THORN Athletic manager Johnny McEwan will have to lift his players' morale after they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the fifth round by Cowie Thistle on Saturday.

A lethargic start to the game that saw the Johnstone team trailing within the opening minute would eventually cost them a place in the next round.

Cammy Armstrong’s goal for the visitors just before the break turned out to be futile, as Thistle made home advantage count and secured a 2-1 victory in Stonehaven.

Both teams were reduced to nine men in controversial circumstances, leaving McEwan feeling aggrieved.

He said: “Exiting the national cup competition is never a good feeling, especially so far from home and given the circumstances.

"We lost an early goal which had us on the backfoot right away and, before we knew it, we were down to 10 men and 2-0 down.

"That gave us a mountain to climb but, to be fair to the boys, they got us back in the game before half-time.

“The turning point in the first half came when the referee failed to act consistently and red card a Cowie player for what was an extremely dangerous tackle on our defender Ian Paterson.

"He was lucky to escape without serious injury after an excessive lunge on his ankle.

"We kept ourselves in the game and, on another day, had probably done enough in the second half to take it to penalties.”

The Douglas Smith League Cup offers the Thorn players the chance to get back on track tomorrow as they travel to Maryhill to take on Westerlands but McEwan admits they will need to be more assertive from the first whistle if they have ambitions of making the next round.

He added: “It's another tough cup game but, as one run ends, we have a chance to begin another one and set ourselves up for the run-in to the league campaign.

"We can't allow ourselves a hangover and we've had two good training sessions this week, so hopefully we can produce a performance good enough to get us through.”