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Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Stranraer – 29th July 2017

After procuring just a single point from their opening Betfred Cup fixture of the season, Partick Thistle have bounced back impressively. A 5-0 win over St. Mirren and a narrow 2-1 victory against Airdrieonians meant that all the Maryhill men needed from today’s clash with Stranraer to ensure progression, despite being unable to top the group, was a win. Stranraer came into the fixture off the back of three losses in three games so far in the competition meaning they had absolutely no chance of getting through to the next round regardless of their result today.

Alan Archibald made three changes to the side who won at the Excelsior in midweek. James Penrice, Ryan Edwards and Kris Doolan all dropped to the bench while Abdul Osman, Stuart Bannigan and Kevin Nisbet came into the starting XI. Kevin Nisbet was started to give the young striker the chance to impress from the start while Doolan was rested. Niall Keown was fit enough to make the bench after training for a couple of days since the Airdrie clash but wasn’t quite ready to go in from kick-off.

The Jags got things underway but were given an early warning sign when Stephen Okoh got in behind Adam Barton and shot a low effort across goal. Tomas Cerny had it covered, though, and held at the first attempt.

Despite dominating possession, Thistle were struggling to create many opportunities and saw their goal under threat once again in the 11th minute. A Stranraer corner was whipped in from the Blues’ right and it was flicked on at the front post. Stephen Okoh was the man looking to get on the end of it but the number 14 couldn’t reach the ball after getting away from his man.

Thistle continued to command control of the ball without creating much as they seemed to miss the guile and in-box movement of Kris Doolan. They did finally create their first good chance in the 35th minute through Christie Elliott. The ex-Whitley Bay player was fed the ball by Chris Erskine after which he decided to strike the ball on the bounce. His shot was powerful and dipping but looped just over the Stranraer goal.

The Jags would have one more opportunity to score before the break as Steven Lawless picked the ball up in the defensive half and drove forward. He threatened to offload the ball a few times but continued forward with the ball himself before unleashing a shot. He rather cut across the ball and saw his shot curl the wrong way and wide of the post just before the half time whistle.

The score was 0-0 at half time and it was a frustrating half for the Thistle players and fans alike. A compact Stranraer side were making it very difficult to create anything but with players like Kris Doolan and Ryan Edwards on the Jags’ bench Alan Archibald had plenty of scope for change in the second 45 and just eight minutes of the second period gone, that change came as Doolan replaced Kevin Nisbet.

Doolan almost made an instant impact as well as just a minute after coming on he had a chance to open the scoring. A Blair Spittal cross was headed partially clear by a Stranraer defender but the clearance fell straight to Doolan, eight yards out. He took a touch and shot but his shot was blocked at close range.

The substitution improved the team tenfold and Thistle suddenly looked much more dangerous with the ball. An example of this amplified danger in possession came in the 58th minute when Blair Spittal was able to take down a long ball from the back and hold it up as he waited for support. The former Queen’s Park man then laid it off for Chris Erskine but the number ten then blazed a left-footed effort well over the bar from 20 yards.

Chris Erskine had another opportunity in the 65th minute. Steven Lawless expertly found Callum Booth with an incisive ball towards the by-line which the left-back latched onto the pass and cut the ball back towards Chris Erskine with a first time cross. Erskine then attempted an acrobatic shot but he missed the ball and it ricocheted off his body, going out for a goal kick.

As the final whistle got closer, Alan Archibald made two further substitutions in an attempt to give his attack some more variance and energy. Neil McLaughlin and Ryan Edwards came on for Stuart Bannigan and Steven Lawless.

With the minutes slowly dwindling away, it was looking as if the game might have to go to penalties which would mean Thistle would be relying on other results to get through. Late attempts from Ryan Edwards and Neil McLaughlin missed the target and it felt as if the goal wasn’t going to come, however, in the 87th minute the Jags got their goal.

Neil McLaughlin picked up the ball at the corner of the box and lifted a ball into the six-yard area. Under pressure, Stranraer ‘keeper Max Currie failed to claim the cross and the ball fell to Christie Elliott. The right-back then stroked home at the near post to bag his first goal since November 2014 and netting the winner that would see Thistle into the last 16 of the Betfred Cup.

The cheers at the final whistle were more of relief than of joy but the team had won nonetheless and are now in tomorrow night’s draw for the next round of the Betfred Cup with just two games between the team and Hampden.

Thistle now put their cup aspirations on the backburner as they look towards their league opener against Hibs next weekend at Easter Road. Kick-off is at 15:00 on Saturday.

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