Saturday 1st February, 2014 at 2:41pm
Gary Fraser’s first ever senior goal was enough to earn Thistle a richly deserved point in what was an often fiercely contested fixture with Dundee United.
After a busy day of transfer activity the previous day there was plenty of speculation surrounding the Thistle team selection for this game. As it turned out Alan Archibald made three changes to the side that had drawn with St Mirren seven days earlier. New signing Prince Buaben came in to make his Thistle debut and there were starts too for Christie Elliott and Gary Fraser. New loan signing from West Ham George Moncur took up a place on the bench.
The opening few minutes of the game were pretty scrappy but Thistle soon got into their stride. An excellent ball down the right hand side from Christie Elliott allowed Lyle Taylor the chance to deliver a cross into the United box in Thistle’s first serious thrust towards the United goal in the 7th minute but Cierzniak made a confident catch.
As Thistle began to grow in confidence Taylor couldn’t quite connect with a Taylor-Sinclair cross and Gary Fraser forced Cierzniak into a fine stop with a well struck drive from outside the United box.
Thistle came close again in the 21st minute when a glancing header from Conrad Balatoni following a Kallum Higginbotham corner slipped just wide of target.
Balatoni was even closer to a goal three minutes later. Higginbotham drove a corner low towards the near post; although Christie Elliott wasn’t able to get control of the ball it fell into the path of Balatoni who saw his stabbed effort rebound off the base of the United post.
It was anything but one way traffic though and United looked a potent threat when they came forward. A Ciftci free kick took a deflection of one of his own players and that deflection momentarily wrong footed Paul Gallacher but the ball went over the bar.
There were loud appeals for a United penalty when Armstrong took a tumble at the edge of the Thistle box but referee Collum waved play on much to the United player’s obvious anger.
It was the 25th minute before Gallacher was required to make his first serious save of the afternoon when he did well to get a touch to an El Allagui shot.
United though were in front in the 29th minute. Just seconds earlier Lyle Taylor was just about an inch away from connecting with an inviting looking cross from Jordan McMillan. United were able to break quickly and Robertson was able to square the ball to El Allagui who was left with the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty Thistle net.
Just five minutes later United were close to extending their lead and would have done so had Paul Gallacher not made two saves in quick succession to deny United and El Allagui a second goal.
The scores, however, really should have been level just 6 minutes before half-time. Conrad Balatoni’s great run from the back took to the very edge of the United box where he slipped through an excellent pass for Lyle Taylor. Taylor, normally so deadly in these positions; however, shot wide of goal when left with just Cierzniak to beat.
Unfortunate to find themselves trailing at the break there was plenty of Thistle pressure at the start of the second half but the half’s first chance came the way of United; Armstrong side footing the ball wide of goal from 12 yards out.
While it was Thistle that were doing the bulk of the pressing, Taylor-Sinclair’s touch letting him down when the ball fell to him at the left corner of the United box, it was the visitors that again came close to a second goal in the 59th minute when Gallacher had to get down smartly to save an effort from Armstrong.
Gallacher was in action again in the 70th minute when he did well to save a Mackay-Steven shot that bounced awkwardly just in front of him.
These those were isolated chances for United as the pressure, if not clear cut chances, increased from Thistle and they received reward for that in the 75th minute. There was a rare touch of good fortune for Thistle with Gary Fraser’s shot, after a corner had only been partially cleared, took a deflection off United’s John Rankin on its’ way into the back of the net.
With the scores once again level and just 15 minutes remaining both teams sought a winning goal in the time that remained. It was United that came the closest to finding that goal when a Brian Graham header struck the top of the Thistle crossbar.