SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 20 December, 2014. Kick Off: - 15:00
Having just about come down from the high of beating Inverness 4-0 last week we spoke to manager, Alan Archibald, about how he saw this Saturday’s encounter with with top six rivals, Dundee.
“I think last week was one of the best performances I’ve seen from us since I took over. To overturn their terrific home record and perform in the manner we did was absolutely fantastic and i think it’s one of the first times this season where we’ve really showed exactly what we’re capable of.
“The performance was good both with and without the ball. When we had it we always looked dangerous and when we didn’t have it we kept our shape ever so well. We stopped Inverness playing and got on the attack wuickly. One of the biggest things was how clinical we were in front of goal which ahs been missing from our game at times this season.”
Looking forward to Dundee Alan has done his homework and knows what to expect.
“We’ve got a chance at home to go ahead of Dundee and potentially jump two places so we’re really looking for a win today. Consistency has been a problem for us since coming up to the Premiership and that’s something we really want to put to bed.
“Dundee have come up and played some really good stuff this season and surprised a few people along the way I think. We know what their threats are and we need to be ready for that. There’s no doubt it will be a tough game but I think you saw earlier on in the season when we played them up there that we are more than capable of matching them and taking the three points.”
Ryan Stevenson has come into form in recent weeks and has played his way into a regular spot in the team.
“Ryan was a bit slow to get going but he has really hit some form of late. His attitude has always beenf first class and he ahs certainly been putting in the hours before, during and after training to make sure he is at the top of his game.”
Although his squad is largely fit Archie does have a couple of injury concerns to deal with.
“We have a couple of doubts for the game today, Freddy is still struggling with his hamstring but we’ll give him every chance. Jake will miss out today as well and Sean Welsh is still struggling with some bruising on his knee. Other than that we should have a full squad.”
After the previous weekend’s magnificent performance and victory over Inverness, Thistle were looking to record back to back league wins for the first time since we returned to the top flight. There was one change to the starting line up from last week as Jordan McMillan missed out. James Craigen came back in to the starting eleven with Stuart Bannigan moved to fill the vacant left back position.
Thistle started the game on the front foot and some excellent link up play and possession between O’Donnell and Craigen saw them create an early shooting chance for Elliott but his effort was blocked inside the box. A Higginbotham cross was then collected by Letheren before it could reach Elliott before Ryan Stevenson went on a gliding run, dancing his way past two defenders and then firing a powerful left foot shot just over the bar from 20 yards.
The visitors had their first chance in the 13th minute when Thistle failed to clear their lines properly and, after the ball broke off Fraser, Greg Stewart collected and fired a shot just over Gallacher’s goal.
Despite the scare Thistle continued to dominate and were awarded a free kick on the right after Elliott took a stray boot to the face. Bannigan sent in another of his trademark deliveries but the ball just evaded Seaborne and Osman who were both stretching to get a touch.
There was then another scare at the other end when slack play from Higginbotham on the edge of his own box saw Irvine pounce to smash his shot inches wide of the far post. On the half hour mark Thistle had the best chance of the game so far, Higginbotham slid a through pass behind the visitors defence and Craigen timed his run to perfection but saw his curling shot well saved by Letheren.
The visitors did have a couple of chances just before half time when firstly, a long ball into the box found Stewart who flashed a shot just wide and then Irvine headed wide from a corner.
At half time the teams went in level at 0-0.
Thistle were again the first to threaten at the start of the second half, quick thinking by Bannigan saw his quick throw find Stevenson and Craigen exchanged passes to set up Fraser whose shot was deflected for a corner. From the resulting set piece Balatoni saw his header under pressure saved.
Fraser had to look lively at the other end to clear a dangerous cross from Dyer before McGinn fired a powerful shot over the bar as the visitors looked to catch the Jags with a quick counter. Fraser then won the ball in midfield before finding Stevenson with his back to goal, he turned his man and curled a shot just over.
Thistle then broke the deadlock on the 58th minute. A quick throw in taken by the Jags on the left saw Higginbotham and Stevenson link up in the box, Stevenson then created space, beat his man and cut the ball back across goal to find James Craigen who slotted home from eight yards to make it 1-0 to the Jags.
The goal lifted Thistle and Fraser fizzed a 25 yard shot inches wide of the visitors’ goal. It was all Thistle for a period and in the 72nd minute the home team broke away after Fraser won the ball in midfield. Stevenson found Higginbotham driving forward and he squared the ball to Craigen but he curled his effort over the bar from 16 yards. Fraser then saw a shot deflected wide and two minutes later a great midfield tackle by Craigen saw him find Stevenson who passed to Fraser but he was again wide of the target.
With 10 minutes to go Roberts shot just wide of Gallacher’s post before McPake saw his header saved comfortably by the Jags keeper.
However, in the 90th minute, disaster struck for the Jags and their profligacy in front of goal was punished in the harshest manner possible.
A contentious refereeing decision saw Bannigan penalised for a free kick despite winning the ball and being the meat in a Dundee sandwich. O’Donnell cleared the free kick but, when the ball came back in, it fell to Roberts wide and he fired the ball across goal. His shot was probably going out for a throw in but the unfortunate Balatoni stuck a foot out and deflected it past a helpless Gallacher to make it 1-1.
A cruel end to the game for the Jags.
Starting line-up: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Seaborne, Balatoni, Craigen, Bannigan, Stevenson, Elliott, Higginbotham, Osman, Fraser
Subs: Fox (N/U), Doolan (79), Lawless (N/U), Eccleston (N/U), Wilson (N/U), Lindsay (N/U), McDaid (N/U)
A devastating last minute goal robbed Thistle of a win against Dundee that could have moved them up two places. It was a disconsolate Alan Archibald who spoke to ptfc.co.uk after the full time whistle.
“I didn’t see it coming to be honest. I thought once we got our goal we played OK and to concede a deflected goal like that is a very bitter pill to swallow. I think the biggest disappointment is that we didn’t kill the game off earlier. When there is only one goal ion the game you always run the risk of losing a horrible goal like that and dropping points.
“I thought when Dundee were pushing we could have picked them off a couple of times, it’s disappointing that we couldn’t get that goal as it feels like a defeat to be honest and we definitely see it as two points dropped.”
The fact that the Jags could have moved up the table hasn’t escaped Alan Archibald’s notice either.
“That’s two home games that we’ve drawn 1-1 that we really should be winning. At the end of the day that’s why we are where we are in the table. If we were taking three points from games like that today then we would probably be in the top half.
“It is bitterly disappointing but it looks like a much better point if we go away to Motherwell and win next week like we did the week before.”
It was a slow start for Thistle but things really heated up in the second half and, overall, Archie was pleased with the performance.
“There were a lot of positives to take and I was happy with the second half performance in particular. We were perhaps a bit slow to start off with but we really got going in the second half and looked very dangerous at times.”
Last minute goals became a feature of last season but Archie is confident that the goals being conceded aren’t down to the same old mistakes this time around.
“I think last season you saw us conceding goals from stupid mistakes, I don’t think that’s the case any more. Look at Hamilton, that was a world class strike from 20 yards and tonight was a horrible deflection. As long as we keep going in the right direction the wins will come but it doesn’t make today any less disappointing.”