Thorn Athletic atoned for their recent Scottish Cup disappointment at the hands of Cowie Thistle by securing their progression through to the next round of the Douglas Smith League Cup last Saturday. Although the 3-2 scoreline and patchy performance against Westerlands may not have been the reaction that Thorn Athletic head coach Johnny McEwan would have ideally hoped for, the result was the priority and ensures that the Thorn’s wait for their first win of 2022 is over.

The Thorn controlled the possession throughout the first half and a brace from Callum Kelly meant that they had a commanding lead to show for their territorial dominance at the interval. Westerlands provided a constant threat throughout the first half despite their lack of possession, with the Thorn struggling to deal with their direct approach and physicality in the final third. However, they were left frustrated by an inspired first half performance from Thorn shot stopper Ryan Ward, whose first half performance was typified by an outstanding double save from a penalty kick and the subsequent rebound after the referee pointed to the spot for a handball offence.

The second half followed a similar pattern, but Westerlands were not as wasteful in the second period and halved the deficit just six minutes after the restart. It looked possible that the momentum of the game could change in favour of Westerlands, but Thorn Athletic restored their two-goal lead almost immediately when Cameron Armstrong converted a cross from the left flank from a tight angle. Thorn Athletic invited Westerlands back into the match with twenty minutes remaining after their failure to clear a loose ball in the box resulted in a second goal for the home side, but they couldn’t find an equalizer due to some disciplined defending from the Thorn in the final stages.

There was a lot for Johnny McEwan and his coaching staff to unpack after Saturday’s five goal thriller in Glasgow. Although there were undoubtedly some creases to iron out in the aftermath of the match, there was a lot for McEwan to feel enthused about – particularly in the offensive third of the pitch.

McEwan said: “We certainly were not anywhere near the levels we can reach but in cup football it’s just about getting through on the day and that was all that matters. However, we are under no illusions that we need to improve.

“We changed things up a little bit at the top end of the park and it was pleasing to see both Callum and Cammy get on the scoresheet. They both took their goals well and hopefully that will give them confidence and they can build on the performances. There was always the chance of a bit of a hangover after going out of the Scottish Cup so it was vital we done enough to get through and we can now move on.”

Focus now turns to Saturday’s home fixture against St. Mungos in the Caledonian Premier League as the Thorn look to pick up their first league win since November. The incentive couldn’t be clearer for McEwan and his side, who could climb to fourth in the league standings and move eight points clear of Saturday’s opponents with a victory.

McEwan added “We’ve been playing catch-up in the league due to cup runs but now we have to get ourselves back in the mix again. The top end of the table is looking very competitive, and we cannot afford to be at anything other than our best for this one.

“We suffered our first league defeat just before Christmas but other than that we had been doing pretty well all things considered. We have started to get one or two boys back from longer term injuries so hopefully that bodes well going into the second half of the season.”

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