Wednesday 13th March, 2019 at 12:14pm
Partick Thistle travelled to the Scottish capital to take on Hearts in their cup quarter-final replay after the two sides drew 1-1 in the initial tie. Each side had played one game since their first meeting, with both teams securing weekend wins over Dundee sides by the odd goal.
Gary Caldwell made two changes to the side which secured a last-minute win over Dundee United last Saturday. Conor Hazard started once again in goals behind a defence which returned to a five-man set-up. Steven Anderson, Steven Saunders and Jack McMillan were the three centre-halves with James Penrice and Christie Elliott operating as wing-backs. In midfield, Stuart Bannigan replaced Joe Cardle as he made his comeback from injury alongside Craig Slater and Blair Spittal in the Jags engine room. Up front, Lewis Mansell came in for Miles Storey to form a strike partnership with Scott McDonald. On the bench for the away side were Jamie Sneddon, Sean McGinty, Gary Harkins, Joe Cardle, Aidan Fitzpatrick, Kris Doolan and Miles Storey.
The game was much more even from the start than last Monday’s clash but Hearts nearly took the lead after two minutes nevertheless. The early chance came from a free-kick with Ben Garuccio taking aim from 20 yards or so. The Australian lifted his effort over the wall, towards the Thistle goal but Conor Hazard got across sharply to turn it behind for a corner.
The next opportunity came after 16 minutes and it presented the Jags with an unlikely lead as Scott McDonald bagged his third goal for the Club. It came from the second phase of a corner with Craig Slater picking up the loose ball after a Hearts clearance. The number 17 then lifted a ball to the back post where Steven Saunders headed down towards goal forcing Zdenek Zlamal into a save at the goalkeeper’s near post. Unfortunately for Zlamal, the rebound fell straight to Scott McDonald who had the simple task of knocking the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0.
However, the hosts responded quickly and were able to equalise seven minutes after falling behind. The goal was scored by Jambos striker, Uche Ikpeazu, who received the ball in a bit of space from Craig Wighton. Just inside the box, Uche held off Steven Anderson as he moved away from goal before swinging his leg at the ball, firing it past Conor Hazard at his near post.
Craig Levein’s side would go on to complete the turnaround in the 35th minute as Sean Clare converted from the penalty spot. The goal was an entirely avoidable one for the Maryhill men as a bit of poor communication allowed Hearts a chance to take the lead from 12 yards. Zdenek Zlamal sent a long kick into the Thistle half which Steven Anderson and Steven Saunders wanted to leave for Conor Hazard but as the ball held up around the edge of the Jags box, Jake Mulraney nipped in a knocked the ball away before being clattered by Hazard with Bobby Madden then awarding the penalty. Clare then stepped up to take the kick, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way as he bagged his fourth goal of the season.
Thistle made two changes in the first 20 minutes of the second half with Joe Cardle coming on for Christie Elliott in the 50th minute before Miles Storey replaced Lewis Mansell with 25 minutes to play.
The changes didn’t have the immediate impact the Jags were hoping for though as the home side won their second penalty of the match on 67 minutes. Uche Ikpeazu won the spot kick going down under light pressure from Blair Spittal. It was the number 19 who would take the penalty he won but his effort was saved by Conor Hazard low to the Northern Irishman’s right, keeping the away side in the game.
With 20 to play, Scott McDonald went close to a second of the game as he fired wide of the far post from 25 yards after a quick turnover of possession. His driven attempt had plenty of power but skipped just wide of the Hearts upright.
The last throw of the dice for Thistle in terms of substitutes came when Aidan Fitzpatrick was introduced on 72 minutes, taking the place of Blair Spittal.
Both teams continued to battle and fight looking for the all-important fourth goal of the game. Each team had a decent half chance with Miles Storey shooting wide for the travelling Jags while Craig Wighton hit the side netting for the Jambos.
There was still more action though and in the final moments of the game, the Jags had two big penalty appeals turned down. First Joe Cardle went down under John Souttar’s challenge but Bobby Madden decided correctly that the defender had got to the ball. Then, Miles Storey was trip by Christophe Berra and there was much more in this claim as the Hearts defender appeared to stand on the striker’s foot just inside the box. However, once again, the claims were waved away and the match ended 2-1, sending Hearts through to the semi-finals.
Thistle had battled valiantly until the very last kick of the game and were able to hold their heads high at the final whistle as they had gone toe-to-toe with one of the country’s top teams over 180 minutes.
Nevertheless, they must return their focus to league business quickly as they face a massive game away to Falkirk in the Ladbrokes Championship this Saturday. Kick-off is 15:00 at the Falkirk Stadium.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Hazard, Elliott (Cardle, 50’), Saunders, Anderson, McMillan, Penrice, Bannigan, Slater, Spittal (Fitzpatrick, 72’), McDonald, Mansell (Storey, 65’).
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Sneddon, McGinty, Harkins, Doolan.
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN TEAM: Zlamal, Godinho, Berra, Souttar, Garuccio, Lee (Haring, 66’), Djoum, Clare, Wighton, Mulraney (Morrison, 83’), Ikpeazu.
UNUSED SUBS (HoM): Doyle, Dikamona, Bozanic, MacLean, Keena.