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U20s: Partick Thistle 2-3 Rangers

Jay Mansfield

With both teams starting the night level on 36 points it was a vitally important fixture at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium as the season rapidly nears it’s conclusion. An early couple of goals from the light blues had them cruising at the break before Partick got themselves back level only to concede a third late on.

Graeme Murty fielded a much changed squad with regulars Ross McCrorie, Jordan Houston, Myles Beerman, Billy Gilmour and Zak Rudden all missing after spending much of the week with the senior squad and a very makeshift defence featuring Ross Lyon and Max Ashmore at fullback and Kyle Bradley and Aidan Wilson central.

Rangers took an early lead through Serge Atayaki when he casually stroked the ball beyond Cullen in the Thistle goal after some excellent attacking play down the right hand side. Atayaki had acres of space in the penalty area to take his time and pick his spot before effortlessly finding the bottom corner of the net.

Just over ten minutes later the flying winger grabbed his second of the game when a long ball found him unmarked and he poked the ball beyond the helpless Cullen. Abaradan followed Atayaki’s strike in as he tries to impress Graeme Murty in a rare start for the Development Squad and managed to get the last touch before it crossed the line.

As the first half wore on Rangers took more and more control of the game as they looked to extend their lead but clear cut chances were hard to come by. Jamie Barjonas was constantly looking to get on the ball and drive his side on while Ross Lyon and Serge Atayaki looked to have a good understanding down the right hand side.

The second half almost produced an immediate goal for the visitors as Liam Burt was inches away from getting onto a lovely through ball but Cullen was smart to it and managed to punch clear before the Scotland U19 star could get to the ball.

Thistle then grabbed a lifeline after 56 minutes when Kevin Nisbet got on the end of Ian Stokes cross to head home from close distance. Just two minutes later Rangers had McCrorie to thank for keeping them infront when he reacted fantastically to get on the end of a shot and divert it away from goal before Ross Lyon hooked the ball clear.

Thistle kept pushing for an equaliser and got their reward with 15 minutes left when McLaughlin took advantage of some poor Rangers defending to fire beyond McCrorie and level the scoreline. On the strength of their second half performance it was nothing less than Thistle deserved but was a goal entirely made of Rangers’ own slackness.

Minutes later Rangers restored their lead through sub Andy Dallas when Barjonas played a fantastic outside-of-the-boot pass that flummoxed the entire Thistle defence and Dallas was first to react to it and rifle it low beneath Cullen.

With Hearts visiting Forthbank next Monday the win will give Rangers some momentum as they build-up to the Scottish FA Youth Cup final and the players try impress Pedro Caixinha in the hope of winning a first team place.

Partick: Cullen, Ian Stokes, Fleming, Granger, Kelly, Wilson, Lamont, McCarthy, Nisbet, McLaughlin, James Stokes

Subs: Herd, McInally, Higgins, Eadie

Goals: Nisbet 58’, McLaughlin 75’

Rangers: McCrorie; Lyon, Ashmore, Barjonas, Bradley, Wilson, Atayaki, Gibson, Abaradan, Jeffries, Burt

Subs: Wright, Krones, Adamson, Dallas, Butterworth, Mebude

Goals: Atayaki 14’, Abaradan 26’, Dallas 81’