Sunday 4th January, 2015 at 7:08pm
With injuries, suspension and illness sweeping through the first team squad, Thistle manager, Alan Archibald, did not have his problems to seek ahead of Sunday’s game against Dundee United. In fact Thistle couldn’t even name a full subs bench such was the damage done to the squad.
Youngsters, Liam Lindsay, Declan McDaid and Dale Keenan all started, with Ryan Stevenson captaining the side against a buoyant and dangerous Dundee United side.
It took only 40 seconds to see how dangerous the visitors could be when Mackay-Steven got in behind the Jags defence and went one on one with Gallacher, thankfully the keeper saved his effort. Perhaps that early chance should have served an warning sign, however it wasn’t heeded as, in the 10th minute, Ciftci was allowed space and chipped the ball behind the home defence again to Mackay-Steven. This time the in form winger controlled the ball and slotted home to give the visitors the lead.
Thistle looked to get back from the early blow and there were claims for a penalty after Doolan was brought down but the referee, John Beaton, waved away the protests.
Jags’ heads didn’t drop though as a great run by McDaid allowed him to get a crossaway which was chested by Doolan to O’Donnell who couldn’t quite get a shot away. Seconds later a Lawless header was saved by Cierzniak as the home side looked the more dangerous despite only being one goal down.
At the other end a quick break by United led to a two on one situation with Mackay-Steven then finding former Jag Erskine. Only a magnificent piece of defending by Balatoni prevented him increasing the score. In the 23rd minute good patient build up on the right saw a Lawless cross taken off the head of Doolan for a corner. Fraser stood up to take the set piece and swung it in for Stevenson who headed home the equaliser past Cierzniak who was in no man’s land.
Moments after Stevenson made it 1-1 a brilliant piece of play nearly saw Thistle edge in front. Lawless did well to win the ball and found Stevenson, his magnificent inch perfect diagonal cross found Doolan whose Van Bastenesque volley was brilliantly saved by Cierzniak.
Thistle’s pressure paid off just after the half hour as the home side took the lead in the 32nd minute. A great reverse ball from O’Donnell sent Fraser away, he fired in a great low cross which went right the waya cross the face of goal. Keenan was strong at the back post and the ball fell perfectly for Kris Doolan who calmly and expertly slotted home from eight yards to make it 2-1.
Fraser was running the show well from midfield, effortlessly pinging 50 and 60 yard passes throughout the half and it was his side who continued to impress with a strong, low Lawless effort producing another fine save from Cierzniak. Just on half time McDaid rolled his marker and crossed for Doolan who seemed to miskick under pressure and the ball rolled along the box to Fraser who smashed his shot and waited for the net to bulge. Somehow Cierzniak made an incredible save from point blank range to keep the score 2-1 at half time.
Thistle were first to try their luck in the second half with Fraser seeing his left footed 25 yard effort saved by the United keeper. Ciftci then sent a 25 yard free kick from a dangerous position into the canal behind the stadium as United started to pressurise the Jags who, understandably, were starting to sit a little deeper. Despite the pressure, the visitors were not really creating anything.
Just as the home support were starting to believe they might hold out United equalised. In the 73rd minute the Arabs broke and Mackay-Steven, who had swapped from right to left such was the impressive marking job by Keenan, burst past a couple of tired looking Jags players. Bannigan made a great last ditch tackle in the box but the ball broke to Ciftci and he buried it past Gallacher to make it 2-2.
Thistle hit back and a Keenan long pass was chested down by Doolan for substitute Craigen whose left foot shot flashed just wide. Lawless got a good volley away which was just inches wide after Stevenson had won the header.
Neither side were settling for the draw and United again hit back with a through ball finding Dow clear but his angled shot from 14 yards went inches wide with Gallacher beaten. At the other end, a Fraser free kick was easily saved. Fjout headed harmlessly wide from a long ball into the box in the 90th minutem, as Thistle defended desperately – and with almost the last kick of the ball, Dow went clean through, Keenan and Fraser did brilliantly well to get back and crowd him out but the ball broke to Armstrong who thankfully fired over from 12 yards to leave the score at 2-2 as the full time whistle blew.
It was a terrific performance from a severely under strength Thistle side with some of the players on the pitch also suffering with the bug that has been going around the club. A special mention for the three youngsters, Lindsay, McDaid and Keenan who looked as comfortable on the pitch as the experienced players around them. Big and bright futures ahead for theses boys here at Firhill.
Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Balatoni, Lindsay, Keenan, Bannigan (Craigen, 79), Fraser, Lawless, Stevenson, McDaid, Doolan
Subs: Fox, Craigen (79), Eccleston, Wilson, Leyden