Saturday 17th March, 2018 at 8:28pm
Following six straight games without a win, Partick Thistle travelled east to take on Hearts at Tynecastle. The Jags ended a run of four defeats in a row last weekend with a draw against Aberdeen. Thistle battled to a goalless stalemate with the Dons but despite the positive result, they remained in 11th, three points behind Dundee in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Alan Archibald made two changes to the side who drew with Aberdeen for his side’s trip to the capital. Conor Sammon, who is on loan at Thistle from Hearts, was ineligible to play against his parent club and as such dropped out of the squad. He was replaced in the starting line-up by Kris Doolan who came to Gorgie looking to secure his 100th league game for Partick Thistle. The second change saw Jags skipper, Abdul Osman return to the starting XI in place of Andrew McCarthy, who filled in for the midfielder admirably last time out.
The match started slowly with both sides struggling to get to grips with a slippery Tynecastle surface which was leading to slips all over the park. Due to this it took around 12 minutes for either side to produce a purposeful attack and it was the hosts who carved out the first opportunity of the game. It came from a floated delivery into the box which was met by Kyle Lafferty. The former Norwich City forward flicked the ball towards goal where Steven Naismith had made a good run. The Scotland international rose to meet the flick-on but headed over the bar from close range.
Having passed up on that chance, the Jambos wouldn’t waste their next opening as they took the lead in the 16th minute. A quick back-to-front move culminated with Steven Naismith poking the ball through to the forward-charging Kyle Lafferty. The experienced frontman then held his nerve and slotted home past Tomas Cerny in the one-on-one. The goal gave the away side a mountain to climb as the Jags hadn’t come from behind to win a game since October of last year.
The hosts now had their tails up and took advantage of the momentum created by the first goal as they doubled the lead on 21 minutes. The opener was a decent attacking move that carved the Jags defence open but the second was no one’s fault but the visitors themselves. Abdul Osman laid the ball back to Baily Cargill who stalled and stalled before attempting to clear the ball. The centre-half took too long though and Joaquim Adao tackled the Bournemouth loanee allowing Hearts’ number 66 to break into the attacking third. He spotted the late run of Steven Naismith who he squared the ball to and Naismith made no mistake in guiding the ball home on the run taking the points even further away from Thistle’s grasp.
The home side continued to dominate the first 45 minutes with the Jags struggling to get a foothold in a game that was already slipping away from them. In the 34th minute, many of the home supporters thought there should have been a penalty that would have given Hearts a chance for a third. It was Daniel Devine and Kyle Lafferty who were involved in the incident as the latter toppled over in the box claiming for the spot kick. The referee did blow his whistle but it was for a dive rather than a penalty as Lafferty went into the book for simulation.
In spite of the waved away penalty claims, Craig Levein’s Jambos were able to make it three before half-time as they stretched the deficit on 43 minutes. A long throw from the Hearts right found its way into the visitors’ six-yard box and John Souttar had made the diagonal run to meet it. He got something on it and, under the challenge of his marker, he was able to find the back of the net to get his first goal of the season.
So, the teams went into the break with the game all but decided already. A mixture of poor performance and individual errors had cost Thistle with three preventable goals putting them in an unsalvageable position. The travelling Jags did make two half time alterations to try to make the second half competitive at least. Andrew McCarthy came on for Abdul Osman who had picked up an early booking and seemed to be close to a second, meanwhile Adam Barton replaced Stevie Lawless to facilitate a formation change as Alan Archibald changed from a 4-2-3-1 to a 5-3-2.
Partick Thistle started the second period in a positive way and could have pulled a goal back within two minutes of the restart. Miles Storey found Christie Elliott on the right wing and the Englishman tried a low cross into the box. His delivery almost found Kris Doolan although Jon McLaughlin smothered it. It would fall, however, to Chris Erskine who hit a shot on the turn but the ex-Kilbirnie Ladeside playmaker saw his half-volley fly just over the bar.
After a period with no chances for either side, the away side made their third and final change of the day. Chris Erskine came off to be replaced by Ryan Edwards as Alan Archibald looked to re-energise his team.
Four minutes after that change Thistle had another good opportunity to pull a goal back. Following a Thistle clearance, a Hearts defender slipped on the half-way line allowing Miles Storey to move towards goal. He burst forward one-on-one with Jon McLaughlin eventually taking the shot with his right foot from a 45 degree angle. Unfortunately for the ex-Inverness forward, he shot straight at the ‘keeper who stood tall to block the shot.
Storey had another chance to grab a goal in the 73rd minute but was once again denied by McLaughlin who is days away from his first trip away with the Scottish national team. Christie Elliott saw a right-footed cross blocked before whipping in a powerful delivery with his left peg. The ball found the head of Miles Storey who instinctively directed the ball goalward. He got the ball on target but his effort was slightly too close to the goalkeeper who grabbed the ball out of the air to deny Thistle’s number 39.
Despite a handful of second half chances as part of a good performance since the break, Thistle were unable to grab even a single goal as consolation. The change in formation and personnel did the Jags a world of good after the break but it was all too little too late as the damage was done in the opening 45 minutes.
The Maryhill men must now dwell on a convincing defeat for two weeks as the league goes into an international break. Thistle return to action against Hibernian in a fortnight’s time with kick-off from Easter Road at 15:00.
THISTLE TEAM: Cerny, Booth, Cargill, Osman (McCarthy, HT), Doolan, Erskine (Edwards, 64′), Lawless (Barton, HT), Elliott, Devine, Woods, Storey.
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Scully, Spittal, McGinn, Penrice.
HEARTS TEAM: McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Hughes, Berra, Amankwaa (Moore, 89′), Godinho, Adao (Cochrane, 65′), Cowie (McDonald, 76′), Naismith, Lafferty.
UNUSED SUBS (HOM): Hamilton, Randall, Callachan, Henderson
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