Bonnyton Thistle overpowered a depleted Johnstone Burgh side 5-1 in the final of the League Cup on Saturday. In the glorious Renfrewshire sunshine, the Kilmarnock side came back from a goal down early on to eventually come out fairly comfortable winners. A superb double from Steven Hill helped seal the win, with Burgh admittedly not being at their maximum.
The match kicked off with a sense of who-knows-what could happen; Burgh had edged Thistle in the Scottish Cup on penalties (Bonnyton's signature competition) while the Ayrshire outfit had won both of the league matches quite convincingly. This erratic and background clearly embedded itself in the game early on as after three minutes we had a goal - it was underdogs Burgh who grabbed it. Aaron Lewis' lofted ball down the throat of the Bonnyton defence put them under pressure and sprinting through the middle to latch on was Andrew Skinner; the pacy forward then neatly lobbed the ball over the on-rushing Scott Purdie from the edge of the box with his right foot, sending the Johnstone faithful into ecstatic cheers.
The joy however, was short lived. Almost immediately Bonnyton raced up the park and pressured their opponents into conceding a corner. From the right, a curling delivery from the back post was met head-on by Ian Paterson who evaded his marker, found space and had a free chance to dunk the ball past the helpless Sean Quinn.
With the game now level, things showed no sign of slowing down. The frantic start was emphasised by Thistle keeper Purdie twice in succession coming out from his own box to head the ball clear of danger - in part down to his injured hand - as Burgh pressed their opponents well in the middle and final thirds of the Keanie Park turf.
With 20 minutes played, Johnstone Burgh were looking very lively every time they entered the final third. While they weren't stringing as many passes together in possesion as their opponents, their pace in attack with Skinner, Craig Buchanan and Lewis MacDonald was causing the Bonnyton defence problems. Bonnyton too looked capable in the final third and perhaps more likely of actually going ahead but their final touch was often lacking that crucial, clinical element required.
Just after the half hour, Burgh had a good chance to go ahead when MacDonald was slipped in on the edge of the box in between the Bonnyton full back and centre half. The attacker pulled the trigger from 16 yards but scuffed his shot, leaving Thistle's goal intact.
Johnstone had the next chance again six minutes later when a slack pass in Bonnyton's midfield allowed Johnstone to break through the middle of the pitch with MacDonald racing through one-against-one with Purdie, only to fire straight at him from 12 yards at an angle.
From that wake-up call, Thistle reacted. Within moments they had worked the ball up the pitch and kept their opponents camped in their own half as they kept possession. The clinical final touch that had been lacking was then provided by Steven Hill with a great strike from close range to make it 2-1.
Now down 2-1, the next goal would be crucial and Burgh would again be made to pay for not taking their chances. As half time approached, the side in red won a corner and from it Ryan Ralston managed to connect but his header wasn't directed at goal well enough to trouble Purdie, and with team-mates queuing up behind him, he could have left it for them - if he had heard such a shout.
With just over a minute to go until half time, with Burgh still pressing Bonnyton in their box, the league champions managed to find the next goal. It was a magnificent piece of work from right-back Ryan Golightly who cleared the ball from his own box to alleviate pressure and then advanced up the pitch in support. He eventually received the ball out wide at the edge of the box and attempted a cross, only to see it blocked. Golightly opted to stay up for the corner and it proved an inspired decision as he determinedly got onto the end of the cross and headed downwards into the net with aplomb. This came as a hammer blow for Johnstone; had they not been equalised against so early, and then conceded so late, this game could've went a totally different direction. Now though it seemed certain Bonnyton would go on to win without much challenge.