Saturday 12th January, 2019 at 8:30pm
Partick Thistle returned to Maryhill this afternoon as they faced Falkirk in a bottom of the table clash. The Jags were looking to record a first win of 2019 after an encouraging showing at Tannadice last week while Falkirk were aiming to build on their impressive victory over Ayr United at Somerset Park.
Gary Caldwell named an unchanged side as he looked for a similarly energetic performance with Conor Hazard making his home debut in between the sticks. Steven Saunders was also making his inaugural appearance in Maryhill alongside Christie Elliott, Sean McGinty and James Penrice as part of a back four which was screened by Stuart Bannigan and Gary Harkins at the base of the midfield. Craig Slater and Blair Spittal operated as more advanced midfielders with Kris Doolan and Miles Storey up front. On the bench for the hosts it was Jamie Sneddon, Dan Jefferies, Callum Wilson, Aidan Fitzpatrick, Joe Cardle, Chris Erskine and Ally Roy.
Falkirk adopted the same 5-4-1 formation that they used when these sides met at the Falkirk Stadium in November and that defensive approach made for a fairly uneventful start to the game. The travelling Bairns were gifted a half-chance in the ninth minute though when Conor Hazard’s miscued clearance found a Falkirk man. The ball was fed to Ross MacLean in the box but the former Morton man scuffed his effort which Hazard held comfortably.
The away side then broke for another chance on 16 minutes down the left flank. Rangers loanee, Zak Rudden was fed the ball down the channel and had some space to run into. The number 19 tried to beat Conor Hazard from a tight angle after a pacey attack but the ‘keeper parried the ball away from goal, denying Rudden his eighth of the season.
The hosts did half a few opportunities though none of them were particularly clear cut. Sean McGinty’s header went well over the bar before James Penrice and Christie Elliott saw ranged efforts go wide of the target with the former’s shot taking a deflection.
Nevertheless, the game went into the interval at 0-0 with neither team looking dangerous enough to suggest they should be infront. Falkirk’s ‘park the bus’ approach had successfully stifled both teams attacks with the Bairns only able to threaten through counter attacks while the home side had looked rather toothless in the final third.
The second 45 minutes began with a bit more rhythm than the first and the Jags nearly took the lead on 52 minutes. It was Blair Spittal’s corner that caused the problems as he found Sean McGinty with his cross. The number six nodded the ball goalwards with power but his attempt went just over the bar and the defender’s search for his first Thistle goal continued.
Thistle were able to break the deadlock though as Blair Spittal bagged his sixth of the season on the hour mark. It was James Penrice who set him up with a smart low cross which found Spittal in a bit of space and after a decent first touch the number seven prodded the ball towards David Mitchell’s goal. The effort was scuffed but trickled into the corner of the net and Thistle had the advantage.
There were half chances to follow for both sides as Miles Storey, Mark Waddington and Christie Elliott all endeavoured to score for their respective sides without any luck but then the complexion of the entire game was changed as Andrew Dallas decided to send Gary Harkins off for a second yellow card.
The number 11 had picked up a first booking in the 46th minute for his second foul of the game before being dismissed 27 minutes later for his next foul. Harkins was judged to have caught Ross MacLean slightly late and Dallas didn’t hesitate to send the ex-Dundee man for an early bath.
Then, just two minutes later, the Bairns drew level through Zak Rudden. Ross MacLean picked up a loose ball on the Falkirk right and whipped the ball in with his left foot. His delivery found Mark Waddington who saw a header saved brilliantly by Conor Hazard at close range. Unfortunately for the Northern Irish ‘stopper, the rebound fell straight to Zak Rudden who tapped home for his first goal since returning on loan from Rangers.
In the 79th minute, the Maryhill men made a double change to re-energise the Thistle side with Joe Cardle and Chris Erskine replacing Kris Doolan and Blair Spittal.
The away side had a chance to complete their comeback in the 82nd minute as Zak Rudden looked to bag a brace. The number 19 got the ball in the Thistle box and with options to his right, he decided to attempt a shot. Conor Hazard got plenty behind the effort though and the rebound was cleared.
With a minute to go until added time, Ally Roy was substituted on for Miles Storey as the Airdrie-born striker made his first home appearance.
That would be all though as Thistle saw the game out for a point. The Jags did well to keep Falkirk at bay despite being a man down but will ultimately be rueing another two points dropped from a leading position seven days on from their 1-1 draw at Tannadice.
The result leaves Thistle seven points behind Alloa in eighth and keeps them a point behind the day’s opponents, Falkirk.
There’s now a break from league action for the Jags as they turn their attentions to a William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Stranraer. Kick-off is 15:00 from the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.