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Match Report

Partick Thistle v Ayr United – 28th July 2018

Betfred Cup Group E came to a head in Maryhill as the prospect of top spot and seeded progression saw Partick Thistle and Ayr United do battle at the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill. With both teams having won three out of three prior to the game, whoever came out on top would win the group. While any potential loser would be looking at other results to determine their Betfred Cup fate.

There were two changes to the Thistle side which fought past Albion Rovers on Tuesday night as Alan Archibald kept most of the side the same. Cammy Bell started his third game in a row behind a back four consisting of James Penrice, Christie Elliott, Sean McGinty and Niall Keown who was making his first appearance of the season. As it has been in every Group E game for the Jags, Craig Slater and Shea Gordon started in midfield. Chris Erskine returned to the starting line-up after an ankle injury kept him out against Albion Rovers. He started alongside Blair Spittal and Miles Storey who formed an attacking midfield trio behind lone striker, Kris Doolan.

The game started frantically with Thistle going very close within two minutes. A Craig Slater corner from the Colin Weir side of the pitch found the head of Niall Keown who battled well to meet the delivery. He headed back across goal, looking for the corner of Ross Doohan’s goal. He beat the Ayr goalkeeper but was denied by a fantastic goal line clearance from Lawrence Shankland. So often the scorer of goals for Ayr but on this occasion, he was on hand to prevent one for the Ayrshire outfit.

Then suddenly, having so nearly gone ahead, the home side fell behind. Christie Elliott won possession in the defensive third and decided to dribble towards his own goal. The Englishman kept going and going until he tried to clear the ball with the outside of his right boot. Unfortunately, the right-back struck it right off the torso of Lawrence Shankland and thereafter, the loose ball fell to Michael Moffat who finished from close range. It was a completely avoidable goal which very powerfully halted a positive Jags start.

Thistle continued to dominate the ball without creating much apart from half chances until the 33rd minute when Blair Spittal went close with a header. Chris Erskine broke with the ball and shifted it out to Miles Storey on the left. The ex-Swindon man darted last his man and lifted a cross back towards the penalty spot. Making a late run was Spittal who tried to head it back across goal into the top corner, however, his nodded attempt missed the target by a yard or two.

Ayr came very close to a crucial second with ten minutes to go until the break. A low cross from the left found the foot of Michael Moffat and the experienced frontman struck on goal as he searched for his second of the game. Fortunately for the hosts, Cammy Bell produced an excellent one-handed save to deny the Honest Men a potentially telling lead doubler.

The teams entered the interval with the score at 1-0 to the travelling Ayr side. An early Michael Moffat goal was of Thistle’s own doing and was a cheap way to surrender the deadlock breaking goal. Ayr had little of the ball but looked instantly dangerous whenever they seized possession and could have stretched their advantage on a couple of occasions.

Thistle began the second period on the front foot but as they had throughout the game, Ayr used the ball well whenever they got it. On 52 minutes, Michael Moffat fed the ball to Lawrence Shankland who found himself one-on-one with Sean McGinty. Shankland shifted the ball onto his left foot, away from McGinty and curled a shot on goal. His effort was poor, however, as it flew a couple of yards wide.

The Jags should have levelled the contest two minutes ahead of the hour mark. James Penrice whipped a free kick in from the Jags’ left and Doohan came to claim it. The United ‘keeper missed the ball though and it came to Sean McGinty. The big man headed on goal from close range but couldn’t guide his effort into the empty net, seeing it fly over the bar. The home team then made their first changes of the day as Kris Doolan was replaced by Jack Storer and Andy McCarthy replaced Craig Slater.

Thistle were trying to build some confidence with the fresh legs on the park but the stuffing was knocked out of them in spectacular fashion as Lawrence Shankland volleyed home from 40 yards. Andy Murdoch beat Chris Erskine in an aerial challenge and the ball fell to Shankland. The ex-Aberdeen man briefly glanced at the Thistle goal before firing a terrific looping volley over Cammy Bell and into the Thistle net. It was a sensational goal that, unlike the first, was no fault of any Thistle man but it did make the lead a much more secure one for the visitors.

The hosts made their final change in the 74th minute as Blair Spittal was replaced by Aidan Fitzpatrick who made Thistle history by appearing and scoring against Albion Rovers having been born in the 21st century. He was given another chance to impress in the closing stages of this game.

Fitzpatrick was almost the difference maker as well as he set up Miles Storey with three minutes left to play. The young winger whipped an excellent and powerful cross across the face of goal finding Storey at the back post. The 24-year old should have simply headed home at the far stock but he missed the target completely from close range, failing to add to his goal from Tuesday night at Cliftonhill.

The game ended 2-0 with Ayr claiming top spot in Group E and Thistle being confined to second place. Now the Jags must hope for Hearts to win by four or more tomorrow or for them not to win at all. Otherwise, the Maryhill men are out of the Betfred Cup at the group stage for the first time since the reintroduction of the format in 2016.

Alan Archibald’s men are back in action next Saturday as they play Ayr once again. This time, it’ll be in Ladbrokes Championship action as the league season gets underway in Ayrshire. Kick-off will be 15:00 from Somerset Park.

THISTLE TEAM: Bell, Penrice, McGinty, Keown, Elliott, Slater (McCarthy, 62’), Gordon, Spittal (Fitzpatrick, 74’), Erskine, Storey, Doolan, (Storer, 58’).

UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Stevenson, O’Ware, Melbourne, Wilson.

AYR UNITED TEAM: Doohan, Ferguson, Rose (Bell, 71’), Adams, Harvie, Murdoch, Kerr, Crawford, Forrest (McGuffie, 70’), Moffat (McDaid,80’), Shankland.

UNUSED SUBS (AYR): Hare-Reid, Docherty, McCowan.

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