Saturday 20th April, 2019 at 10:00pm
Partick Thistle returned to the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill this afternoon as they hosted Alloa Athletic in the Ladbrokes Championship for the second time this season. Last time the Wasps were in Maryhill, they battled their way to a 2-2 draw despite the Jags leading the game twice. Since then, the teams had met once, at the Indodrill Stadium, where Thistle had come away with a 2-0 triumph thanks to goals from Blair Spittal and Scott McDonald.
Alloa have bounced back remarkably in the time since that defeat to the Maryhill men with Jim Goodwin’s side coming into this clash off the back of four straight wins – their best winning run in Scotland’s second tier since 1973. On the other hand, the hosts had experienced mixed fortunes. A 2-1 defeat to Inverness was a disappointing result, however, that was their only loss in the six games prior to the fixture against Alloa.
Following a well-contested 0-0 draw with league leaders Ross County a week before, Gary Caldwell made no changes to his starting line-up. Jamie Sneddon retained his place in the first XI as he looked to keep his first consecutive league clean sheets since joining Thistle. In defence, Sean McGinty, Steven Anderson and Jack McMillan acted as the back three once again with James Penrice and Christie Elliott as wing-backs on either flank. Craig Slater and Shea Gordon linked up again in the midfield with Blair Spittal just ahead of them while Scott McDonald and Kris Doolan continued their partnership up front. On the bench for the home side were Conor Hazard, Steven Saunders, Gary Harkins, Joe Cardle, Aidan Fitzpatrick, Miles Storey and Lewis Mansell.
Thistle scored in the fourth minute when they beat Alloa back in February but it was the Wasps who hit the front early in this meeting. 14 minutes in, a corner came in from the Jackie Husband Stand side of the ground and wasn’t cleared properly by Thistle. Eventually, the ball came to Jack Aitchison and the on-loan Celtic striker shifted the ball onto his right side before bending a low shot into the far corner, past the unsighted Sneddon.
As Thistle looked to bounce back, they had a good chance to do so in the 28th minute. After a series of corners, one ricocheted out of the six-yard box and fell to Shea Gordon despite Neil Parry hitting the deck on the goaline. Gordon tried a first-time half-volley but his effort was off target. Sean McGinty managed to redirect it into the danger zone but the Alloa defenders managed to force it away.
The hosts had another good chance through Kris Doolan with ten minutes of the first half to play. When presented with space, Sean McGinty charged out of defence and played a great pass into the feet of Scott McDonald who then flicked the ball around the corner for Kris Doolan who was running through on goal. The striker opened his body up to shoot but Neil Parry was out sharply to make a big stop ahead of the break.
The teams went into the interval with Alloa leading 1-0 but there were changes made by Gary Caldwell at half-time. Joe Cardle and Gary Harkins were brought on in an attempt to enhance the team’s creativity while Christie Elliott and Shea Gordon came off. This saw the Jags convert to a 4-4-2.
The change had an immediate impact as well with Joe Cardle bagging his third Thistle goal just two minutes into the second period. The number 32 was given the ball by Jack McMillan before taking two touches to set himself and rifling a driven shot past Neil Parry, into the far corner.
Joe Cardle was involved once again as Thistle took the lead in the 66th minute. The two half-time sbstitutes combined as the number 32 received the ball from Gary Harkins about ten yards outside the Alloa box. Cardle skipped past one challenge before being wiped out right on the edge of the box, earning a free kick that Scott McDonald stepped up to take. The Australian made his Thistle debut against Alloa, scoring on that day, and he would be on hand to sting the Wasps once again as he lifted a right-footed shot into the top corner. Neil Parry got a hand to the effort but was unable to keep it out as McDonald made it three in his last four at home appearances.
Alloa could have hit back when Jack McMillan gave the ball away in the middle of the park, however, when Alan Trouten fed the ball to Jack Aitchison, he could only muster a weak shot which Jamie Sneddon saved easily. Shortly thereafter, McMillan came off injured to be replaced by Steven Saunders who was making his return after illness.
Sneddon was called into action again with 13 minutes left on the clock as Jordan Kirkpatrick found Scott Taggart in space on the Alloa right. The defender proceeded to deliver a lovely low cross into the box which found Kevin Cawley. The midfielder, who scored the last time Alloa came to Maryhill, kept his half-volley on target but was denied by the legs of Jamie Sneddon who then gathered the ball at the second attempt.
The home side had one opportunity to wrap things up and make it three in the closing stages as Scott McDonald looked for his first brace as a Jag. He played a quick one-two with Joe Cardle before Cardle lifted a ball into the box towards Kris Doolan. The striker knew he wouldn’t be able to control and instead cushioned a header back into McDonald’s path. Neil Parry was sharp off his line and managed to block the striker’s shot though, keeping Alloa in the game.
The visitors couldn’t find that vital second, however, and the Jags came away with all three points in what was a crucial game for both teams. Gary Caldwell’s side moved above Falkirk into ninth and to within a point of Alloa and Queen of the South with a game in hand.
That game in hand comes on Tuesday as Thistle take on Ian McColl’s Ayr United for the first meeting of two this week with the Honest Men. Kick-off is 19:45 at Somerset Park.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Sneddon, Penrice, McGinty, Anderson, McMillan (Saunders, 72’), Elliott (Cardle, HT), Gordon (Harkins, HT), Slater, Spittal, Doolan, McDonald.
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Hazard, Fitzpatrick, Storey, Mansell.
ALLOA ATHLETIC TEAM: Parry, Dick, Graham, Hetherington, Taggart, Robertson, Flannigan, Shields (Cawley, 77’), Trouten (Kirkpatrick, 71’), Zanatta, Aitchison (Hamilton, 71’).
UNUSED SUBS (ALL): Henry, Roscoe, Brown, Peggie.