COVE RANGERS 0–5 PARTICK THISTLE
The same old failings at both ends of the park again cost us dear as the team slumped to a sixth successive defeat, a result which keeps us five points behind Arbroath and just ahead of bottom side Hamilton.
With only long-term absentees Fraser Fyvie and Brody Paterson posted missing, Paul Hartley had a near full strength squad from which to select his team, and there was an instant recall for fit-again Blair Yule, missing from the heart of the midfield for the past nine matches.
Reverting to a 4-4-2, the manager left out Iain Vigurs and Mark Reynolds from last week’s defeat at Ayr, with Luis Longstaff the other player recalled to the starting line-up.
The visitors were without former Cove left back Harry Milne, injured in their defeat in Inverness last time out.
On a cold, blustery afternoon it was the home side who started the brightest, and we should have been ahead in the third minute.
Mitch Megginson expertly controlled a bouncing ball on the halfway line and fed in Leighton McIntosh. The striker raced clear of the defensive line and ran in on goal, but Mitchell was able to parry his effort from the edge of the box. Longstaff curled the rebound over the bar.
The away keeper was called into action again immediately afterwards, Yule fizzing a cross in towards the near post which Mitchell had to move smartly to keep out.
Out of nothing, Thistle took the lead. A chipped ball forward saw Scott TIFFONEY easily run away from Jason Naismith, and Fox could do nothing to prevent his low angled shot from finding the net.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0. Our defence struggled to clear as Partick put on the pressure, and when a high ball was returned from the left, Fox failed to make proper contact with his punch. The first effort was blocked, but it fell to Steven LAWLESS, and he hooked his shot beyond the keeper.
After more good close control, Megginson attempted to play in McIntosh, but Leighton was unable to make his first touch count, then the skipper tried himself with a low angled shot from the edge of the area which ran just wide of Mitchell’s left post.
Having picked up an injury, McIntosh limped from the field to be replaced by Cieran Dunne. The substitute took up a position wide on the left with Michael O’Halloran moving into a more central role alongside Megginson.
Those two linked-up in the twenty-sixth minute to tee up Scully, but Connor’s long-range shot was saved comfortably.
Within seconds, the deficit was very nearly three. The overlapping McMillan fired goalwards, Fox beat his effort away, and when Turner headed the rebound goalwards, Morgyn Neill got back to clear it off the line.
Just past the half hour mark, we came close to reducing the arrears after a fine move. Yule found Megginson, who laid the ball off to O’Halloran. Michael set off on a strong run and passed infield, Scully rolled it into the box, and Dunne’s well struck angled effort beat Mitchell only to cannon out off the inside of the post.
Thistle went back up the park and from Hodson’s cross, Lawless’ header brought an excellent save out of Scott Fox as he clawed the ball away from underneath the crossbar.
A simple pass through then found Graham in total isolation, his shot to the near post pushed behind by Fox, and Scott was again busy shortly after, diving low to his right to tip away Tiffoney’s twenty-five yard drive.
As had happened at the start of the game, Cove began the second half brightly with Luis Longstaff to the fore. The winger had two crosses cleared and sent in a dangerous looking corner, but we were unable to capitalise, and the spell of pressure ended when Scully’s overhead kick was grabbed by Mitchell.
Dunne and Longridge then combined, Jackson found Megginson with his cutback, but when Mitch laid the ball back, the visitors’ defence shut down Scully before he could get his shot away.
Still the boys kept pressing, and they forced a succession of corners which proved fruitless. Dunne was brought down just outside the box as he surged away from two challenges, but the resultant free-kick was cleared easily.
With the team on top and looking the more likely to score, we were hit by the kind of sucker-punches which have marred the season.
Brian GRAHAM set off on a run, and with Neill backtracking, the striker cut inside and shot, his effort deflecting off Naismith and beyond Fox. Morgyn then had to go off injured, Scott Ross taking his place at the heart of the defence.
Within seconds Thistle made it four with another simple, straightforward goal. Turner chipped in a free-kick from the right and Kevin HOLT, completely unmarked, guided the ball beyond Fox with a full-length diving header.
Michael O’Halloran played a one-two with Longridge, weaved across the box and his low shot, which took a deflection, looked netbound, only for it to bounce inches wide of Mitchell’s right post.
That was to be our last effort on goal, but Partick were not finished, and they made it 5-0 in the final minute when Danny MULLEN met a cross from the left and angled a perfectly placed header inside the far post.
That rounded off another desperately disappointing afternoon, the only minor consolation being the even heavier defeat suffered by Hamilton at Dens Park. The pair meet next weekend in what looks certain to be a pivotal encounter.
COVE RANGERS: (4-4-2) Fox; Logan, Naismith, Neill (Ross60), Longridge; O’Halloran, Yule (Virtanen 84), Scully, Longstaff (Weston 84); Megginson (c), McIntosh (Dunne 25)
Substitutes: Gourlay, Vigurs, Bangala, Glass, Reynolds
Booked: Ross (73)
PARTICK THISTLE: (4-2-3-1) Mitchell; McMillan, Muirhead, Holt, Hodson (Brownlie 44); Bannigan, Docherty; Lawless (MacKenzie 63), Turner (Mullen 68), Tiffoney (Fitzpatrick 63); Graham (Dowds 68)
Substitutes: Sneddon, Smith, McKinnon, Lyon
Goalscorers: Tiffoney (11), Lawless (18), Graham (58), Holt (62), Mullen (90)
Referee: Duncan Williams
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