A youthful Motherwell Under 20s conceded twice in the last fifteen minutes to lose 2-1 to Partick Thistle this morning.
The Steelmen had gone in front courtesy of Dylan Mackin’s tenth goal of the campaign, but Jordan Leyden levelled from the penalty spot after seventy-five minutes.
Then, with just three minutes remaining, Michael McMullin tucked home from close range after some neat built-up play to win all three points for his side.
Jonatan Johansson made as many as eight changes to the team that beat Dundee Utd on Tuesday and named his youngest ever side at this level. Included in the squad were six players still eligible for the Academy U17s side, with the average age of the squad just 17.1 years, goalkeeper Ross Stewart the most experienced at 19-years old.
Thistle themselves had a young team too and it told, with both sides a little naive at times, but with plenty of effort and endeavour during the first period.
So much so, after 30 minutes there had been just one effort at goal, and that’s when Leyden robbed 16-year old Barry Maguire and charged in on Stewart, only to scoop his effort over the crossbar.
Motherwell’s first effort of the game came from Liam Anderson, who broke the lines to get on the end of a Danny McNulty throughball, only for his low shot to be comfortably held by Conner Cullen.
Leyden had a thirty-yard effort sail over and McMullin perhaps could’ve done better with a back post header as Thistle looked to get ahead, but nothing that caused Stewart many problems.
Down the other end, the Fir Parkers were equally shy in front of goal, with a Robbie Leitch shot that fizzed wide the only noteworthy effort in an otherwise tame first half.
However, Johansson’s men came out the traps after the restart and the former Charlton striker would’ve been scratching his head at how his team didn’t take the lead after just 45 seconds.
Anderson capitalised on some hesitant defending before smashing a shot that Cullen blocked. It fell back out to the winger, but his second shot was saved again. When it landed at Robbie Leitch, a goal looked certain but his shot was saved again, before being hooked off the line by Matthew McInally.
Mackin spurned two free headers inside the penalty box before eventually grabbing the goal he and Motherwell deserved.
Luke Watt, who was the best player on the park, was the creator, sending a lovely long diagonal pass towards the striker, who held off his marker before slotting past Cullen.
After their goal the Claret and Amber men continued to create, albeit Thistle were having more of the ball.
Mackin curled a shot high and wide of target and Higgins smashed a shot over from the edge of the box and you felt a second goal would be enough to secure the victory.
However, somewhat against the run of play at the time, the Jags drew level from the penalty spot after Craig McCall tripped McCarthy in the area. Leyden stepped up and coolly knocked the ball down the middle to level things up.
‘Well introduced a number of subs including Ryan Watters and 15-year old Dylan Falconer and it was one of those, Watters, who almost put the visitors back in front.
He latched on to a loose ball inside the area, only for his low shot to deflect behind. From the resulting corner, the same player crashed a header narrowly wide of the post.
However, it was the Thistle who looked the most likely after Stewart had blocked well to stop Andy McCarthy, he was left with little chance as the hosts nabbed all three points late on.
It was a good flowing Jags move, that started deep in their own half, but after McLaughlin and Lamont had combined, they slipped McMullin who tucked it away from close range.
It was a cruel blow for the youngsters, although with the average age of the team that finished the match just 16.8 years, there is plenty to be encouraged about with some youth products gaining valuable experience at a higher level.
Motherwell: Stewart, McNulty, McMillan, McCall, Watt, Maguire, Anderson (Watters – 66mins), R. Leitch, Mackin, Higgins (Falconer – 80mins), Campbell (J.Moore – 73mins)
Subs Not Used: Currie