Saturday 12th January, 2013 at 9:20pm
Thistle’s indifferent run of results continued with this defeat at Dumbarton a blow to their promotion hopes on an afternoon where it became decidedly advantage Morton at the top of the First Division.
In search for the first win of 2013 Thistle made three changes to their side for their first trip to Dumbarton for a competitive fixture for nearly seven years. Scott Fox returned in goal and there were starts too for Hugh Murray and Steven Lawless.
There was little indication of the problems ahead as Thistle made a positive opening to the game. As early as the sixth minute Dumbarton keeper Ewings, who would have to be substituted through injury during a hectic first half, did well to tip a Stuart Bannigan effort from the edge of the box over the bar.
Two minutes later Ewings was in action again; this time saving a Doolan effort low to his right. It was largely one way traffic at this stage and Thistle were a whisker away from taking an 11th minute lead. Aaron Sinclair had been heavily involved down the left flank for Thistle and his surging run and cut back set up Steven Lawless. Lawless looked set to net his 11th goal of the season but the impressive Ewings was able to touch his shot onto the post and wide for a corner. Aaron Muirhad was able to get his head to the corner that followed but his header went over the bar.
Thistle were close again in the 19th minute and were again denied by Ewings who this time made a fine save with his feet to deny Kris Doolan after he had been set up by Stuart Bannigan.
It was a little against the run on play then when Dumbarton opened the scoring in the 20th minute. They had, however, previously threatened the Thistle goal if only sporadically. Conrad Balatoni had been forced to clear a Prunty effort off the line and Scott Fox did well to tip a Gilhaney shot over the bar.
Thistle then should have been aware of the danger the home side possessed. There may have been a touch of good fortune surrounding the goal but that good fortune was a result of negligent Thistle defending. Prunty was allowed a free header from a free kick on the left and his header rebounded off the post and back off Conrad Balatoni and into the net.
The first goal so often proves to hugely important, and so it proved in this game. Thistle remained the better side until half-time but they looked increasingly less dangerous. Aaron Muirhead did manage to get a free kick from outside the Dumbarton box round the edge of the wall, but his shot had little pace on it and Ewings saved comfortably at his left hand post. A Kris Doolan shot, after collecting a Sinclair pass, too didn’t have sufficient power to trouble the home keeper in the 34th minute.
At the other end it looked as if Scott Fox had produced an excellent save to tip a Scott Agnew free kick-off over the bar but play rather bizarrely restarted with a goal kick.
Fox’s opposite number’s involvement in the game was soon to be at an end when injury forced him off in the 41st minute as Thistle waited to take a corner kick. When the corner did finally come over Ewings’s replacement, Stephen Grindlay, watched as Aaron Muirhead’s hooked effort went wide of target.
In first half injury time Dumbarton had an opportunity to increase their lead. Conrad Balatoni’s attempted headed clearance was a poor one but Agnew was unable to punish his error and lashed his show well wide of goal.
The first 45 minutes had been full of action, the second much less so. Thistle enjoyed long spells of possession but rarely troubled a well organised Dumbarton side who denied Thistle any space in the final third of the pitch.
It would be the 75th minute before Thistle would manage a shot on goal in the second half, Steven Lawless’ effort going over the bar, and by that time Thistle would be 2-0 down and staring defeat squarely in the face. There was, correctly, no flag for offside in the 63rd minute when Prunty collected the ball at the back post. He took a touch to steady himself before shooting across Fox and into the far corner of the net.
There was no way back now for Thistle. Substitute Mark McGuigan did force Grindlay into a smart save low to his left after 75 minutes that may have set up a grandstand finish but long before the final whistle Thistle looked a well beaten side which is an obvious concern.