Tuesday 14th October, 2014 at 10:04am
Thistle made the trip up to Tannadice after the international break, on the back of an excellent victory over Motherwell, to face a Dundee United side coming off the back of a 2-0 defeat down at Kilmarnock.
There were no surprises in the team selection as manager, Alan Archibald, named an unchanged side from the 3-1 win the last time out at Firhill. There was one change on the bench as new signing Frèdèric Frans replaced Liam Lindsay while Dan Seaborne captained the side.
Thistle started the game brightly and won the game’s first corner after just two minutes but James Craigen, who was excellent throughout the game, saw his cross headed clear by former Jags captain and SPFL Premiership Player of the Month, Paul Paton, at the near post.
Another former Jags star Chris Erskine was next to attack for the home side and, as he collected the ball just inside the Thistle half, he drove forward but thankfully pulled his shot, from 22 yards, wide of Scott Fox’s goal. Kris Doolan did well to hold the ball up and dealt well with a challenge from Morris, he found Craigen but the midfielder pulled his shot wide of the target.
It was Doolan who forced Cierzniak into his first save, after a mistake from Morris, with a powerful curling shot. It was end to end as, direct from the corner, the home side broke and Erskine found Ciftci who managed to get a shot away only to see Fox collect it comfortably. The Polish custodian was back in action minutes later after some great work by Stephen O’Donnell saw him find Craigen whose cross picked out Christie Elliott only to see the winger’s effort saved by the United keeper.
I was then the home team’s turn to look dangerous as Ciftci got in behind the Jags defence but could only find the side netting with his effort before Armstrong drove forward from a Paton pass and curled an effort just wide.
Right on half time Ciftci was at it again forcing a great save with his legs from Fox after he again got in behind the defence. Despite a number of chances for either side, at half time the game remained goalless.
Into the second half and it was Thistle who had the first chance, Elliott won a high ball and his nod down found Craigen whose lay off was in turn volleyed goalwards by Doolan but Cierzniak was again equal to it.
Conrad Balatoni then produced a fine piece of defending after a good pass from Erskine to find Ciftci, Balatoni did well to usher the United forward wide before knocking the ball off him for a goal kick.
As the hour mark approached an Elliott pass found Lawless at the edge of the box and his guided shot forced a great diving save from the home keeper who pushed the ball wide. O’Donnell then drove forward wide right after collecting a Bannigan pass and cut inside strongly but his left footed effort flashed wide of the target.
As time ticked on Thistle were just inches away from the game’s opening goal when Jordan McMillan halted a break from Mackay-Steven, he then passed to Elliott who cut inside and fired a stunning right footed curling effort, from 25 yards, past Cierzniak only to see the ball rattle the crossbar.
Thistle continued to press and Craigen saw a shot go wide as the Jags continued to fight for first goal. However, with eight minutes left, United were awarded a controversial penalty that would ultimately prove decisive. A long ball from the home side found Ciftci between Balatoni and Seaborne just inside the Thistle half, with both defenders claiming offside, a suspicious Ciftci did not hang about to wait on a flag and drove forward towards Fox, as he got into the box he cut across Seaborne who miss-timed his tackle and the referee had no option but to point to the spot. To add insult to injury, as last man, the Thistle skipper was awarded a red card and Ciftci duly converted the penalty to make it 1-0.
There was a flurry of chances in the closing minutes but none particularly clear cut. United had a chance to extend their lead, and would have done had it not been for substitute, Jake Carroll, making a great block from a fierce Spittal shot only five yards from goal. The home side ultimately held on for a 1-0 victory, a result that was cruel on Thistle who deserved a lot more.
After battling well for 83 minutes, and matching a strong Dundee United team all over the pitch, Thistle received the sucker punch of conceding a penalty and ultimately losing the match 1-0 when, in reality, a draw was the least they deserved. Further misery was added when Dan Seaborne was shown a straight red card for his last ditch challenge on Nadir Ciftci.