Wednesday 11th October, 2017 at 11:07am
After two successive victories against Hamilton and Aberdeen in the development league, the Partick Thistle development side looked for their first run of three wins in a row since this time last year. The opponents were a struggling Kilmarnock side and the venue was Rugby Park.
Following a couple of matches using a three centre-half set-up, Scott MacKenzie reverted to a back four for the clash. Jamie Sneddon returned to the starting 11 in goals replacing the trialist who played in nets last week. Said trialist actually signed with the Jags and Jamie Stevenson was the substitute goalkeeper this evening.
The back four comprised of Lee Duncanson, a trialist, John Kelly and Ross Fleming. Callum Wilson and Mark Lamont sat at the base of the midfield while Aidan Fitzpatrick, Neil McLaughlin, Connor Higgins and Kevin Nisbet formed a front four that remained positionally fluid for the duration of the game.
The young Jags started sharply and had a great chance within a minute of kick-off. A speedy one-two between Connor Higgins and Kevin Nisbet meant the latter was through on goal. Nisbet took his time but did get his shot away, however, his low drive was saved by the legs of Curtis Lyle in the Killie goal.
Thistle were the more creative of the two sides in the opening stages and almost scored again in the 14th minute through Connor Higgins. Callum Wilson fed the ball to the number ten, between Kilmarnock’s centre-halves, and Higgins had a chance to stride into the box. He instead decided to shoot from range but could only sting the palms of Curtis Lyle who turned Higgins’ powerful effort away from goal.
The visitors continued to look dangerous; creating three half chances between the 20th minute and the half hour mark. Neil McLaughlin had one shot saved and saw one go the wrong side of the post as he looked to add to his impressive tally from the start of the new season. Kevin Nisbet also had an opportunity but his tame shot from 20 yards was collected easily by Curtis Lyle.
Jamie Sneddon was forced into his first serious save of the game in the 35th minute. An excellent Killie cut back found the late run of Josh Jeffries. The hosts’ number eight then shot high on goal but Sneddon was able to turn the attempt over the bar.
After the home side’s first big chance of the game, the away team should have taken the lead. With four minutes left of the first half, Neil McLaughlin lifted an excellent ball into Kevin Nisbet’s path, delicately picking out his strike partner who was now in on goal. It looked like it was going to be a bread and butter Kevin Nisbet goal but the ex-Ayr United loanee blazed his shot over the bar.
Nisbet did make amends though, when he opened the scoring in the 44th minute. A cross from the Thistle right found its way to Ross Fleming on the Jags’ left. He then slotted a low ball back into the danger zone, finding Neil McLaughlin. Neil’s first touch let him down but the loose ball fell to Kevin Nisbet who poked home from a matter of yards, making it 1-0 to the travelling Jags.
The game went into half-time at 1-0 and with the Jags in the lead, and Scott MacKenzie looking for more of the same after the break – few Killie chances afforded and plenty created.
Thistle began the second period well just as they had the first. In the 52nd minute Curtis Lyle had to turn Ross Fleming’s near post shot behind and he was forced into action again in the 57tb minute when he turned an Aidan Fitzpatrick attempt past his left-hand post.
The young Jags had a golden opportunity to double the deficit through Neil McLaughlin in the 67th minute. Mark Lamont launched a deep free-kick into the Killie box from just inside the attacking half and picked out Kevin Nisbet. Nisbet then headed the ball across goal to McLaughlin who just had to tap it home to make it two but he horribly misjudged it and saw his poor attempt bobble wide. Thistle made a double substitution after this chance with Connor Higgins and Aidan Fitzpatrick being replaced by James Stokes and another trialist.
After missing that glorious opportunity, just as Kevin Nisbet did in the first half, Neil McLaughlin redeemed himself with a goal. A free-kick was whipped into the box and a collision involving Neil McLaughlin and McLevy of Kilmarnock led the referee to point to the spot. McLaughlin then stepped up to take the kick and slotted coolly past Curtis Lyle to extend his side’s lead to two goals.
Kevin Nisbet had his fourth huge opportunity of the night in the 86th minute. The striker cunningly intercepted a Killie throw-in and stole the ball, breaking into the opposition half with no defenders to beat. He delayed and delayed the shot before shooting when the ‘keeper made a move but the attacker’s low finish went wide of the post and the score stayed at two.
The game ended with the young Jags running out 2-0 victors in Ayrshire, collecting a third win on the bounce. The win moved Thistle into fourth place.
Scott MacKenzie’s development squad now look towards a meeting with Edinburgh side, Hibernian, next Tuesday. Kick-off is 18:00 from the Excelsior Stadium.