An early second half goal from ex-Largs player Blair MacIntyre was enough to settle a tense encounter which keeps Kilwinning’s hopes of staying in the Premier League alive.
The diagonal strike was enough to separate the sides in a hard fought clash which saw both teams squander good openings but chances were generally at a premium.
However, Largs will wonder how they didn’t score within only five minutes of play after a slick passing move from the visitors saw Will Sewell’s initial turn and shot blocked which fell into the path of David Ramsay.
The former Buffs striker blasted the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Great chance for @LargsThistleFC v @steadythebuffs but still 0-0 at ht pic.twitter.com/mPNrHFEdMF
— Calum Corral (@CalumCorral) May 6, 2023
Ramsay had already supplied Sewell but the striker was offside as his angled shot was beaten clear by the Buffs keeper Ewan Henderson.
Jamie Martin also burst forward from the left wing and tried his luck from long range but the shot was a comfortable catch for Henderson.
Thistle’s bright opening start soon petered out though as the game was dragged into a midfield battle which suited Kilwinning and they created their first meaningful chance of note on the half hour mark as Gavin Millar’s blazing shot from the right went inches wide of Jamie McGowan’s left post in the Largs goal.
But Largs were dangerous on the break as more turning and twisting from Sewell resulted in a deflected shot which was well grasped by Henderson on 40 minutes.
The second half saw a more determined Kilwinning come out after the break and they started to seriously threaten the Largs goal.
McGowan made a good stop from a diagonal effort as Buffs turned up the pressure.
A giant throw into the box was only partially cleared by Largs and MacIntyre was on hand to drill a shot into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box on 54 minutes.
Ex-St Johnstone and Morton midfielder Chris Millar came off the bench and nearly added a sensational second for the Buffs as he left rip with a 25 yard volley which had McGowan beaten but reverberated off the corner of the post and bar.
Sewell was continuing to be a threat for Largs as he sent an effort flashing across the face of goal but Buffs were sensing this might be their moment and it was Thistle defender Ryan McCreath who came to the rescue with a last ditch header to deny a dangerous Buffs attack.
Ramsay then headed over the bar after a flowing Thistle move down the left and a good curling cross from Blair Devine.
Kilwinning sub Jack McMahon nearly added another for the home side but Largs went on the attack in the final ten minutes and put Kilwinning under some considerable pressure.
Henderson was the hero of the hour as he denied Sewell who was clean through with a great diving parry as the ball was dramatically cleared to safety, while David McGrath also went close for the visitors.
Will Sewell denied on 84 mins for @LargsThistleFC v @steadythebuffs still 1-0 to Buffs pic.twitter.com/xAFLRHdgPE
— Calum Corral (@CalumCorral) May 6, 2023
Kilwinning managed to hold off the late Largs onslaught to collect all three points with a hard working win which gives the Buffs fresh hope for survival in their final two league games, but Largs were left disappointed after an out of sorts display which saw them lose their first away game since February 3.
Kilwinning manager Chris Aitken said: “It keeps the hope alive – I told the players before the game we need to go and take it to them and play with a freedom and I thought early doors it was cagey but the message at half-time was that any bit of quality could win this game and Blair popped up with a great strike.
“It keeps us alive we have got two games to go and it means Wednesday means something for us – it is Troon away. Every game is huge.
It has been a tough season and we have not been carried away with any win and we have not been too despondent when it has gone the other way either. We have given ourselves an opportunity.
“The quality is in that group of players but unfortunately it has not been shown this season but the boys have stuck to it and we got the three points. It was always going to be nervy with the situation we are in and we are defending for our lives and I have never been so relieved when that full time whistle went.
“The games have been coming thick and fast and there has been no respite for the players which hasn’t helped. It is no excuse as this is what you have to do at this level but we have just got on with it. We know what we need to go and do and win Wednesday, and Saturday at Petershill, but it will be irrelevant if we don’t win on Wednesday. Troon is our next cup final.
“I have seen Troon a few times and have been very impressed and Dean Keenan has got them playing extremely well – it is going to be difficult, there is no getting away from that, but it is about us now and we need to go and take our game to them and go for the three points.”
Largs manager Stuart Davidson said: “We didn’t make a lot of chances and neither did Kilwinning – I don’t think we played well and we didn’t have the edge that we have recently had. People might say it is the end of the season and it is okay but we set high standards and it was disappointing.
“The players played a bit too within themselves and weren’t on the front foot and not as confident on the ball.
“There are no excuses.
“There was no pressure on us and a lot of pressure on Kilwinning and fair play to them they managed to grind out a victory. It wasn’t just about us – Kilwinning stopped us as well.
“The last time we had two weeks off we came back and beat Hurlford and Auchinleck – so we can’t use the week and a half break from action as an excuse.
“We want the season to finish with a flourish and look to win our last two games against Rob Roy and Pollok as the boys have worked so hard this season.”
Teams: LARGS – McGowan, McLeod, Devine, Hughes, McCreath, Faulds, Martin, Davidson, Sewell, Ramsay, McGrath. Subs: Adam, Forbes, Tennent, Nimmo, McMaster, Walker (GK).
KILWINNING – Henderson, Boland, Wood, M.Millar, MacCalman, MacIntyre, Millar, Lewis, McColm, Lamont, Collins. Subs: Kavanagh, C.Milar, Mackin, McMahon, Torrance, Marshall, Gordon (GK).