Stuart Davidson insisted he couldn’t be more proud of his Largs Thistle side after they staged a stunning comeback with 10-men to claim a precious point.
Thistle looked down and out just 25 minutes into today’s West of Scotland League Premier Division clash after conceding two early goals and losing defender Cory Hughes to a straight red card.
But astonishingly, the second half proved to be a mirror image of the first, with strikes from Will Sewell and Blair MacIntyre hauling the Barrfields battlers off the canvas before Kilwinning defender Kieran Wood was sent-off.
The post denied Largs a third as Kilwinning lost all semblance of the composition they had shown in the opening 45 minutes.
And boss Davidson told Ayrshire Live: “I thought second half we were magnificent and really unlucky not to win the game.
“With that kind of performance, even with 10 men, I think we can play anybody in the league and get something.
“But we need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s our problem.
“At half time I was probably the most frustrated manager about because the last thing I said before we went out the door today was ‘don’t give away any cheap early goals’ and we done that.
“After we gave away the second we were a bit stunned. It was important after that, that we didn’t lose a third and a fourth.
“We managed to get to half-time and regroup and the message was go out there and fight our corner – win tackles, keep the shape, be hard to beat and when that wee chance comes take it.
“The players did that and I can’t be more proud of the boys.”
The game took just 90 seconds to burst into life when Kilwinning full-back Wood stooped to head home a free-kick at the back post.
Jordan Stuart doubled the visitors’ lead in 16 minutes with a fine side-footed finish from 18 yards after Gavin Millar picked out his run into the penalty area.
Largs’ afternoon went from bad to worse in 25 minutes when Hughes was given his marching orders for petulantly flicking a boot at Stuart after the Buffs midfielder fouled him near the halfway line.
Kilwinning took complete control and Ally McColm’s curling effort from 12 yards narrowly missed the target before Largs keeper Jamie McGowan pulled off a fantastic reflex save to keep out a David Syme header.
It was hard to see a way back for Thistle but they came flying out the traps in the second half and Sewell threw them a lifeline in 55 minutes when his powerful snapshot from 16 yards found the bottom corner of the net.
Kilwinning just couldn’t get going although they passed up a succession of glaring chances to restore their two goal advantage in 62 minutes. A game of pinball in the Largs box presented both Stuart and David Ramsay with opportunities to score but neither could take them.
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It was downhill from there for the Buffs. A lightning-quick Largs counter attack in 68 minutes ended with the unmarked MacIntyre netting at the back post to level the match.
Sixty seconds later, the post came to Kilwinning’s rescue after a frantic goalmouth scramble.
Wood was then shown a straight red card after an altercation with Sewell as the momentum swung entirely in Largs’ direction.
They looked the likelier to go on and win the game with Sewell going close with a shot from 20 yards before a Jack Haggerty strike from distance had Jamie Barclay scrambling to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Referee Calum Haswell’s whistle probably came as a relief to Kilwinning and boss Chris Strain didn’t pull any punches over his side’s Jekyll and Hyde performance.
He said: “It’s the most unhappy with this group of boys I’ve been in a long, long time.
“Even when we’ve been through difficult games this season, we’ve still done the right things and shown the right endeavor.
“Every single thing we spoke about at half time, the exact opposite happened. Everything about us in the second half, there’s nothing to pick positives from.
“We were all over the place. Our shape went, our composition went, our discipline went.
“I always knew the second half would be difficult. But when you are playing against 10 men and they’re first to second balls and they’re doing the dirty side of the game better than you are, it’s not right.
“That’s where my disappointment lies. We did not play, didn’t battle, and didn’t compete in the second half and that’s a slight on us.”
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