Saturday 24th January, 2015 at 10:16am
After the midweek thumping of Hamilton Accies, confidence was high in the Thistle camp as they headed down to Ayrshire to face Kilmarnock. Revenge was on the Jags’ minds as they looked to avenge their 3-0 defeat earlier in the season on the artificial surface at Rugby Park.
Unsurprisingly manager, Alan Archibald, made no changes to the starting eleven from the 5-0 midweek victory, showing faith with the players who had delivered so emphatically. On the bench, Gary Fraser returned from illness while Stuart Bannigan returned from suspension to book his place on the bench, both replacing the injured Sean Welsh and David Wilson respectively.
It was Kilmarnock who kicked the game off, shooting into the large Jags travelling support, but within 70 seconds it was Thistle who opened the scoring. Some great play by Higginbotham wide left saw his scissor kick pass find Craigen who squared the ball to Stevenson at the edge of the box. Stevo cut onto his left foot and fired low past Samson from 20 yards to make it 1-0. A terrific start for Thistle with the goal coming before the clock even clicked onto two minutes.
It was the visitors who continued to press forward, pushing the home side back in the opening stages, the Kilmarncok defence struggling to clear a Higginbotham free kick, Ashcroft eventually scrambling the ball clear.
In the seventh minute it really should have been two. Higginbotham’s corner found the unmarked Doolan at the back post, but the striker could only head into the side netting when he should have hit the target. Thistle then broke, from a rare Kilmarncok attack, through Stevenson and his cross found Doolan. The four goal hero of Wednesday night couldn’t replicate his midweek magic though and was crowded out by the home defence giving Pascali the chance to clear.
Thistle were enjoying lots of possession and closing down well in midfield throughout the opening quarter of the game. Another Stevenson cross was cleared at the back post as Lawless lurked with intent and Craigen saw a 25 yard powerful shot cleared off the six yard line.
Gradually the home side came into the game as the half ticked on, and Clingan was not too far away with a spectacular 25 yard dipping volley. A Stevenson header was gathered easily by Samson while, at the other end, Muirhead beat Gallacher to a corner and his header drifted wide.
The in demand Stephen O’Donnell, who looked dangerous throughout, then produced a marvellous piece of skill down the right to leave Chantler on his backside. The young full back then fired a great driven cross which Samson could only parry but there was no Jags player alert to pounce on the loose ball.
A quick corner then saw Stevenson’s cross find the fresh air swipe from Doolan before Lawless fired over well over.
The home side drew level in the 33rd minute. Stevenson lost possession 30 yards from the Kilmarnock goal and Slater drove forward and found McKenzie who in turn passed to Magennis and his 23 yard shot found the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
The home side had the ball in the net again before the break, but it was rightly adjudged offside. Just on half time Muirhead fired a 30 yard effort that went narrowly wide as the teams left the field with the score 1-1 at the break.
Thistle started brightly in the second half and O’Donnell cut inside and saw his left foot shot deflected just wide. O’Donnell was again involved with a good Thistle move, he left his man for dead and found Doolan whose lay off was fired over by Stevenson.
Craigen who was busy and productive all day then lifted the ball over the bar, under pressure after Doolan couldn’t quite control the ball in the box. Pascali then won a header in the Jags’ box and McKenzie fired inches wide from five yards.
Higginbotham saw Samson easily save his curling effort from 25 yards, then Muirhead went down in the box under a challenge, it looked a certain penalty but referee Collum ignored claims. Thistle had another claim for a penalty when Obadeyi’s high boot almost took O’Donnell’s head off, again nothing given.
In the 78th minute, Killie took the lead. Having not dealt with cross balls well all day Pascali scored after a header back across goal to make it 2-1 Kilmarnock.
All was not lost and, in the 84th minute, Thistle were level. Bannigan’s free kick found Osman under pressure, the ball broke to McDaid who had no hesitation in volleying towards goal. Young Declan’s shot looked to be going wide but Frederic Frans stuck out a foot to divert the ball away from Samson and into the net, his first Jags goal making it 2-2. Higginbotham saw his curling free kick saved in injury time but a draw was a fair result overall and it finished 2-2.
Thistle: Gallacher, Elliott (Fraser), Seaborne, Frans, Elliott, Osman, Craigen, Higginbotham, Stevenson (Bannigan), Lawless (McDaid), Doolan
Subs: Basalaj, Balatoni, Bannigan (58), Eccleston, Fraser (63), McDaid (76), Keenan