Wednesday 8th April, 2015 at 10:23am
Thistle made the short trip across the city to the east end to face a Celtic side looking to extend their lead at the top of the table as they march towards another SPFL Premiership title. Thistle themselves were in great form going into the game with a settled side being key to recent results.
Manager, Alan Archibald had to make one change to the starting eleven which had gained an excellent point up at Pittodrie on Saturday, with the injured Kris Doolan being replaced by Kallum Higginbotham while Declan McDaid returned to the bench.
Celtic were straight on the attack as the game began and, from an Armstrong cross, Van Dijk poked a foot out and the ball cannoned back off the bar. It took a last ditch block to stop Guidetti from scoring just seconds later after the Jags had given the ball away cheaply in the second minute.
Thistle created their first real chance after eight minutes when a terrific cross field pass from Craigen found Lawless who cut inside across the box, going past three defenders in the process. Unfortunately the ‘Wee Man’s’ right footed shot had no power and trickled wide. At the other end only a magnificent headed clearance by Balatoni stopped Guidetti heading into an open goal as the home side continued to press forward.
Thistle gradually got a foothold in the game and Gordon saved comfortably from Stevenson’s shot from distance before producing a world class one handed stop to keep out Higginbotham’s acrobatic volley. As half time approached, Thistle were looking good to go in level but, in the 44th minute, just seconds before the ref was due to blow his whistle, Thistle were cut open as Guidetti found Armstrong who found himself in on goal. Craigen’s threw himself into a last ditch tackle which proved to be just slightly miss-timed. Bringing the onrushing Celtic man down, the referee had no option but to point to the spot and, as last man, send Craigen off. Commons despatched the penalty past Fox to give the home side a 1-0 lead at half time. A cruel end to a half in which Thistle had certainly held their own.
Into the second half and the home side were straight on the attack, Fox making an excellent save from a powerful Commons 25 yarder. A neat one-two between Izaguirre and Johansen then saw the former’s effort on goal go out for a throw in.
Despite early Celtic pressure Thistle were still trying to create chances, and Celtic’s defence slashed a couple of clearances that could have gone anywhere. Osman too was in on the action as he fired wide from a central position around 18 yards out.
Thistle’s resistance wasn’t to last though and the home side doubled their lead after 63 minutes with what was undoubtedly an excellent goal. Neat and intricate passing involving Mackay-Steven, Guidetti and Johansen ended with the latter firing past Fox from the angle eight yards out. His shot nestling into the far corner. That made it 2-0 and Thistle now had a mountain to climb.
Fox kept the score from becoming anything more than Celtic deserved making a great save from Forrest, although referee, Willie Collum, saw fit to give a goal kick – much to the amusement of the noisy Jags support. Balatoni made another terrific block from an Armstrong effort as tired legs kicked in for the Thistle boys who had worked their socks off and thrown their bodies in front of everything from the first minute of the game.
Griffiths then missed a sitter from no more than five yards and, at the other end, substitute Lyle Taylor linked up well with O’Donnell to set up a chance for another sub, Gary Fraser, who saw his low powerful 20 yard shot brilliantly saved again by Gordon before the final whistle blew.
So, it was not to be Thistle’s night, however the support that travelled recognised the effort and guts of the team throughout the game, fully appreciative of a side that had given everything against a very good team.
Thistle: Fox, Booth, Balatoni, Frans, O’Donnell, Lawless (McDaid), Osman, Bannigan (Fraser), Craigen (sent off, 43), Stevenson (Taylor), Higginbotham.
Subs: Gallacher, Taylor (55), Fraser (77), Richards-Everton, Wilson, McDaid (57), Keenan