A pre-match blow has turned into a major selection headache for manager Jackie McNamara. Illness ruled out goalkeeper Scott Fox for the trip to Dens Park handing Ryan Scully, on his 19th birthday, only his second first team appearance and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands producing a string of important saves as Thistle recorded their first away win of the season in a highly eventful encounter.
The first in a series of contentious decisions arrived as early as the 4th minute. Chris Erskine set up Paul Cairney and there were loud shouts for a Thistle penalty as Cairney hit the ground with a Dundee defender in close attention. On this occasion referee McLean ignored the Thistle appeals but he would be pointing to the spot midway through the half in arguably the most pivotal moment in the 90 minutes.
At that stage of the game Thistle with their crisp passing were firmly in control of proceedings although they had only one clear cut chance during the opening period of the game. In the 10th minute Christie Elliot found himself clear on goal but couldn’t find a way past Rab Douglas in the Dundee goal.
Douglas’ involvement in the game, however, would soon be at an end as Thistle were awarded a 22nd minute penalty. Chris Erskine timed his run to perfection to remain onside when collecting Paul Cairney’s through ball and was left with just Douglas to beat. Erskine elected to take the ball past the Dundee keeper and as he did so he appeared to be clipped by either Douglas or his team mate Matthew Lockwood. Referee McLean pointed to the spot prompted howls of protest from Dundee players and fans alike which only intensified when he flashed a red card in Douglas’ direction.
Dundee immediately brought on sub keeper John Gibson as they went down to ten men and after a lengthy delay as the change was made, Paul Cairney slammed home the penalty.
With Thistle in control of the game and now a goal and a man up they would now surely go on and win the game with some comfort. Win the game they did but it was far from comfortable.
Christie Elliot did come close to a second goal for Thistle in the 30th minute when Gibson tipped his shot round the post for a corner but much of the action for the remainder of the half came in and around the Thistle goal.
Ryan Scully produced his first save of the note when he pushed away a Gary Irvine effort in the 39th minute and three minutes later produced an even better save to keep out a Gavin Rae effort with Dundee having the Thistle defence under serious pressure with a series of corner kicks that immediately followed.
A goal to the good at the interval, Thistle had a couple of chances to extend their advantage at the start of the second half. Paul Cairney sending a shot just wide and Stephen O’Donnell curling an effort from the edge of the box over the bar.
Just as they had in the closing stages of the first half it were Dundee that looked the more dangerous side with Thistle on the back foot for much of the second half.
Ryan Scully further underlined his potential when he managed to claw away a Ryan Conroy header and saved with his feet to deny Riley a goal. Riley too shot over the bar after collecting a pass from Gavin Rae and a Conroy free kick was just a foot wide of Scully’s left hand post as the Thistle lead began to look increasingly precarious.
They could, however, have eased the increasing tension considerably had they taken a couple of late chances.
Tommy Stewart, who had earlier fired over the bar from a similar position, saw his shot saved by Gibson in the 82nd minute after receiving a through ball from Aaron Sinclair and Paul Cairney really should have scored, rather than having his effort blocked by a Dundee defender, four minutes later after being set up by Kris Doolan.
The Thistle fans in the crowd of over 4,000 had to endure several minutes of tension filled injury time before referee McLean’s final whistle signalled Thistle’s first away win of the season and the first league win at Dens Park since the opening day of the 2006-2007 season. The Thistle performance may not have been the greatest but we were long overdue some good fortune at Dens Park.