Wednesday 15th March, 2017 at 10:20am
Following a 3-0 victory over Dundee last Tuesday, the Partick Thistle development side returned to action against third place Motherwell at the Excelsior Stadium as the Young Jags looked to make it back-to-back wins. The last time these teams met was in the SFA Youth Cup when Motherwell came out 4-3 victors thanks to an 86th minute winner from Dylan Mackin.
It was the same starting line-up that began the game against Dundee last Tuesday with Connor Cullen in goal behind a back five of Lee Duncanson, Ross Fleming, Edin Lynch, Ian Stokes and John Kelly. Andrew McCarthy, Dominic Docherty and Mark Lamont created a midfield three with Lamont being the most advanced of the trio. Neil McLaughlin and Kevin Nisbet started up front.
There was no time to breathe as the game began with the match getting off to a speedy start. Within six minutes, Motherwell were able to take the lead. A deep cross from the left hand side found Jacob Blyth and the big man directed a looping header towards goal. As Cullen tried to get something on the ball it seemed to move in the air and dropped into the net as the Thistle custodian collided with the upright.
Despite this early setback, the young Jags were not deterred as they equalised two minutes later. The instant response came through Neil McLaughlin. Mark Lamont curled a free-kick into the box from the left which the ‘Well defence failed to clear. The ball then dropped to Neil McLaughlin who took a touch before rifling home.
The early scoring continued as things stayed level for the same amount of time that Motherwell were ahead. The goal came through McLaughlin once again. The move can be sourced back to some strong hold-up play by Kevin Nisbet on the half-way line before he passed it to Dominic Docherty who was bursting forward. Docherty then fed the ball to Neil McLaughlin who used quick feet to create some space away from his marker. The forward then cleverly slotted the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper, into the far corner.
Now that Thistle had the lead, they would be looking to hold onto it for longer than their opponents did and they were able to, but not by much. Shea Gordon was the man who netted the ‘Well equaliser in the 14th minute and it was another headed goal. Thomas Fry whipped a cross in from the right-hand side and found Gordon who headed low into the bottom corner making it 2-2 within 15 minutes.
The game then settled down a bit and it was a whopping eight minutes until we saw another goal. Once again, Mark Lamont was at the centre of things. Lamont was given the ball and had a chance to run at the last man. As he approached the 18-yard box he had options to both his left and his right but the midfielder opted to shoot. His curled attempt rebounded off the post but fortunately for Lamont landed at the feet of Andrew McCarthy who simply tapped home into an open net.
In the 26th minute, Motherwell were claiming for a penalty that would have given the ‘Well a golden opportunity to equalise. A high ball was floated in the direction of Jacob Blyth who went down after feeling some contact from Edin Lynch behind him, however, the referee waved play on despite plenty of claims form the boys in claret and amber.
With seven minutes of the first half left, Motherwell would have been looking to make it to the break just a goal behind. Unfortunately for the Steelmen, they weren’t able to and it was Dominic Docherty with the goal. The scorer of Thistle’s third, Andrew McCarthy, turned provider for their fourth as his right-footed cross found Docherty. The midfielder then cleverly headed back across goal into the bottom corner out of the goalkeeper’s reach.
Just as everyone thought that the first half’s scoring was over, Thistle had one goal left in them. With three minutes left in the opening period, Lee Duncanson was able to beat his man on the right flank and delivered an excellent ball into the box where Neil McLaughlin was waiting. The striker then half-volleyed into the back off the net with a first-time strike scoring his fourth hat-trick of the season in the process.
After the fifth Thistle goal, the referee would finally blow the half-time whistle, bringing an action-packed first 45 minutes to an end. Single goals from Dominic Docherty and Andrew McCarthy along with Neil McLaughlin’s first-half hat-trick meant the score was 5-2 at the interval. Scott MacKenzie could be pleased with the spirit of his team as they came back from going behind early and being pegged back to 2-2.
When the teams returned to the pitch, Thistle almost scored within a minute. After Joe Chalmers misjudged the bounce of the ball, Kevin Nisbet latched onto it and ran at the Motherwell backline. He managed to get a shot away which was pretty much straight at the ‘keeper but Oliver Pain made a hash of it and had to turn it behind for a corner.
Although on that occasion Nisbet was denied, he would get his goal. Neil McLaughlin fired a low pass into Nisbet’s feet. The striker controlled well before rushing past his man. Nisbet was then bearing down on goal and finished smartly across to make it 6-2. The sixth strike makes it the young Jags’ highest goal haul from a single league match this season.
With 64 minutes gone, Jacob Blyth almost pulled one back for the ‘Well when he nearly got on the end of a Livingstone cross from the left. The curled ball into the centre landed in front of the target man but, on the slide, he was unable to find the target.
Motherwell would pull one back through substitute Dylan Mackin. Jake Hastie found Mackin at the back post who was then able to nod home past Cullen to make the score 6-3.
In the 74th minute, the Jags almost scored through a substitute of their own, Callum Wilson. After some truly brilliant build-up play James Stokes reversed a ball into Wilson’s path. The midfielder got a toe to the ball but couldn’t lift it over the outrushing ‘keeper as the deficit remained at three goals.
In the final 15 minutes, Thistle saw the game out in a professional manner, allowing no real chances for the Motherwell side to get back in the game whatsoever and they were able to keep the score at 6-3 until full time.
After an action-packed first-half, the second period couldn’t quite live up to the high standards set before it. Two goals in the second half, one for each side left the score at 6-3. Overall, a great day for the young Jags, especially the attack. The star man was undoubtedly Neil McLaughlin who scored three first-half goals to claim his fourth hat-trick of the season.
Scott MacKenzie’s development side now turn their attentions to next Tuesday’s league clash with St. Mirren at the Excelsior Stadium once again, kick-off is at 18:00.