Stunning Victory For Rejuvenated Jags by Easton Thain
After the dreadful defeat at the hand of Fort William and everything that happened after that the Jags needed to perfect a remedy to clear the clouds of doom hanging over Victoria Park and they got just that with a quite stunning victory over Clachnacuddin at Grant Street Park. The absolutely trounced the Lilywhites and long before the home side had two men sent off the points were in the bag as Thistle had totally dominated the match and in all honest they had enough chances to run up double figures. In every department the Jags were superior and to a man every player put in a tremendous shift which made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for the team, acting management and all the followers and it was a very pleasant journey home for all with positive thoughts and talk abound and with everyone now looking forward to the next challenge at Fraserburgh in the Aberdeenshire Shield.
Before looking at the game it is only right to heap a lot of praise onto Graeme ‘Spider’ Stewart and Lewis MacKinnon. They both entered the deep end following the dismissal of the management team and took on the role of player-coach. Between them they got the tactics and system spot on and the former made a courageous decision not to be involved on the playing front but to remain in the technical area and to guide the team from there and he did a magnificent job. ‘Spider’ works in an intense field out-with football and is used to high pressure situations and that helped him no end in the cauldron of Highland League football and he cajoled the players with encouragement and praise whilst helping them pick up on any errors made. The system the player-coaches used was perfect as it allowed the two full-backs to attack in the knowledge that the centre-midfield was there to cover should the former be caught up front. Meantime the wide men were given freedom to roam which they did to great effect and the front two were a great foil for the attacks and also a major threat throughout. No one player can be singled out as they were all superb and you could see new life throughout the ranks and long may that continue.
The Jags controlled the game from the off and had most of the chances in the opening half hour. Just three minutes in a corner led to another which was half cleared into the path of Shaun Carrol but he shot over. The Lilywhites responded in the 14th minute when a free-kick was played to Ryan Watson but his drive was held by Andy Burr. Four minutes on the ball was fed to Liam Baxter who set Scott Adams free, he found Jay Cheyne but his shot was blocked away for a corner. In the 25th minute the ball was fed through to Liam Baxter in the box, he held it up well then shot but this effort was blocked as was his follow up. A minute later Shaun Carrol was set free and he delivered in a low cross which hit the hand of a defender in the box but no penalty was given. In the 28th minute a rare chance fell to Clach as Sean Fitzpatrick fired in a drive which Andy Burr spilled but recovered to hold. Thistle’s dominance finally paid off on the half hour when Andy Low sent in a corner which Lewis MacKinnon headed on and from close range Liam Baxter nodded the ball past John Campbell. However, just 60 seconds on the Jags were stunned when the Lilywhites drew level, a ball through saw Chris Hegarty slip as he went for it and it ran into the path of Blair Lawrie whose drive was touched by Andy Burr but still found the corner of the net. Thistle reacted by piling forward and three minutes on Chris Hegarty sent a great ball through to Liam Baxter who turned and shot but his effort went wide. In the 38th minute Andy Low delivered a great free-kick into the box to set up a great chance for a rejuvenated Liam Baxter but he headed over, if anything he was too early in getting to the ball. It looked as though all the Jags domination would not result in a half time lead but then, in injury time, they were awarded a direct free-kick about 25 yards out and central and everyone knew what this was the cue for and Andy Low duly stepped up to crash a superb trademark free-kick which flew into the corner of the net. A deserved half-time lead and every sign this would be improved on in the second half
Half-time Clachnacuddin 1 Buckie Thistle 2
Thistle came hurtling out of the blocks in the second half and three minutes in Scott Adams picked the ball up and set off on a run that ended with a cross-shot that John Campbell just tipped over. In the 50th minute the game was effectively over as the Jags added a third, Andy Low’s corner found Donnie Munro whose shot was blocked, the ball was not fully cleared and it was threaded through to Chris Angus who fired it home. 60 seconds on the ‘Blonde Bomber’ had a brilliant chance to make it 4-1 as the ball was fed wide to him in acres of room but he shot too early and well wide of target. In the 53rd minute though Thistle struck again with another quality goal as Chris Angus sent a brilliant ball over the defence and Shaun Carrol steamed in to fire it home with a first time effort. The Lilywhites were wilting under the incessant pressure and nine minutes on the Jags went nap with a truly fantastic goal that would not have been out of place at the World Cup Finals. Superb cross field play led to the ball being fed to Scott Adams and from about 30 yards he smashed in a glorious shot that curled into the top corner of the net. In the 69th minute a ball over the defence saw Liam Baxter shake off David McGurk who promptly shoved the striker to the deck resulting in a straight red card for being last man. The free-kick was laid off to Shaun Carrol but he drove wide. Four minutes later Chris Angus exchanged passes with Andy Low before firing in a drive but John Campbell pulled off a fine save. A minute on a rare Clach break ended with Blair Lawrie sending over a tricky cross that bobbled over Andy Burr but the giant keeper then stuck out his big hand to claw the ball back. A further 60 seconds later the ball was fed through to Liam Baxter who raced in, the keeper advanced and the striker shot past him but inches wide of the post. With twelve minutes left Drew Copeland sent a superb pass through to Chris Angus but he again shot too early and John Campbell made an easy stop. 60 seconds later the Lilywhites were reduced to nine men when Blair Lawrie felled Liam Baxter resulting in a second yellow then red. With four minutes remaining Thistle hit Clach for six with another fine goal. Donnie Munro sent a great ball wide but didn’t realise it was Darren Wood trying to get onto it, Woody though stretched out a big leg to get the ball before bounding up the park and delivering a low cross that was worthy of a winger and there was Liam Baxter to turn the ball home. In injury time the Jags were awarded a penalty and up stepped Liam Baxter to try and notch his first Thistle ha-trick but his low drive was parried by John Campbell and the keeper blocked away the follow up as well much to the strikers disgust, a mere blip in a great display by Liam
Full-time Clachnacuddin 1 Buckie Thistle 6
It was the perfect response to all the recent despondency as the Jags equalled their record ever League win at Clach Park which they had set back in season 1978-79. It is wrong to say that Thistle have risen like a Phoenix from the ashes because they had already shown their qualities this season but there is no doubt the performance has engineered a bit of a new dawn at the club. It is, though, just a start albeit a good one and you are only as good as your last game. The opposition on Saturday was poor by their standards and now far tougher tests await Thistle starting with the Aberdeenshire Shield quarterfinal away to Fraserburgh who will be supremely confident of another win over the Jags. It will take another performance akin to the match at Inverness for Thistle to stand a chance of progressing to a semi-final encounter at home to Peterhead but if they who the same desire and perform like that then they have every chance of reaching the latter.
Match Photo’s Courtesy of Allan Robertson
Clachnacuddin – Campbell, Skinner, Finnis, MacKenzie (Penwright), McGurk, Fitzpatrick, Lawrie, MacDonald (Brindle), Morrison, R Watson and MacLennan
Buckie Thistle – Burr, S Wood (MacRae), Carrol (D Wood), Munro, MacKinnon, Hegarty, Angus, Cheyne (Copeland), Baxter, Low and Adams
Referee – M Kerrigan