Antonine were up against it, with only eight fully fit players available and three starters struggling. To make things worse, Scott Hutton started on the bench hoping he wouldn't be used due to a back injury.
Out with a point to prove, Antonine opened the scoring with their fastest ever goal. Thistle kicked off and played it back to start building. Pressing high up the pitch, Chris Donaghy was on hand to intercept and played in Fraser James, who slotted home his fourth of the season to make it 1-0 after six seconds. It was a truly ideal and unbelievable start for the home side that allowed them to relax, work the ball around patiently and paved the way for their success.
The work rate and attitude of Antonine’s players was first class as they dominated the opening portion of the game. Lewis Smith, Chris Donaghy and Calum Maxwell all came close as they chased a second goal. It was to come in the 20th minute when a Danny Hamilton corner was headed home by Lewis Smith to make it 2-0.
Although Thistle tried to get back into it, Carroll in goal was untested, with a back four of Maciver, Quinn, Miller and Maxwell and defensive shield Kelly sitting just in frontrepelling everything that was thrown at them. Dom Cairney caused all sorts ofproblems on the right side, looking menacing and being pulled up for offside on a promising occasion.
With 40 minutes on the clock, Hamilton’s foot injury reoccurred and he had to be replaced by Scott Hutton, who bravely came on to play through the pain barrier.
Half Time: Antonine 2-0 Cardonald Thistle
The second half started with both teams cancelling each other out. The first chance fell to Antonine as Hutton and James linked up to tee up Smith, whose 20-yard drive was tipped round the post by the keeper. Cardonald’s stopper was calledinto action again on the hour mark to touch over a Shaun Quinn header.
Sixty-five minutes in, Thistle created their first clear-cut chance when a headerfrom a corner was cleared off the line by Maxwell. Scarcely five minutes later, Shutton and Donaghy combined nicely to set up James, who he cut in from the left and saw hisshot saved. The rebound, though, fell to Lewis Smith, who was on hand to score his 15th goal of theseason to further add to the visitors’ misery.
Smith and Hutton both came close with free kicks as Antonine ran down the clock. Carroll then produced two great saves in the last five minutes to make sure the home side held on to their clean sheet.
Full Time: Antonine 3-0 Cardonald Thistle
Ultimately, Antonine produced a wonderful response to last week’s disappointment. Antonine manager Kevin Kelly was keen to praise his players:
"It was a tremendous performance from the boys. Every player was at the top of their game. I would like to say a big thanks to the four players playing through the pain barrier. Without Maxwell, Miller, Hamilton and Hutton, we wouldn't have had a team."
This week’s star player was Brendan Kelly. The defensive midfield role is maybe the most crucial position in modern football, and Kelly shielded the back four beautifully and passed well.
Antonine next take on Milngavie away in the Scottish Cup.
Antonine squad: Carroll, Maciver, Maxwell, Quinn, Miller, Kelly, Cairney, Donaghy, James, Smith, Hamilton, Hutton.