Saturday 28th February, 2015 at 10:19am
With Thistle on a wretched run of form, a trip to face Dundee United may have been the last place Alan Archibald wanted to take his side, especially as the Jags hadn’t secured a victory over the Arabs for 20 years. In an attempt to halt the slide, Archibald made five changes to the team who had lost to Ross County the previous weekend. Kallum Higginbotham, Conrad Balatoni, Stuart Bannigan, James Craigen and Steven Lawless all started with Declan McDaid, Ryan Stevenson, Gary Fraser and Callum Booth dropping to the bench with injury forcing Dan Seaborne to watch from the stands.
Thistle started the game brightly and a long throw from O’Donnell found Taylor who turned well in the box only to see his shot blocked. A magnificent cross field pass from Craigen then found Higginbotham clear behind the home sides defence. Unfortunately for the visitors a late offside flag denied him the chance to open the scoring.
O’Donnell was looking confident and exciting as the first half wore on and some quick thinking saw his free kick nodded down by Higginbotham to Taylor but he couldn’t get clean contact on his shot and it drifted wide – it was the first real chance of the game though and a sign of things to come. The home side almost made the Jags pay in the 10th minute when Fojut drove the ball across goal but, thankfully, Ciftci miss-hit his shot from six yards and the Jags defence survived.
Despite the scare Thistle continued to look the stronger side and Bannigan slid a lovely pass through for Taylor only to see Cierzniak save with his foot. The United keeper had to look lively again when Taylor got in behind the home side’s defence from a Lawless pass but again the keeper came to the rescue to clear before the Jags striker could get a foot on the ball. Craigen then saw a curling shot from outside the box well saved by the keepr and Osman could only poke the ball wide after a scramble in the United box.
The way the visitors were playing, it seemed only a matter of time before the opening goal came and, in the 34th minute, the Jags opened the scoring with a fantastically worked team goal finished with a wonderful bit of individual skill. Gallacher rolled the ball out to Higginbotham, his pass was collected just inside his own half by O’Donnell who found Taylor’s run wide, O’Donnell continued his run and collected Taylor’s brilliant back heel, O’Donnell then dropped his shoulder, wrong footing Paton with a cheeky step over, before curling a magnificent left foot curling shot past Cierzniak. As our Twitter feed read at the time: Sensational.
With Thistle’s confidence sky high, Frans then headed over a Higginbotham corner, perhaps feeling he should have hit the target with a free header.
However, the noisy Jags support did not have long to wait for a second goal. Higginbotham curled a corner into the box, slipping as he took it and ending up on his backside, but as Frans challenged the ball came off the heel of McGowan and finished in the back of the net to put Thistle 2-0 ahead at half time. A lucky break certainly but perhaps the rub of the green that we have been missing at times this season.
The start to the second half was a little slower to get going with O’Donnell needing treatment after staying down for a period, Frans also required the physio’s attention after a clash of heads in the middle of the park.
In the 57th minute Taylor did well to create an opening for himself but he dragged his shot wide from 22 yards out. Thistle continued to control the midfield and largely dictated the pace of the game, the home side struggling to contain the Jags. Another excellent O’Donnell pass found Taylor whose back heel in turn found Craigen. JC picked out Bannigan in the middle of the park and his shot from 18 yards fizzed inches wide of the post with Cierzniak rooted to the spot.
With 13 minutes remaining Dundee United should have reduced the deficit, Dow got in behind Elliott and squared for Anier who fluffed his shot wide from eight yards – much to the relief of the travelling support.
Substitute Bilate then forced the ball through to Ciftci whose shot was easily gathered by Gallacher and the home side continued to press without really causing any major scares for the Jags’ defence, who were superb throughout the game. The final chance of the match fell to the team in tangerine when, in injury time, Anier again missed a chance when unmarked at the back post, blasting wide from six yards.
As the final whistle blew Thistle fans breathed out in relief having again watched a magnificent team performance on the pitch. The players were quick to acknowledge the large and noisy travelling support who returned home from their tangerine dream having been rewarded for their journey north.
Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Balatoni, Frans, Elliott, Bannigan, Osman, Lawless, Higginbotham (McDaid), Craigen, Taylor (Doolan)
Subs: Basalaj, Booth, Doolan (79), Stevenson, Richards-Everton, Fraser, McDaid (70)