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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Greenock Morton v Partick Thistle – 26th August 2014

Thistle made the short journey down the M8 to Greenock to meet old foes, Morton, and start their League Cup campaign. By the end of the 90 minutes it was a case of job done, into the draw for the next round and focus on Saturday’s game away to Aberdeen. Thistle manager, Alan Archibald, made a couple of changes from the team that was defeated in such dramatic circumastances at the weekend with Kris Doolan and James Craigen replacing Ryan Stevenson and Stuart Bannigan respectively.

Thistle kicked off the game shooting into the “Wee Dublin End” where most of the Jags fans were gathered in the evening sunshine, but it was the home side who created the first chance when McCluskey found space to cut inside, his cross to the back post was just too high for Pepper.

Thistle then got themselves on the ball and played some nice passing football but were unable to ever really create anything. Lawless and O’Donnell were both getting plenty of space down the right hand side and did cause the defence some problems but, ultimately, the final ball was lacking.

Thistle hearts were in mouths when McManus blocked a Balatoni clearance on the edge of the penalty box but Gallacher was alert and dealt with the danger well. Steven Lawless then had a shot deflected wide in the 16th minute and, from the resulting corner, Balatoni rose at the far post and maybe should have done better than to head over from six yards.

Midway through the first half and the chances weren’t really coming for either side. Fraser for Thistle, and Hands for Morton both traded 25 yard shots but it was Lawless who got the game’s first shot on target forcing Caraux into a save from 20 yards.

The game became then became more scrappy with neither team imposing themselves on the game and the delivery from set pieces, for both sides, was poor. In the 42nd minute there was a real scare for Thistle when McCluskey found himself in acres of space and managed to get his head on a free kick but, from all of six yards out, somehow failed to hit the target.

That seemed to be the fright Thistle needed and, right on half time, the visitors opened the scoring. An innocuous looking ball into the box found Doolan and he turned his marker inside out before firing a low, powerful, right footed strike across the keeper into the far corner to make it 1-0 as the half time whistle went. Doolan’s strike was a rare moment of brilliance in a scrappy half of football.

Into the second half and Higginbotham forced a save from the home keeper after good work down the left before Thistle really should have stretched their lead in the 53rd minute. Great play by Thistle down the right saw O’Donnell’s cut back find Higgy 10 yards out but his shot was straight at Caraux and Craigen’s rebounded effort was cleared for a corner.

With the Jags seemingly on top and on their way into the next round there was a sharp reminder of why Archibald was so wary of the night’s opposition when, just a minute after nearly going 2-0 ahead, Balatoni was dispossessed by McCluskey who found himself clean through with just Gallacher to beat. Thankfully for the travelling support he curled his effort past the post when he should really have scored. It was a real let off for Thistle and possibly the wake up call they required.

There were a number of efforts from distance for both sides, with Crighton not too far away with a 25 yard effort for the hosts and, after some patient build up play, Doolan’s effort from 25 yards wasn’t far away either.

As the game moved into its final third it became stretched and both O’Donnell and Milojevic went close.

He game certainly wasn’t done though and there was huge controversy to come before the final whistle when McCluskey got on the end of a head flick in the box and poked the ball past Gallacher before hitting the deck. The home side’s players and fans screamed their appeals for a penalty but referee Steven Finnie saw no infringement and booked McCluskey for simulation.

With 13 minutes left O’Ware got his head on to a cross but Gallacher saved comfortably and it was the same outcome two minutes from time when he again got a header away but again Gallacher was equal to it. Thistle eventually saw out the game, although it certainly wasn’t a classic, and booked their place in the next round of the competition where they will play St Mirren at Firhill.

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