Bonnyton Thistle welcomed league rivals Irvine Thistle to St Joseph’s Academy, Kilmarnock on a relatively sunny Saturday morning. Irvine came into this match off two high scoring games; a 5-4 defeat to Carrick and a 9-3 win over Stewarton. Bonnyton had remained unbeaten in the league since the start of the season, winning two and drawing one. Despite the first goal coming from the away side, Bonnyton managed to battle back to 2-1 to scrape the win thanks to a superior second half performance.
Irvine continued to put Bonnyton under the cosh without really carving out a real chance. On twenty minutes, Allan Jones was the next to try for the home side after being slipped through 1-on-1 against Irvine goalie Ewan Darroch but his shot was tame and saved at the near post.
It was Irvine that started much the brighter of the two sides, forcing Lewis Campbell into a save in the first two minutes. Bonnyton struggled to clear their lines but Irvine couldn’t fashion another opening.
Things were frantic in the opening ten minutes as both sides rushed forward, leaving their defences exposed. Bonnyton had their first chance after five minute as midfielder Cammy Neilson won the ball on the edge of the Irvine area. Nelson looked up and played in Jack Reid to his left. The Bonnyton captain opted to hit his shot first time and was unlucky to see it rocket narrowly high and wide.
By this point Bonnyton had carved out two chances on the counter attack and failed to finish any, and this continued when Lewis McCabe fired wide from the right of the box following a corner as his near-post half-volley hit the side netting. The signs were clear: Bonnyton were not at their best and failing to score one of these chances against an Irvine side who were looking strong could come back to haunt them.
And indeed, this turned out to be the case. Two minutes before half time Irvine played a perfectly weighted long ball in behind the Bonnyton defence which was picked up and finished off by Reece Parrot with a composed left-foot strike.
Moments later the whistle blew for half-time with Irvine deservedly ahead after a lacklustre and sub-par performance from the home side.
Half Time: Bonnyton Thistle 0-1 Irvine Thistle
The second half kicked off with Bonnyton keen to recover after their slow start. Irvine immediately put them on the back foot again though when the away defence quickly cleared a Bonnyton corner and broke down the right hand side through Ross McPeake. The Thistle forward advanced from his own half towards the Bonnyton box only to see Campbell make a terrific save to deny him at an angle once he reached goal scoring range, perhaps the length of the run taking some of the sting out of the shot.
Campbell was soon called upon minutes later when he pulled out another brilliant save to deny McPeake again following a great turn and shot inside the penalty box.
And the morning’s work wasn’t quite finished for Campbell just yet as he made a superb double save following a ball over the top on the counter attack.
Perhaps buoyed by the solid performance of their keeper, in addition to the introduction of Stewart Masterton from the bench, the home side managed to grab an equaliser with fifteen minutes to go. A corner was swung in from the left by Masterton and centre half Andrew Templeton grabbed his first goal of this season as he latched onto the cross and fired the ball high into the net, sailing over Darroch from 9 yards out.
The next goal would prove crucial; a Bonnyton strike would cap off a hard-fought comeback and dampen Irvine’s spirits while a goal for the away side would ruin Bonnyton’s efforts to get back on level terms, as the home side had been the better side for most of the second half and put their unbeaten run in jeopardy.
It was an outstanding team goal that sealed the win – and it fell the way of Bonnyton. Reid picked the ball up in the centre circle and played a pass into the pass of the on-running Masterton down the left wing. He met the ball at the corner of the box and crossed over to Neilson who had timed his run from midfield well and slid in to score from 12 yards. Scenes of jubilation followed on the sidelines.
That all but sealed the win for the home team – despite Campbell again having to be at his best in the last five minutes – and maintained their unbeaten run for a week longer.
For Irvine they will go home proud of their performance and indeed their front two caused lots of problems in behind. Bonnyton took a while to get going for the second week running but battled hard to win and have to thank Lewis Campbell in particular as well as the subs that came on.
Full Time: Bonnyton Thistle 2-1 Irvine Thistle