Friday 16th November, 2012 at 9:09pm
New Douglas Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Thistle, and so it proved once again last night as they missed the opportunity to, overnight at least, move six points clear at the top of the table.
International clearance came through for new goalkeeper Graeme Smith and he duly made his Thistle debut. Smith replacing the injured Scott Fox was the only change to the starting line-up that had so comprehensively defeated Dunfermline. There was one change too on the bench where Stuart Bannigan came in for David Rowson.
It would prove to be a night in which little would go right for Thistle and there was a foretaste of that pre-match with sub keeper Ryan Scully picking up an injury in the pre-match warm up.
The early signs were that home side, although essentially deploying Stevie May as a lone striker, would approach this game in a positive manner and the on loan striker, who would be involved in a contentious incident during the second half, was certainly proving lively with Alan Archibald having to time a challenge perfectly inside his own penalty box to whip the ball off the toes of May.
Thistle in the first half never really got their normal fluid passing game together but in the 15th minute Ross Forbes chipped cross to the back post was just a shade too high for Kris Doolan.
There was little though in the way of action in front of either goal but in the 38th minute, with Thistle starting to exert some pressure for the first time in the game, Thistle felt they should have been given a penalty. Aaron Sinclair burst into the box from the left hand side and Kris Doolan appeared to impeded when trying to connect with Sinclair’s ball into the box.
That proved to be an important call as two minutes later Hamilton took the lead with a goal that Graeme Smith is unlikely to recall with any fondness. Hamilton had already come close from a corner and when a second followed just a few seconds later, Ali Crawford’s effort ended up in the back of the net. The match officials at half-time apparently confirming that the ball was in the net prior to Smith touching the ball.
No matter who the scorer was it was that, somewhat fortuitous goal, that separated the sides at the half-time whistle.
The second half performance from Thistle was a much improved one. Hamilton were being seen less and less as an attacking force as Thistle began to hem them in their own half.
The Accies keeper, Kevin Cuthbert, though was all too infrequently called into direct action as Thistle never seemed to enjoy the break of the ball in and around the home side’s goal. Cuthbert did, however, produce a smart save to keep out Ross Forbes’ deflected effort in the 65th minute after Aaron Sinclair had laid the ball back into Forbes’ path.
Five minutes later Thistle cries of ‘goal’ were stifled when Stephen O’Donnell’s effort slipped the wrong side of the post after he had turned sharply inside the box. The final touch coming from a Hamilton defender and Thistle were awarded another corner kick. Ross Forbes’ delivery of those corners were frequently excellent but time and time again Thistle couldn’t force the ball home.
With 16 minutes of the game remaining Thistle’s task became that bit harder when Paul Paton was sent off. The referee deciding that Paton’s challenge on Stevie May, over on the main stand touchline, was worthy of a straight red card. It was a decision that incensed the player and his manager alike with Jackie McNamara sent to the stand for his comments directed toward the match official.
Even a man short Thistle still took the game to a home side that were by now showing little willingness to attack. A Stephen O’Donnell cross was headed off the line and when the ball broke to Chris Erskine his first time shot cleared the Hamilton bar.
With Thistle throwing men forward in search of an equalising goal there were always a danger of being caught on the counter attack and twice in the losing stages May nearly extended his side’s lead. Firstly sending a shot wide of goal before Smith produced a smart save low to his right with the game in injury time.
Thistle’s last chance was a half volley from Mark McGuigan from the edge of the box that was always drifting wide of goal and with that effort went Thistle’s final chance of rescuing a point.