Coatbridge Rovers extended their winning streak in the league to 12 with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Camelon Thistle.
Three goals in the first half gave Rovers a comfortable advantage that they never looked like losing despite a battling display from Thistle.
Before the game the league table had these clubs just one place apart in second and third but Rovers were undoubtedly the favourites following their 4-0 victory against Thistle earlier in the season and they looked like favourites right from the off when Paul Croall’s through ball unleashed Pierre Dang who shot agonisingly wide of the left post.
Dang got a second chance to get Rovers off to the perfect start just a minute later when he cut in from the other wing and fired just wide of the right post this time. His pace and movement across the back line was causing the Thistle defence trouble from the word go.
Having survived the early pressure, Thistle got their first opportunity of the match through Alex Hutton but his shot didn’t trouble Aaron Pyott in the Rovers goal.
An inventive bicycle kick by Dang sent Liam Corns through but the driving wind and rain made it difficult for the Rovers player and his shot went over the bar. Dang and Corns switched roles for the next attack and Thistle had their goalkeeper Robbie Connelly to thank for tipping Dang’s shot onto the post and out for a corner.
The opening Rovers goal was on the way and it was that man Dang who eventually got the breakthrough. A hopeful long ball from captain Anton Dunlop in defence caught out the Thistle backline and Dang didn’t let this chance pass by, slipping it past the keeper and into the bottom corner.
Thistle weren’t out of it yet though and Ross Fairley twice set up Hutton in search for the equaliser. First from a cross that Hutton couldn’t quite get on target with the header, and then Fairley’s through ball was cut out by a great last-ditch tackle from Dunlop before Hutton could get on the end of it. The Rovers captain was proving a vital player in both attack and defence.
Sensing Thistle might be close to finding a way back into the game, Rovers stepped up the play and put some breathing space between the teams with the second. A Brad Lappin corner was met by Croall whose header was perfectly placed to leave the keeper no chance.
Undaunted, Thistle produced their best football of the match when Rhys Campbell won the ball in midfield, played a one-two with Fairley and then fired off a long-range effort that had to be tipped onto the post by an outstretched Pyott. Campbell was having a good game in the middle of the park for Thistle, always solid in the tackle while also being their main creative outlet.
As they did earlier in the match however, Rovers responded to this pressure by stepping up a gear and getting the third. Croall’s pass to Dang was at an awkward height for the striker but he produced a delightful flick towards the onrushing Corns who took it in his stride and buried it past Connelly.
The goal came a few minutes before the half-time whistle and gave Thistle a mountain to climb in the second half.