Saturday 12th March, 2016 at 2:37pm
Thistle ended an incredibly tough week with the visit of Celtic, the team who currently top the Ladbrokes Premiership table. Thistle went into the game with confidence having more than matched Hearts and Aberdeen earlier in the week, even if they were unable to secure Premiership points for their efforts.
An energy sapping late defeat to Aberdeen was the last outing that Thistle had and that perhaps affected manager Alan Archibald’s team selection. Gary Miller returned to his customary right back role replacing Christie Elliott while in attack Kris Doolan was preferred to Mathias Pogba as Thistle looked to bag their first goal against the men from the east end in almost two calendar years. There was a place on the bench for David Wilson as Aidan Nesbitt was ineligible to face his parent club in the lunchtime fixture.
Thistle started the game brightly and won the game’s first corner inside the first 60 seconds. From Gary Fraser’s delivery Liam Lindsay’s header took a deflection allowing Craig Gordon to claim with ease.
Celtic were quick to assert their dominance on the home side and Leigh Griffiths was the first to test Tomas Cerny in the Thistle goal. A low cross from the right hand side was met by a diving header from Celtic’s key striker forcing an excellent one handed save from Tomas Cerny to keep it out.
Thistle’s poor ball retention was giving Celtic comfortable possession in the Thistle half of the pitch and Celtic swarmed towards the Jags goal with a number of dangerous threats. Mackay-Steven fizzed a shot inches wide of goal before McGregor was unable to find a green and white jersey with a strong through pass, allowing Cerny to gather.
Thistle were still posing a threat on the break and when the ball fell to Liam Lindsay around 30 yards from goal, he advanced forward before unleashing a fierce right footed effort which Craig Gordon did well to palm away for a throw in.
Celtic were continuing to have huge swathes of dominance in the game but Tomas Cerny in the Thistle goal wasn’t forced into a difficult save of note. Indeed it was Craig Gordon who had the more testing shots at him, doing well to deal with a Kris Doolan effort after he jinked into the Celtic penalty area before Callum Booth could only fire straight at the Scotland goalkeeper from around 20 yards from goal.
With half-time approaching, Thistle looked like they were likely to go in level at the break until Leigh Griffiths, the scourge of Thistle for so many years, opened the scoring. Thistle switched off from a throw in, allowing Mackay-Steven to swing over a terrific left footed cross into the box. Dan Seaborne was unable to get his head on the ball to clear it, allowing Griffiths the chance to control the ball before firing a left footed effort which creeped past Cerny, despite the goalkeeper getting a hand on it.
Thistle knew a positive response was needed if they were to get anything from the game and when Callum Booth set up Steven Lawless, who flashed wide of goals, the signs were encouraging.
Thistle’s hopes, however, were to be dealt a dagger blow in the next Celtic attack as after Booth had advanced deep into the Celtic half, nobody covered to deny Callum McGregor acres of space. As he progressed into the Thistle box, Seaborne did well to show him to the right hand side, but the youngster simply smashed a low effort across Cerny and into the far corner of the net.
Celtic were content with their two goal lead as Thistle huffed and puffed trying to find a way back into the game but Craig Gordon in the Celtic goal wasn’t really tested from any of Thistle’s efforts on target.
Indeed, it was Celtic who could have added a third goal when Leigh Griffiths burst through on goal. He seemed poised to find the net for the second time, but for a terrific save from Tomas Cerny before Kazim-Richards, a second half substitute, fired the rebound wide of goal.
Cerny was again to the rescue as he prevent Bitton from finding the back of the net before Thistle found an unlikely way back into the game.
Christie Elliott knocked the ball down for Steven Lawless who skipped past Sviatchenko to cross into the six yard box. As he passed the Danish defender, Lawless was grabbed and referee Stephen Finnie pointed to the spot, giving Thistle their first penalty in 69 games, when Finnie awarded Thistle’s last spot kick.
Sean Welsh gathered the ball and was entrusted with the responsibility of beating Craig Gordon from 12 yards out and he made no mistake calmly tucking the spot kick to the left hand side of the despairing Gordon.
Thistle were buoyed by the strike and tried to grab an equaliser but despite a number of set piece opportunities, the side were unable to break down a resilient Celtic defence and it was the visitors who claimed all three points.