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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Livingston v Partick Thistle – 5th January 2013

With the title race in three of Scotland’s four divisions already looking like foregone conclusions it’s been left to the First Division to provide the most compelling title battle. In the space of a week there have been no fewer than three different league leaders. Firstly Thistle, then Morton and now; just when it looked as if Thistle would again go top, Dunfermline. There promises to be plenty more twists and turns in what is shaping up to be a thrilling promotion battle.
In this match both Livingston and Thistle proved that the First Division is as capable of providing quality football as it is twists and turns. It was a fantastic advert for the First Division and held the attention of the 1,762 crowd from start to finish.
Thistle manager Jackie McNamara returned to the dugout following a three game ban and his team selection showed two changes from the side that had drawn with Airdrie United in their last outing. Ross Forbes was free from suspension and he returned to the starting eleven, as did Kris Doolan with Chris Erskine and Steven Lawless dropping to the bench.
The excellent playing surface suited the passing style of both teams and it was the home side, at the end of one such crisp passing move that fashioned the game’s first chance in the 10th minute. Liam Fox was able to turn sharply at the edge of the Thistle box before curling a shot only narrowly wide of Graeme Smith’s right hand post.
Both sides continued to retain possession of the ball for prolonged periods of time as they probed for an opening. When a goal did arrive, however, in the 25th minute there was more than touch of good fortune surrounding it. Steven Craig crossed from the right and with a defender in close attention Kris Doolan tried to flick the ball goalwards. He was partially successful and enjoyed the break of the ball when it bounced back off him and trundled over the line.
It was a lead that Thistle enjoyed for just three minutes. Anthony Andreu’s shot from outside the box found the corner of the Thistle net despite Graeme Smith managing to get a hand to the ball.
The goals at this stage of the game were coming at a fair old rate and in the 32nd minute Thistle were able to regain their advantage. If there had been a touch of good fortune surrounding their first goal there certainly wasn’t with their second. Aaron Sinclair whipped over an excellent cross from the left flank and Steven Craig was able to rise above the Livingston defence to bullet a header into the back of the net.
That completed the scoring for the first half but not the chances. Stuart Bannigan fired wide for Thistle and Aaron Sinclair was able to flick on a Ross Forbes free kick only for McNeil to save at his right hand post. At the other end Graeme Smith just about managed to claw away a Kevin McCann shot that swerved just in front of him.
Livingston started the second half in determined fashion and Stefan Scougall’s shot was just a little too direct to truly trouble Smith in the Thistle goal. The Thistle keeper, however, was a little more hard pressed to keep out an Iain Russell header from a McNulty cross from the right.
Although Livingston were doing a lot of pressing Thistle continued to remain a threat. Steven Craig just failed to pick out a team mate with a cross after he managed to get clear down the right hand side and Paul Paton was close to his first goal of the season with a thundering drive from 30 yards out.
With 15 minutes remaining Thistle had a great chance to give themselves some breathing space. Chris Erskine, just on as a sub, found Ross Forbes on the right with a superb cross field pass. Forbes in turn picked out Steven Craig who couldn’t find a way past McNeil with his shot.
Two minutes later it was Livingston’s turn to spurn a great chance to score. There was no flag for offside as Jordan Morton broke clear. He was able to take the ball round Smith but the Thistle keeper was able to recover to make an excellent block when Morton shot for goal.
Smith was again in action in the 80th minute when he was down sharply to save a deflected McNulty shot. The pressure was mounting, however, and an angled drive from Scougall went narrowly wide of target before the same player smacked a free kick from 25 yards off the face of the Thistle crossbar.
Thistle though were a whisker away from sealing the win, and a place at the top of the league, with just a minute of the 90 remaining. Sean Welsh saw his effort following a corner cleared off the line with his effort from the rebound striking the bar.
Seconds later Welsh’s involvement in the game was at an end when he collected a second yellow card and became the latest Thistle player to be sent off.
Could Thistle successfully negotiate what injury time there was with just ten men? Two minutes into that period of injury time we had an answer. A cross came over from the left and as a defender lost their footing the ever dangerous McNulty gathered the ball and was able to direct his shot wide of the reach of Smith and into the far corner of the Thistle net.

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