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Irvine Thistle produced a magnificent second half comeback to overcome a Bonnyton side that went in at the break two goals ahead. A breathtaking fifteen minutes in the second half allowed them to overturn the deficit before holding on to win on a cold morning in North Ayrshire.
The away side went ahead only moments after the match had started when lively striker Grant McIntyre grabbed his first goal of the day on three minutes. Bonnyton continued to press their opponents and remained on top in the opening exchanges.
The away side's earl dominance allowed striker McIntyre to double he and his team's tally after ten minutes. Callum Riddick played the ball that put his strike partner one-on-one with Irvine 'keeper Sam Auld and in behind the home team's defence. McIntyre's initial shot was saved by Auld only for the forward to nick in first to the rebound and lift it into the net from close range. 2-0 Bonnyton after only ten minutes.
Irvine set about immediately getting themselves back into the game as they attacked immediately and moved up the pitch. The attack resulted in a shot from Liam McKie - but it drifted wide.
Irvine were clearly giving their all to find an instant route back into the game and a superb save from Corrie Speirs in the Bonnyton goal helped keep the score at 2-0. A cut back fell to David Cherry who flicked the ball towards goal - only for Speirs to fling himself low to his right to tip the ball wide with strong fingers.
With Irvine pushing up, McIntyre almost capitalised on some defensive mishaps but he could only poke wide from five yards after latching on to a loose ball.
Bonnyton's silky winger Connor Hepburn had looked capable of hurting Irvine and he demonsrated why so in the twenty-seventh minute. He beat to players on the left before laying in Liam McKenna on the overlap - only for Michael Feary to thwart the danger. A good piece of play unlucky to go unmerited.
Just before the half-hour mark, Bonnyton's Riddick had a great chance to put the game beyond Irvine even at this early stage. From a free kick, the blonde striker aimed a volley at goal but it lacked power and Auld was able to catch from eight yards.
Irvine upped the pressure as the half drew to a close, putting the away side's defence under the cosh. Cherry saw a half-chance from the edge of the box fly wide before McKie sent a half-volley narrowly wide of the mark from an angle from fourteen yards out. The Bonnyton defence had to stay alert and did exactly that as whistle blew for the end of the half with the away side on top, and probably deservedly so.
Half Time: Irvine Thistle 0-2 Bonnyton Thistle
Irvine came out all guns blazing after the restart. About five minutes into the second half and they made things interesting when Jacob Grant steered the ball home following a free kick. Bonnyton were looking laxidasical and this showed when moments later Irvine almost equalised, but Reece Parrott volleyed over from seven yards. Would Irvine regret the miss was the question - it was a golden chance to equalise and it had now passed.
As it turned it they wouldn't as Parrott made amends in the next attack, netting from inside the box to stun the visitors. Bonnyton had thought they were cruising to victory and now Irvine were all over them.
The theme continued as Irvine did complete the amazing turnaround a few minutes later. Parrott broke free on the right and fired low at Speirs - the 'keeper parried the ball but only into the path of the lurking Grant, who rolled it home from inside the six yard box.
This threw the game wide open as Bonnyton were left scratching their heads after Irvine's sizzling second half start. 3-2 Irvine with about twenty minutes to go.
Irvine kept themselves just on top despite an end-to-end theme to the match as it drew on. A goalmouth scramble resulted in the ball eventually falling to the feet of Glen Weeks but he fired his shot wide when he pulled the trigger from eight yards out. Golden chance missed. Irvine's Cherry had a long range effort saved by Speirs on seventy minutes before Weeks again sliced wide from fifteen yards.
Soon after, the home side's captain Grant could have wrapped the game up and made things more comfortable but Speirs made a good save to keep things close with five minutes remaining.
As the match drew to a close, Bonnyton had a penalty claim for a challenge on Ethan Lennon turned down before a last-minute free kick allowed the team to send up goalkeeper Speirs to try and salvage anything. Scott Duddy sepped up but the ball flew wide by a whisker as it missed the heads of all the attacking players. Bonnyton were made to rue a poor second half performance as the whistle blew for an Irvine win.
Bonnyton were the better team in the first half but Irvine came out with something to prove in the second period after going down so early. A magnificent comeback and all-round good performance made for a pleasing game from both sides for neutrals.
Full Time: Irvine Thistle 3-2 Bonnyton Thistle