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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle U20 v Hearts U20 – 18th October 2016

After a 1-0 success against Celtic ten days ago, Partick Thistle’s development squad had a week off due to the odd number of teams in the Development League and therefore had an extended amount of time to prepare for tonight’s clash with Hearts at the Excelsior Stadium.

It was a much changed side from the one that defeated Celtic previously. 5 changes were made with Stuckmann, Fraser, Welsh, Nisbet and David Wilson all dropping out of the squad. Neil McLaughlin, Dominic Docherty, Callum Wilson, Andrew McCarthy and Conor Cullen replaced them in the starting line-up.

Thistle got things underway and it didn’t take long for the action to start. Almost straight from kick-off Neil McLaughlin played a ball in behind the opposition defenders finding Declan McDaid who crossed it to the back post where Mark Lamont was waiting. He caught the ball as it bounced up off the ground and found the back of the net with ease. On one of the occasions where the young Jags met Hearts last season, it took 29 seconds for Kevin Nisbet to open the scoring. Tonight, the goal came after just 20 seconds.

Thistle were dominating the proceedings early on with the midfield showing their maturity as they flowed between positions with ease. Neil McLaughlin was the next Thistle player to have a chance. He picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and hit a shot but the attempt flew into the stands behind the goal.

In the 11th minute, Dominic Docherty went close after he was laid off by Andrew McCarthy. He smacked a right-footed shot towards goal but it was always curving the wrong side of the post.

Hearts were struggling to create any chances for themselves with Scott MacKenzie’s team pressing extremely well and the lead was almost doubled 26 minutes in. Declan McDaid and James Penrice produced some exquisite link-up play near the corner and as a result Penrice had a chance to put a ball into the danger area. He picked out Dominic Docherty but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down and missed the target from ten yards.

With 12 minutes remaining until the interval, Neil McLaughlin latched on to an over-the-top through ball and managed to muster up a decent shot but his attempt flashed wide of the far post, not really troubling Mason in the Hearts goal.

Six minutes before the break, the Jags were able to score a second. An in swinging corner from James Penrice found the head of David Syme who flicked it on in the direction of the back stick where Neil McLaughlin was waiting to pounce and he was able to simply tap the ball home to double the deficit and score his first development league goal this season.

At half-time it was a two-goal lead that was very much deserved for the boys in red and yellow. Hearts were second best in most aspects and all the good chances had fallen to the Jags. The Jambos were being completely overrun in the midfield by a strong set of players on the Thistle side.

The away side made two changes at the interval in an attempt to change their fortunes. Hearts kicked off for the second period and came close to replicating the opening to the first-half. The ball was fed into Hearts striker Russell McLean and he managed to get goal side of his man. He hit a low shot across goal but Conor Cullen was able to stop the shot.

Seven minutes after the restart, Neil McLaughlin had a chance to put the game to bed when he was played in on goal by Declan McDaid. He ran through into the box and shot towards goal with his left-foot but the shot only found the side netting from a difficult angle.

The Jags suffered an injury blow in the 59th minute when skipper Michael McMullin was forced off due to an injury. He was replaced by Ross Fleming.

Thistle remained on top despite the disruption and were still the team with the lion’s share of opportunities. James Penrice saw his free kick from 25 yards curl just wide of the post and McLaughlin failed to capitalise on another decent chance as his one-on-one was saved by the feet of Kelby Mason.

Conor Cullen was finally forced into another save in the 67th minute when a free kick from Andy Irving was heading for the goal. Cullen was able to catch it easily as Hearts failed to trouble the ‘stopper.

Declan McDaid had a golden opportunity to extend the lead as the game entered the final 15 minutes. He was slotted in by Dominic Docherty and was able to use his pace to burst clear of his marker but as he set himself for the shot, he telegraphed where he was aiming and Mason got down low to his right to stop the shot.

The missed chances looked like they might come back to haunt the Thistle youngsters when the Jambos pulled a goal back with just under ten minutes to go. A corner came in and was partially cleared by the Jags’ defence. The ball dropped to the edge of the box where Andy Irving was waiting and he hit a shot towards goal. It flew through a crowd of bodies and looked like it may have taken a nick off a defending player’s boot. As a result, Conor Cullen was rooted to the spot and helpless as his clean sheet disappeared into thin air and thanks to the goal, the closing stages became a lot nervier for Scott MacKenzie’s team.

With just a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, a scramble ensued inside the Thistle box with a group of players all vying for possession. In the middle of the madness Hearts substitute Alistair Roy went down looking for a penalty kick. The referee blew his whistle and just as it looked as if he was going to award a penalty, he brandished a yellow card and booked Roy for simulation.

The late pressure would be alleviated, however. The player who opened the night’s scoring, Mark Lamont, was played down the right flank. The midfielder spotted his teammate Neil McLaughlin at the back post and curled an excellent ball towards him. As the ball flew his way, McLaughlin had to make a split second decision on whether to take the ball down, volley it or attempt a header. He went for the latter and directed the ball back across goal finding the bottom corner, grabbing his second and the team’s third of the night.

That’s how the game would finish. 3-1 to the Jags, securing a fifth consecutive development league victory over the Jambos. No clean sheet but plenty of positives to take. Excellent chance creation and passing play meant that Thistle were able to dominate for most of the match and had the players been slightly more clinical, it could have been 5-0 by half-time.

The midfielders were the stars of the show, specifically Mark Lamont, Neil McLaughlin and Callum Wilson who were integral in Thistle’s control of the game.

The development squad’s next game comes against Dundee away on Monday 24th October with kick-off at 18:00 at Links Park in Montrose.

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