IAN McCALL is pleased that Partick Thistle’s chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the Premier Sports Cup will not rest on any other team as the Maryhill club defeated Fraserburgh 2-0 to leave them in the driving seat in Group B.

A home victory over Montrose – who lost out 2-0 to Stenhousemuir last night– on Saturday will confirm top spot in the group for the Championship club and although the margin of the win could have been greater, the Jags manager was largely pleased with his team’s performance.

“We had five or six great chances and we should have scored more goals but apart from that it was job done,” McCall said. “We have to be more clinical, although it was a hard night to play football.

“Fraserburgh were well-organised but we had three or four good chances in the first half and the same in the second. But credit to Fraserburgh: they worked their socks off.

“Montrose will be a hard game – they will be smarting after their result and it will be a tough game for us.

“There will probably be a couple of changes and we know that if we win, we’ll top the group and get into the last 16, which is great.”

The scalding heat had thankfully eased off by the time the match got under way and the visitors started brightly. Thistle were always going to be the favourites to finish the evening with the points, but an early chance that fell the way of Fraserburgh’s Aidan Combe served as a reminder of their threat.

The Jags soon settled into the contest, though, as they started exerting some pressure of their own. A flicked header from Kyle Turner was well held by Fraserburgh goalkeeper Joe Barbour, and a few minutes later Steven Lawless forced a good stop from Barbour with a similar effort. The ball eventually broke to Turner, who did well to fashion an opening, but his shot curled just wide of the far post.

On 33 minutes, Thistle got the lead that their play deserved. The home side broke quickly up the park as a throng of red-and-yellow jerseys surged forward, with the ball being worked to Jack McMillan on the right. The summer arrival from Livingston tried to pick out Lawless in the middle but his driven cross was tantalisingly out of the winger’s reach – thankfully for the hosts, though, Bryan Hay made a hash of his clearance and diverted the ball into the back of his own net.

The Highland League outfit almost levelled the scores five minutes from half-time when a delightful cross from deep from Paul Young found Combe at the back post but the striker couldn’t keep his header down.

Cole McKinnon, who was excellent throughout, almost grabbed his first Thistle goal towards the end of the first half but the midfielder was denied by a good stop from Barbour. He lofted the ball over the Fraserburgh defence for Brian Graham to latch onto, and the centre-forward showed good awareness to spot McKinnon’s lung-busting run forward. He slipped the 20-year-old through for a one-on-one but the Rangers loanee was unable to convert.

“I thought Cole was very good,” McCall added. “In the first half he did well and in the second he really grew into the game. I think there’s a lot more to come from him – he’s just getting his confidence playing first-team football.

“He is a helluva athlete and he can see a pass. I wish he’d volleyed that [chance towards the end when McKinnon got on the end of a long diagonal pass] rather cut it back, mind you. But he’s a good player.”

Thistle kept up the pressure after the restart and Turner came close to doubling their advantage when he screwed the ball narrowly over from inside the Fraserburgh box. With just over an hour played, Graham made it 2-0 and left the visitors with a mountain to climb. A dinked cross from Kevin Holt caught out the defence, and Graham was afforded the freedom of Firhill to take a touch and pick his spot before rifling the ball into the bottom corner.

Aidan Fitzpatrick, Tony Weston and Anton Dowds were brought on for the final half hour or so – the latter for his Thistle debut – and Weston was close to opening his account for Thistle but was denied by a strong save from Barbour. Dowds got on the end of the resulting corner but his goal-bound header hit the arm of Weston just a few yards out.

A raking ball forward fell invitingly in to the path of McKinnon late on but the midfielder judged the angle to be too narrow for an attempt at goal, choosing instead to cut the ball back for Weston, who couldn’t quite reach it as the Jags settled for a 2-0 win.

“It was really tough,” said Fraserburgh assistant James Duthie. “In terms of effort I can’t fault the players – they ran a lot, they chased a lot and they kept a decent enough shape.

“Our quality in possession was poor because we were tired and we can do a lot better.

“But it has been a good experience to play in this cup and we have learned a lot from it.”