s side host Dundee at a time and venue to be confirmed.