East Kilbride Thistle made a winning return to the Showpark after an 18-month absence - and co-boss Alan Paterson joked his talented side are so young their home ground has become a crèche.

An Evan Duffy double on his debut gave Thistle's young guns a shock 2-1 win over West of Scotland League Conference C title contenders Kilsyth Rangers, as over 200 punters flocked to the Village to get their first taste of the Jags in action on home soil since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

A new pitch and spruced-up changing rooms have formed a major part of the revamp and fans wouldn't have been disappointed with what they saw on the park, with the Jags running out winners.

Evan Duffy was at the double for East Kilbride Thistle

Paterson, along with fellow caretaker coach Russell Craig, have turned to youth to try and turn the club's fortunes around on the park and he admitted that fact wasn't lost on the spectators, with a host of players in their early 20s in the squad.

He said: "We had a really good game. It was end-to-end stuff and I spoke to a lot of people after the game who said they really enjoyed it, they would come back to watch us again and it was good to see these young boys playing.

"Some people were laughing, asking: 'How young are these boys?'

"And I was like: 'I know, it's like a school crèche in here.'

David Bannerman chases down possession during Thistle's win over Kilsyth

"But, seriously, they were fantastic.

"Those young boys won't come up against many better teams than that and I thought, to a man, they were excellent.

"Even the subs that came off the bench were great - we didn't have one failure.

"They turned up and the park is looking great, the dressing rooms were all done up and some of the amateur teams were there to watch the game as well.

"We were playing against Kilsyth who were big favourites.

"Nobody gave us a chance, we had Even Duffy and Ronan Fox making their debuts and we deserved to win the game."

Jags boss Alan Paterson says his side are improving and players are returning from injuries
EK Thistle co-boss Alan Paterson and the interim coaching team

Paterson added: "It is a gamble because you could lose a couple of games and then people say you can't do anything with kids.

"But to see that on Saturday was great and I think they really thrived off that atmosphere.

"They got a great reception coming off the park and the feedback is we'll have people coming back to watch us - and if that's the case we must be doing something right."

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Last week Thistle ran league leaders Drumchapel United close, losing 2-1, and Paterson feels his side - who are currently 12th in the table - are improving every week.

He added: "If you can be disappointed at being beaten by Drumchapel last week and then go and beat Kilsyth, who are one of the favourites for the league, it shows how far we've come.

"It wasn't a smash and grab. We showed we can compete - it's just getting to a consistent level now.

EK Thistle's Showpark pitch is in great condition

"Compared to the last time I was at East Kilbride, the club is in a much better place.

"We've got a development squad coming through, the park is looking great and I can't speak any higher of what the committee put on here on Saturday."

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