Saturday 28 July 2018
Betfred Cup
HT   0 - 1
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Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Match Preview

On Saturday, Ayr United travel to manager Ian McCall’s old stomping ground of Firhill to take on Partick Thistle in a battle for top spot in Group E. With both clubs boasting a 100% record after three games, second place looks like it will be enough for a place in the next round as one of the four best runners-up, but neither side will be taking anything for granted and a win that should see them seeded in Sunday’s draw.

United cruised to a 5-0 victory on Tuesday night at home to Stenhousemuir, with Lawrence Shankland netting his fourth, fifth and sixth goals in just three games. Thistle, meanwhile, overcame Albion Rovers 2-0 at Cliftonhill during midweek, with second-half goals from Miles Storey and youngster Aidan Fitzpatrick.

Partick Thistle saw five years in the Premiership come to end at the end of last season when they were defeated by Livingston in the play-off final. The Firhill board have kept faith in manager Alan Archibald but a host of players and come and gone.

Former Kilmarnock and Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell is the Jags’ new number one; Defender Tam O’Ware has joined from Morton while Northern Irish midfielder Shea Gordon scored twice in the first six minutes of his Thistle debut on loan from Motherwell against Stenhousemuir. Archibald this week further strengthened his squad, adding 19 year-old left-back Max Melbourne on loan from West Bromwich Albion.

Team News

Andy Geggan misses out with a slight calf strain and Craig Moore misses out through illness. Chris Higgins has began training with the first team but is still a few weeks away.

Ian Says

We have had a good start to the group with 3 wins and some really good football but this is now a completely different test. We are in good form so its a test we are really looking forward to as we know that Thistle are a very good side. There are still a number of scenarios which would see us not qualify so we will be going all out to get a result that puts us in the hat for Sundays last 16 draw.

Head to Head

Ayr United wins – 16
Draws – 14
Partick Thistle wins – 36

It is honours even in four League Cup ties between the sides. The Honest Men won home and away in the group stage in 1981 – 1-0 at Somerset Park and 5-1 at Firhill. The Honest Men, however, have lost the two subsequent knockout ties, in 1992 and most recently in 2013, with both games at Firhill.

Last Meeting

That League Cup first round tie in August 2013 was the last meeting between the sides in all competitions. Stephen O’Donnell and Conrad Balatoni were the goalscorers for a Thistle side that also featured Mark Kerr in midfield. Mark Shankland netted a late goal which proved only to be a consolation.

Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Team Lineups

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Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Match Report

Honest Man

Michael Moffat

United came on top of the Betfred Cup Group E with a top-class performance against Partick Thistle at the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill, Glasgow.  A first-half tap in for Moffat, assisted by some calamitous defending by Partick, followed by a wonder strike by Shankland from 40 yards, in the second, ensured that Ayr moved into the draw for the last 16 of the competition.

Partick came at Ayr from the off with some quick and incisive passing movements attempting to dominate the Ayrshire men from the off. On 4 mins they came close when a Slater corner from the left found the head of Keown and from 18 yards the ball looped past keeper Doohan only to be headed off the line by Shankland, carrying out his defensive duties.

Ayr soaked up the early pressure and on 5 mins took the lead with an assist from Partick defender Christie Elliot.  Elliot won the ball deep in his own half and surprisingly chose to run along the line towards his own goals whilst being challenged by United’s Crawford. The right-back appeared to panic and played the ball across the 6-yard box where Shankland cushioned it off his chest to Moffat who turned the ball home. United were one up and Thistle were stunned.

The certainty of the Jags’ opening play seemed shaken and they took some while to regain their fluency.  Ayr looked disciplined in defence and although Partick moved well both on the ball and off it, they seemed to lack a clinical edge or were met by stalwart and well marshalled defending, with Rose and captain Adams resolute as well as skilful.

Partick created a couple of chance soon after but failed to make anything of their potential.  On 11 mins, Erskine put in a cross to Gordon who twisted to head wide.  3 mins later Erskine tried his luck but his shot from a tight angle was easily blocked.

Ayr were still dangerous going forward. On 18 mins Moffat appeared to be going clean through on goal after interplay with Shankland but was chopped down on the edge of the Thistle box. Shankland stepped up and curled a lofted free-kick round and over the Thistle wall only for it to clip the outside of the post and go out. A fantastic effort from the striker.

Ayr were putting on the pressure and with 21 mins gone Shankland slipped the ball through to Moffat on the right of the penalty area, but his shot was comfortably saved by keeper Bell. Only 2 mins later, Murdoch played a one-two with Moffat in the centre of the park before finding Shankland, forward on his right.  Shankland charged into the box before hitting the ball powerfully across the face of the goal with Moffat’s slide in only inches from making contact.

The Jags looked shaken but were still dangerous on the counter and from set pieces. Ayr were giving away corners for fun and Keown and Storey put headers narrowly wide, both in the 27 min.  33 mins in, and Spittal got onto a cross into the box from Gordon but headed the ball over the bar. Midfielder Gordon was in on goal a few minutes later but Doohan made an excellent clasping save to stop Thistle from equalizing.

With 9 mins to go to the break, Forrest ran into space on the left before curling the ball to the edge of the 6-yard box where Moffat flicked goalwards, but Bell pulled off a superb reaction save tipping the ball wide.

Next, Partick’s Slater worked his way into space before powering a right foot shot narrowly past Doohan’s post. This was a half with very little breathing space but United went in at the break one goal up.

The second half began with both sides showing some nervousness, Partick, in particular, lacking the fluency or pass accuracy that they had shown in the first.

It took until 50 mins for a chance to be created and it came from the home side. With speed and intent, the Jags pushed forward and Spittal found himself with a chance to shoot from just outside the box, but his shot went narrowly wide to the left.

Ayr responded almost immediately, Moffat playing the ball to Shankland who made space by turning the ball past central defender McGinty before unleashing a curling drive that went wide.

With 65 mins, United then went 2 up when Lawrence Shankland produced a goal of the season contender. Murdoch rose to beat Erskine and the ball fell to Shankland some 40 yards out and the striker took the faintest of looks, spotted Bell well out of his goals, and powerfully looped a volley into the net. It was a sublime goal, Ayr were 2 up and even the Partick fans applauded the Ayr man’s strike.

Ayr piled on the pressure, both Moffat and Shankland (twice) going close with shots from the edge of the box, while Thistle huffed and puffed and struggled to get back into the game.

Partick did almost sneak a counter with only 3 mins to play. Substitute Fitzpatrick played the ball into the box and found Storey at the back post but, from only a yard out and with the goal gaping, he contrived to head across the goal and out at the opposite post.

Victory was no more than the Honest Men deserved and they now move into the last 16 of the competition with ties to be played on the weekend of August 18/19.

Next up for Ayr is their return to Championship action on Saturday against… Partick Thistle.

Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Match Timeline


Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Match Stats

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Partick Thistle v Ayr United | Media

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