Tuesday 26th September, 2017 at 11:16pm
Following a disappointing 3-0 loss to Motherwell at the Excelsior Stadium, Partick Thistle’s development side returned to league action with a trip to the SuperSeal Stadium to take on Hamilton Academicals. The Young Jags came into the game in 11th place and were looking for a second win of the new season.
Thistle started with a trialist in goals behind a back five, which is rather unfamiliar for Scott MacKenzie’s development side. Harry Granger, John Kelly and another trialist formed a three in central defence while Lee Duncanson and Ross Fleming started as the wing backs. In the midfield, Callum Wilson, Mark Lamont and Antony Eadie sat deep in behind James Stokes who played as something of a shadow striker alongside Kevin Nisbet.
The game was quite bitty early on and each team struggled to string passes together. Nonetheless, Thistle could very well have been ahead inside 15 minutes. Callum Wilson battled his way past marker on the Jags’ right flank and delivered a cross into the Accies’ area. His ball found James Stokes who then headed on goal, looking for the far corner. His effort is on target and finding the net but Hamilton ‘keeper, Alex Marshall, got a strong hand to it and tipped it wide.
The hosts went close for the first time in the 22nd minute. Callum Wilson upended Lewis Ferguson 20 yards from goal, giving the home side a great free-kick opportunity. Ross Cunningham stepped up for Hamilton and took a shot. His attempt got over the wall and dipped before it reached the goal but it didn’t dip enough. The ball came off the top of the bar and went over for a goalkick.
The rest of the first 45 consisted of half-chances with neither side working the ball well enough to create danger in the opposition 18-yard box. Ross Cunningham saw another free-kick clear the bar and Mark Lamont’s long-range effort was deflected wide but apart from those hopeful efforts, not much was created and the game went into the interval goalless.
Thistle’s play picked up early in the second half and they should have taken the lead three minutes into the second period. Kevin Nisbet broke in behind the Accies backline and held the ball up as he waited for support. That support arrived in the form of James Stokes and Nisbet slotted a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Stokes. He then had a clear shot on goal but when he let fly, the Accies ‘stopper. Marshall, made the save, turning the attempt past the post.
In the search of an opening goal, Scott MacKenzie made a double change in the 64th minute. Neil McLaughlin and Ian Stokes came on to replace James Stokes and Lee Duncanson.
Unfortunately for Thistle, Hamilton took the lead just three minutes after these changes. Ross Cunningham curled in a corner looping it over the ‘keeper. The ball landed on the head of Shaun Want and the defender simply nodded home to give the hosts the lead.
In the 71st minute, the Young Jags almost came up with a quick response. Kevin Nisbet latched onto a long ball over the Accies defence and this time instead of holding it up, he got his shot in. However, much like James Stokes’ chance earlier his shot was turned behind by the opposition goalkeeper.
Hamilton came close to doubling the deficit with 15 minutes to go. Substitute, Marc Kelly, got to the byline and lofted a cross into the danger area. The cross fell to Leon McCann who then squared the ball to Ross Cunningham. The number seven shot on goal but his attempt rifled back off the bar before eventually going out for a goalkick.
Just eight minutes after Accies went so close to a second, the Young Jags found their equaliser. Kevin Nisbet was fouled just outside the Hamilton box. The striker himself stepped up to take the set piece and with a low shot on the goalkeeper’s side, he found the net via the post. The goal brought the travelling Jags level and with seven minutes plus stoppage time to go, there was still plenty of time for either team to grab the winner.
After the leveller, Thistle were reinvigorated and grabbed another just two minutes later. The trialist in the Young Jags’ backline thumped the ball up field and Neil McLaughlin got on the end of the pass. He controlled at first with his chest before shooting low across goal, finding the bottom corner of the net. The goal was Neil’s eighth goal of the season in all competition and put his side in the driving seat at the SuperSeal.
Neil McLaughlin nearly went from Jags hero to villain when he gave the ball away on the byline in the 90th minute. He was dispossessed just outside the Thistle box and Hamilton worked the ball into the box. The ball was cut back to Lewis Ferguson who had found space in the away side’s area. Ferguson controlled and shot, aiming for the far corner, but his effort beat the post, sparing Neil McLaughlin’s blushes.
That would be the final action at the SuperSeal Stadium as Thistle ran out 2-1 winners after a dramatic final ten minutes. Goals from Kevin Nisbet and Neil McLaughlin earned the Jags their second league win of the season and represented their first Development League victory over Hamilton Accies since March 2015.
Scott MacKenzie and his squad now look towards next Tuesday’s Excelsior Stadium clash with Aberdeen. Kick-off is at 18:00 from Airdrie.