Wednesday 11th May, 2022 at 11:00pm
The final home league fixture of the season took place in the unfamiliar surrounds of New Tinto Park, home of Benburb, on a sunny but distinctly chilly evening. Thankfully, the two teams provided plenty of entertainment for the spectators with it a major surprise that the 90 minutes passed without a single goal being scored in this thoroughly entertaining fixture.
Thistle were down to the bare bones for this fixture with manager Brian Graham forced to deploy a number of players in positions and roles unfamiliar to them. That they performed so well in these circumstances is testimony to the desire and commitment of this group of players.
For one player, Cheryl Rigden, the game marked her final match before retiring and it was sitting that she took the captain’s armband for her final fixture. Her performance, full of drive and commitment, saw her bow out in the same fashion that has so marked her career.
This game was full of chances in front of both goals, and the first came the way of Spartans with Reilly perhaps feeling that she could have done better with her header from a Clelland corner.
Thistle though were desperately unfortunate not to take a 14th minute lead. Taylor Fisher collected a long ball forward from Freya MacDonald leaving her with just Harrison in the Spartans goal to beat. Fisher elected to try and take the ball round Fisher and that provided Harrison with the opportunity to save.
At the other end it took a fantastic clearance from Rosie Slater to deny Spartans a near certain goal after the ball broke back to Clelland after Lauren McGregor had saved her initial shot.
There was a blow for Thistle when Linzi Taylor received a nasty facial injury and had to be replaced by Dionne Brown which necessitated a further reshuffle of an already limited Thistle pack.
As Thistle got used to the reorganisation, Spartans missed a great chance when Galbraith slid a shot wide of goal when she found herself on the end of a free kick from wide on the Spartans right.
It was Thistle though that finished the half the stronger and would have gone into the dressing room at half-time ahead but not one but two excellent saves from Harrison and she, firstly, saved from Fisher after she had collected a pass from Clare Docherty and then did exceptionally well to tip a Cara McBrearty effort over the bar.
Kim Murphy too came close when she collected the ball in midfield, drove forward before sending her shot only narrowly wide of target.
The first chance of an equally entertaining second half came the way of the visitors from Edinburgh and McGregor did fantastically well to touch a Gibb effort onto the post and keep the score level at 0-0.
How the score still remained 0-0 after an almighty scramble inside the Spartans 6 yard box in the 56th minute following a McBrearty corner will forever remain a mystery though had strong appeals for the use of a Spartans’ hand.
Harrison again displayed her goalkeeping talents after 61 minutes with a good stop to tip over a Fisher free kick and Dionne Brown was just inches away from a goal with a header from a fabulous Rachel Donaldson cross.
Rigden wasn’t too far away from marking her final game with a goal when she knocked the ball wide after a neat interchange of passes with McBrearty.
As Thistle understandably tired it was perhaps Spartans that came closest to breaking the deadlock in the closing stages. Galbraith headed a Marshall header over the bar before the same player saw a shot land on the roof of McGregor’s net.
There was a real fright for Thistle, especially after the events of the weekend, in injury time when McGregor wasn’t able to hold a long range free kick but reacted quickly and bravely to block Smart’s effort with the loose ball knocked wide.
Team: McGregor, Slater, Murphy, Docherty, McBrearty, Taylor (Brown), MacDonald, Donaldson, Anderson (Bulloch), Fisher subs unused Grant, McCann, Vernal.