Saturday 9th May, 2015 at 7:21pm
Having secured our Premiership status for another season attention now turned to the battle for seventh as Thistle returned to action against Hamilton Accies who were five points ahead of Thistle at the start of the game.
Manager, Alan Archibald, made one change, an enforced one, as Abdul Osman was ill. His place was taken by James Craigen with Conrad Balatoni taking over the captain’s armband on a pitch which would take more of the headlines than the game itself.
The Jags kicked off defending the goal housing the 1087 noisy Thistle fans and were immediately on the front foot. Some neat passing between Lyle Taylor, Kallum Higginbotham and James Craigen in the Accies box but the ball would not sit for Craigen and the home defence cleared the danger.
A long punt up the park by Devlin then saw Stephen O’Donnell forced to head behind for a corner which was headed clear but only as far as Dougie Imrie whose shot went just wide. A long cross field pass from Gillespie saw Higginbotham slip and MacDonald pounced and controlled the resulting loose ball on his chest before taking a shot which was straight at Scott Fox.
A Higginbotham pass sent O’Donnell tearing down the right and he managed to keep the ball in play but only by pushing the linesman out of the way! The pacey wing back whipped his cross in but McGovern collected the ball comfortably.
In the ninth minute the home side’s Devlin seemed to catch his studs in the pitch and, in obvious agony, was stretchered off after lengthy treatment on the pitch.
Craigen and Booth both combined well to win a corner and, from the cross, Accies only partially cleared and Taylor laid the ball off to Balatoni whose shot was just too high. Stevenson then fired a powerful 30 yard free kick on target but it was straight at McGovern who saved well and somehow managed to hold onto the ball.
Higginbotham was next to threaten as he sent a lovely 40 yard cross field pass behind Tena leaving Taylor one on one with McGovern. With the on loan striker bearing down on goal he looked certain to score but an unusual bounce off the artificial pitch resulted in the Jags man blazing his effort over the bar from 10 yards – a real chance for Thistle.
An excellent tackle from Booth prevented Imrie getting a chance before Longridge fired wide.
It was then the Jags’ turn to lose a man to a serious looking injury as Ryan Stevenson limped off with a knee injury being replaced by Gary Fraser.
Taylor and Lawless combined to set up Higginbotham whose ambitious chip was parried by McGovern and booted clear by Tena.
Play was stopped again as Taylor received treatment before Longridge, who looked a threat, fired inches wide after Thistle failed to clear. In the sixth minute of injury time Garcia-Tena curled a magnificent free kick over the Thistle wall but Fox got a fingertip onto the underside of the bar and Frans cleared as the deadlock failed to be broken in an injury extended first half.
Into the second period and Garcia-Tena tried a Beckham style effort from inside his own half but it drifted miles wide. Thistle continued to enjoy lots of possession but were struggling to break down a stuffy Accies side.
The chances were coming for Thistle and Lawless produced some great trickery on the left but Booth’s cross took a deflection and McGovern saved at the second attempt.
On the hour mark Kris Doolan replaced a limping Taylor as Thistle looked for the opening goal but, at the other end, Crawford swung in a free kick which evaded everyone and drifted inches wide.
Doolan then put Accies defence under pressure and laid the ball to Higginbotham who picked out O’Donnell’s lung bursting run on the right but the pass was overhit and O’Donnell’s shot from the angle was saved.
As the game began to open up Fox was once again called upon to tip over a Hasselbaink lob for a corner before Craigen saw his first shot of the match blocked and his second saved by McGovern.
Eventually hard work and endeavour sawThistle opened the scoring in the 72nd minute. Higginbotham linked up delightfully on the right and his rolled pass saw O’Donnell fire home from 10 yards to make it 1-0.
Unfortunately for the Jags support the lead would not last and, in the 85th minute, an Accies corner saw the ball come right across the inside of the six yard box. Docherty attacked it three yards out and headed past Fox to make it 1-1.
With no more chances for either side that is how the game finished. Perhaps a missed opportunity for the Jags but the main talking point after the game was the pitch and how the four stoppages for injuries affected the game which was played on a bone dry surface.
Thistle: Fox, Booth, Balatoni, Frans, O’Donnell, Craigen, Bannigan, Lawless, Higginbotham, Stevenson (Fraser), Taylor (Doolan)
Subs: Gallacher, Doolan (60), Elliott, Richards-Everton, Fraser (33), Wilson, Keenan