Sunday 28th October, 2018 at 10:50am
Today marked the first home game of Gary Caldwell’s reign as Partick Thistle manager with Ayr United providing the opposition in Maryhill. The Jags took on Ian McCall’s side for the third time this season with the previous two meetings finishing up as 2-0 win for the Honest Men.
Caldwell made three changes to the side which lost to Alloa in his first match in charge last Saturday. It was an unchanged rear-guard with Cammy Bell in goals behind a back four of Christie Elliott, Niall Keown, Sean McGinty and James Penrice. Stuart Bannigan sat just in front of the defence in what was a 4-1-4-1 formation with Blair Spittal and Craig Slater acting as the more advanced central midfielders. Miles Storey and Andréa Mbuyi-Mutombo were on either wing as Jai Quitongo deputised for the injured Kris Doolan making his first Thistle start in the process.
On the bench for the Jags were Jamie Sneddon, Max Melbourne, Andrew McCarthy, Jack Storer, Brice Ntambwe, Chris Erskine and Souleymane Coulibaly.
The first big chance of the game came for the visitors and it fell to ex-Jag, Jamie Adams after six minutes. A Declan McDaid corner was half-cleared as far as Andy Murdoch and the ex-Morton man headed it back into the Thistle box. The looping ball then feel to the Ayr skipper, Adams who tried to meet it as it dropped. The number 16 failed to get a strong contact though and his effort was saved low by Cammy Bell.
Then in the ninth minute, the hosts had an opportunity of their own. A quick throw-in by James Penrice presented him with a chance to cross into the box and he found the late run of Blair Spittal with his delivery. Spittal tried to meet the ball with a volley but, like Adams earlier, his contact with the ball was insufficient to really threaten the goal and Ayr ‘keeper, Ross Doohan collected easily.
The first Thistle shot on target of the match arrived after 15 minutes as Christie Elliott charged forward to test Ross Doohan. The right back was fed the ball by Blair Spittal after a slack pass by visiting defender, Michael Rose and he skipped forward before unleashing a left-footed effort towards goal. His shot forced a save from Ross Doohan who was unable to hold, however, the man whose mistake spawned the attack, Michael Rose, was on hand to clear the dangerous loose ball.
The home side had another decent opportunity on 26 minutes as Jai Quitongo had his first sight of goal on the day. Miles Storey started the attack by playing the ball out wide to the advanced Christie Elliott who then bent a teasing delivery into the Ayr box. It was Quitongo who got his head to the cross but his glancing effort skewed just wide of the far post.
After those Jags chances, Ayr were back on the attack in the 38th minute when Craig Moore went close to his third goal of the season. The opening was found by an organised Ayr free-kick where Andy Geggan’s deep diagonal found Jamie Adams who proceeded to knock the ball down to Craig Moore. The number nine then controlled on his thigh before rifling a left-footed attempt on goal, however, the man who bagged 29 goals last season lashed this one over from no more than ten yards.
It was the hosts who created the first half’s final chance with Jai Quitongo once again looking to find the back of the net for the second time as a Jag. A sharp turnover of possession allowed Stuart Bannigan to spread play to Andréa Mbuyi-Mutombo who was occupying the left flank. The DR Congo international then cut onto his right foot and fired a pass into the feet of Jai Quitongo. Jai then took one touch before shooting on the turn. Unfortunately for the number 33 his spinning shot was not an accurate one as it flew a few yards wide of the mark.
So, the game was goalless at the interval and both teams had shown attacking intent without that crucial first goal coming. For the Jags, the defence had dealt with the threat of Lawrence Shankland and Craig Moore well from open play while set pieces had looked like a decent route to goal for the Honest Men.
Going into the second 45 minutes, Ayr started full of energy and had the ball in the back of the net in the 48th minute. Declan McDaid whipped a free kick into the box and that delivery caused a scramble just yards from the Jags goal. Lawrence Shankland managed to direct the ball goalwards but Cammy Bell was able to save at close range. Jamie Adams followed in and knocked the ball into the net before wheeling off in celebration, however, the assistant’s flag was raised and the goal was chalked off.
The Jags were able to respond with a big chance of their own when Blair Spittal once again had a chance in the Ayr box. This time it was Jai Quitongo creating the opening as he latched onto Miles Storey’s forward pass and hit a quick pass across the box. Spittal was the man making the late run but, on the stretch, he failed to make sufficient contact and could only put it wide of the goal.
Gary Caldwell then made two changes in his search of the opening goal with Chris Erskine and Souleymane Coulibaly coming on for Andréa Mbuyi-Mutombo and Jai Quitongo respectively.
Even after these changes, Thistle were struggling to create clear cut chances and it was the away side who went very close on 76 minutes. A long ball into the Thistle 18-yard area was met by Sean McGinty but his header only took the ball into Lawrence Shankland’s path. The Championship’s second top scorer then tried to lift the ball over Cammy Bell but his lofted effort came back off the bar. Craig Moore then followed in, however, he saw a header cleared off the line by Christie Elliott before Niall Keown scrambled the ball behind for a corner to give the hosts some breathing space.
Unfortunately for Thistle, that respite was very temporary as the Honest Men would find the back of the net with the resultant corner. Declan McDaid’s delivery found the head of Michael Rose and the centre-half nodded a well met effort towards the top corner. Cammy Bell got a glove to it but could only deflect it onto the underside of the bar, from where it ricocheted down over the line, giving Ayr United the lead.
The Jags management then sharply made their third and final change as Jack Storer was brought on for Stuart Bannigan with Storer making his first appearance for a month and a half.
Thistle had two half-chances to equalise in the closing exchanges with the first coming through substitute Souleymane Coulibaly. The Ivorian youth international was fed the ball in the Ayr box and he shifted before trying to catch Ross Doohan out at his front post, however, the shot flew just over the bar and into the John Lambie Stand.
The second chance came from a free-kick as Craig Slater took aim from a very central position. The midfielder has pedigree when it comes to scoring set pieces having done so for Kilmarnock and Colchester previously but he couldn’t find the target on this occasion, firing over the bar from around 35 yards.
There were no further chances to equalise for the Maryhill Men and the game ended 1-0 to the travelling Ayr side as they maintained their position just behind Ross County at the top of the Championship. For Thistle, they remain on nine points in eighth place.
Next up for the Jags is a trip to Greenock Morton who Thistle have already beaten twice this season. Kick-off is 15:00 from Cappielow Park.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: C. Bell, Elliott, Keown, McGinty, Penrice, Bannigan (Storer, 78’), Storey, Spittal, Slater, Mutumbo (Erskine, 62’), Quitongo (Coulibaly, 70’).
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Sneddon, Melbourne, McCarthy, Ntambwe.
AYR UNITED TEAM: Doohan, Geggan (Harvie, 71’), Adams, Rose, Smith, Crawford (Bell, 79’), Murdoch (Forrest 65’), Kerr, McDaid, Moore, Shankland.
UNUSED SUBS (AYR): Hare-Reid, Docherty, McGuffie, Moffat.
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