Saturday 13th April, 2013 at 9:43pm
In a season in which the Thistle squad have demonstrated an incredible amount of character and determination they exceled themselves in this game. With the clock showing 89 minutes played they trailed bottom club Airdrie United by a goal to nil. In just a couple of incredible minutes they managed to turn that deficit into a 2-1 win and move 8 points clear at the top of the First Division.
Returning to events prior to the game; manager Alan Archibald made one change to the side that had defeated Morton. Chris Erskine was rested and dropped to the bench with Steven Craig starting.
Keen to net a tension relieving early goal Thistle started the game in a positive fashion and early signs were encouraging with Thistle twice managing to get in behind the Airdrie defence, albeit without manage to create a clear opening.
Their first chance arrived in the 12th minute. Stuart Bannigan crossed from left and Steven Craig’s first time shot went narrowly over the bar.
The Airdrie United goalkeeper Robbie Thomson had been in excellent form at Firhill the last time the two teams met and he was called into action in this game as well; pushing away a Kris Doolan effort in the 18th minute. The loose ball fell to Stephen O’Donnell but from a tight angle he was always unlikely to hit target and Steven Craig voiced his displeasure that O’Donnell hadn’t squared the ball to him.
Thistle remained firmly in control of this game and Kris Doolan looked set to score when put through by Steven Craig but an Airdrie defender was able to get back and win the ball from Doolan before he was able to shoot.
The home side had offered virtually nothing as an attacking force and it came as a real bolt from the blue when they opened the scoring in the 35th minute when Liam Watt was able to profit from sone indecision in the Jags defence to score at the second attempt.
Save for a Ross Forbes corner that nearly snuck in under the bar, Thistle never really threatened an equaliser in the time that remained before the interval which made for a distinctly subdued atmosphere in the away end during the break.
Things didn’t improve after the restart either. Indeed Airdrie will feel aggrieved not to have been given a chance to extend their lead from the penalty spot just three minutes into the second half. Andy Dowie seemed to bundle goalscorer Watt to the ground inside the box and had a penalty been awarded the defender would surely have received a red card.
Three minutes later Thistle missed a glorious opportunity to draw level when Sean Welsh burst into the box but unaccountably elected not to shoot when left with just Thomson to beat.
The tempo of Thistle’s player was notably higher in the second half but they were becoming more and more frustrated as time passed and an equaliser just would come.
Chris Erskine was on by this time and he dragged a shot wide and James Craigen saw an effort saved after he had collected a chipped pass from Sean Welsh.
There were howls for a red card for Sean Lynch when he cynically halted a Chris Erskine surge towards goal and frustration grew further when Thomson saved Aaron Sinclair’s deflected free kick that followed.
There was always a danger as Thistle pressed that Airdrie might sneak a second goal and Andy Dowie had to make a timely interception inside his own box before McLaren flashed a shot just wide.
There were appeals for a Thistle penalty when a Chris Erskine ball into the box struck an Airdrie defender but the appeals for handball fell on deaf ears and with time running out it really looked as if this wouldn’t be Thistle’s day.
The players though had other ideas. With the 90 minute approaching three corners in quick succession were won and from the third the head of Conrad Balatoni managed to divert the ball into the net.
Amazingly there was still time to win the game. Christie Elliott didn’t make the cleanest of contacts with his shot but it was enough to find the net, sparking scenes of bedlam on and off the pitch.
Airdrie’s time wasting tactics meant that there were still a few minutes of additional time to negotiate before the points could be celebrated and Airdrie did manage a couple of opportunities in the time left. Scott Fox did well to punch clear a corner and Willie McLaren sent a shot over the bar from the edge of the box.