Saturday 12th August, 2017 at 12:21am
After the disappointment of Partick Thistle’s 3-1 opening day loss to Hibs, a 3-0 win in the cup against St. Johnstone was just what the doctor ordered for the Jags heading into their toughest challenge of the new competitive season, a visit from the undefeated treble-winners, Celtic. Goals from Steven Lawless, Ryan Edwards and Chris Erskine gave Thistle the perfect confidence booster heading into their clash with the Champions.
The Maryhill men had a few injury problems during the week. Daniel Devine picked up a knock to his knee during the aforementioned cup win at McDiarmid Park which ruled him out of tonight’s game. Abdul Osman had a problem with his shoulder that meant the Jags’ skipper would also miss out. More positively, Kris Doolan made a return to the side, leading the line as a sole striker after missing Thistle’s midweek win with a hamstring issue. Tomas Cerny started in goals behind a back-four of Christie Elliott, Callum Booth, Niall Keown and Firhill-debutant, Jordan Turnbull who maintained his place in the team after a sparkling debut in Perth. At the base of the midfield, Stuart Bannigan and Adam Barton started in the absence of Abdul Osman. Steven Lawless started on the right wing and Ryan Edwards filled the number ten role while Conor Sammon played on the left having signed on loan earlier in the day, all of those three played in behind the returning Doolan.
Thistle’s bench was looking as strong as it’s been this season with Ryan Scully, James Penrice, Milan Nitriansky, Andy McCarthy, Kevin Nisbet, midweek goalscorer Chris Erskine and Thistle’s second matchday signing, Miles Storey.
The hosts got the game underway but it was the travelling Hoops who would control the early goings and create an early chance in the eight minute. Scott Sinclair used his pace to reach the by-line on Celtic’s left and the Englishman cut a ball back to James Forrest. Forrest controlled and shot on the turn. His attempt was on target but Tomas Cerny got down well to make the stop.
Just two minutes after Forrest’s first chance, he had another. Adam Barton slipped in the Jags’ midfield and Celtic number 21, Olivier Ntcham, nicked the ball from Barton. The Frenchman then slotted the ball to James Forrest who let the ball come across him before trying to pick out the far corner with his left foot. Fortunately for the home side, Forrest dragged the attempt well wide of the goal.
Celtic’s dominance continued in the first half but their next chance came from a free-kick in the 24th minute. Nir Bitton stood over the set piece, 30 yards from goal. He struck it over the wall and towards the top corner but Tomas Cerny was able to get across to deny the Israeli international and the ball eventually went out for a corner.
Unfortunately for the Jags, the resulting corner would bring the opener. Scott Sinclair’s corner was headed away by Jordan Turnbull but only as far as Olivier Ntcham. The ex-Manchester City man caught the ball on the volley striking it goal-wards. Cerny looked like he was going to save the effort but it took a slight deflection off Scott Brown on the way through which sent the ball past the Czech ’stopper.
The Celts’ came close to doubling their lead ten minutes later when Jozo Simunovic met Mikael Lustig’s cross. The Croatia-born centre-half rose highest to meet his teammates delivery and attempted to loop a header into the far corner. Unfortunately for Simunovic, his effort landed on the roof of the net.
The score stayed 1-0 at the interval with Thistle still in the game after a half of Hoops control. Despite a few decent chances, Brendan Rodgers’ side had failed to extend their lead past the single goal. With both teams boasting strong benches, there was certainly still plenty to play for at Firhill.
Any hopes of Thistle getting something from the game were almost obliterated five minutes into the second period. Steven Lawless carelessly gifted possession to Kieran Tierney and the Scottish international burst forward, into the Jags’ box. He had options to his right but tried the shot but his effort skipped wide of the far post.
Celtic were almost made to rue their missed opportunity two minutes later when Firhill marksman, Kris Doolan, was presented with a great chance. Christie Elliott cut in from the right and bent a left-footed cross into the six-yard box. The delivery found Doolan who headed on goal but he failed to really catch the header and, uncharacteristically, missed the target completely. Five minutes later Doolan was substituted off. The striker had trained just once this week and was replaced by Miles Storey, making his Thistle debut after signing on a two-year deal from Aberdeen earlier in the day. Chris Erskine also came on. He replaced Steven Lawless in the 64th minute.
After Thistle’s chance, Celtic were back on the hunt. Hoops’ substitute Leigh Griffiths whipped in an inviting corner which was met by Jozo Simunovic. After going close in the first half, he this time found the target, however, Callum Booth was waiting on the line and the left-back cleared the danger.
With ten minutes left of the regulation 90, Celtic had yet another opportunity to double the deficit, this time through substitute, Tom Rogic. The Bhoys broke quickly though James Forrest and the number 49 played a pass right to find Rogic. The Australian set himself to shoot and did so but his attempt found only the side-netting. Andrew McCarthy came on for Stuart Bannigan shortly following this chance.
Now, in injury time came the game’s biggest talking point. Some miscommunication between Craig Gordon and Nir Bitton lead to the number six taking the ball away from his ‘keeper’s grasp. This allowed Miles Storey to get his foot to the ball ahead of Bitton and the stand-in centre-half seemed to make contact with the ex-Swindon striker. Storey went down but Andrew Dallas turned away appeals as the Jags’ fans and players shouted for a spot kick.
The incident passed and the final whistle was blown with the game ending 1-0. It was an honourable defeat for the Jags but had they been awarded the penalty that they felt they should, it could have been more than a defeat for the Maryhill men.
Thistle now begin preparations for next week’s trip back to McDiarmid Park as the Jags attempt to replicate their cup success in the league. Kick-off is at 15:00 next Saturday in Perth.
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