Wednesday 27th March, 2013 at 9:36pm
Thistle relinquished their position at the top of the First Division on December 29th. At least a game behind Morton since that date they finally climbed back to the top of the division with this thoroughly merited 3-0 win over Cowdenbeath; and they still have the benefit of having played a game fewer.
Trailing 2-1 with just 20 minutes remaining there was a distinct sense of Thistle having used their ‘get out of jail free’ card when fog forced an abandonment of one of the many previous attempts to stage, and complete, this fixture. This game too only went ahead after a fantastic effort was made, not just once but twice, to clear the Central Park pitch of snow. The band of Cowdenbeath volunteers may wish now that they hadn’t bothered as Thistle made the most of their fog based reprieve to claim a victory as comfortable as the final score suggests.
Alan Archibald made just one change to his starting line-up against Livingston. Steven Craig, scorer of the second goal in the 6-1 win in that game, missed out because of injury and his place went to Kris Doolan, whose tally of Thistle goals stood at 49 prior to kick-off.
Thistle didn’t start well the night that the fog brought a premature end to proceedings and they were determined not to make the same mistake in this game and hand the initiative to a home side that are also desperate for points.
A positive and purposeful looking Thistle side quickly took charge of the game although in the game’s first quarter that wasn’t translated into goalscoring opportunities. A half chance fell the way of James Craigen but he was unable to hit target and Chris Erskine couldn’t direct his header towards goal when presented with an excellent chance to do so.
Thistle though did open the scoring in the 25th minute. There was a hint of good fortune surrounding the goal but it owed as much, if not more, to the perseverance of Kris Doolan as it did an error from Cowdenbeath keeper Colin Stewart. Kris pressurised Stewart, who was attempting to clear a pass back from a team mate, into making the error that left Stephen O’Donnell with the simplest of tasks of rolling the ball into an unguarded net.
After Cowdenbeath had managed to exert a degree of pressure on the Thistle goal with a series of corners in quick succession; Thistle doubled their advantage on the half hour mark. A James Craigen corner from the right was flicked on and Kris Doolan was perfectly placed to guide the ball into the net and score his 50th goal of his Partick Thistle career.
He nearly grabbed another before half-time as well but this time no Thistle player was able to profit from more uncertain goalkeeping from Colin Stewart.
Still a two goal lead represented a good 45 minutes’ work though no one in the Thistle camp was relaxing thinking that it was game over at the interval.
Cowdenbeath, as expected, tried to force themselves back into the game at the start of the second half but they were unable to make any headway against a once again resolute Thistle defence.
A third Thistle goal would surely have sealed the points and in the 64th minute James Craigen very nearly provided that goal. Craigen cut in towards goal from the left corner of the Cowdenbeath penalty box and his shot his shot was only just wide of Stewart’s left hand post.
Thistle were looking increasingly likely to score again and Kris Doolan may well have claimed his second of the night only for O’Brien to tug him back when clear on goal. The red card that followed for the Cowdenbeath defender was inevitable and Cowdenbeath only escaped further punishment when Stewart produced a fine save to keep out Aaron Sinclair’s free kick that followed.
A third goal though did arrive with 11 minutes of the game remaining. Chris Erskine threaded the ball through to Steven Lawless. Lawless himself was denied a goal by a fine save from Stewart but the ball spun to Kris Doolan who duly nodded the ball home to complete the scoring for the evening and round of an excellent night’s work for Thistle.