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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Falkirk – 19th January 2013

Thistle made a welcome return to winning ways with an ultimately resounding 4-1 win over Falkirk; a win that took them back to second place in the First Division.
Without a win from their four previous fixtures manager Jackie McNamara made two changes to the side that had lost in disappointing fashion at Dumbarton the previous weekend. Aaron Muirhead, an ever present prior to this game, missed out due to illness while Kris Doolan dropped to the bench. Coming into the side were Ross Forbes and Chris Erskine although the big pre-match question centred on who would fill the vacant right back slot. Hugh Murray wore the number two jersey but it was Stuart Bannigan that initially occupied the position.
When Thistle last played Falkirk at Firhill they made a whirlwind start and were two goals up inside the opening ten minutes. In this game Thistle were again fast off the mark and were a goal ahead in just the fourth minute. Ross Forbes corner from the Thistle left was met by Conrad Balatoni and his header eluded a Falkirk defender on the line to give Thistle a morale and confidence boosting early lead.
Thistle were in total control in the early stages and when Chris Erskine cut inside from the right just a couple of minutes after Balatoni’s goal there was the prospect of a second early Thistle goal but Falkirk were able to scramble Erskine’s cross away.
Out of the blue though Falkirk were almost level in the 14th minute but Scott Fox was sharp off his line and was able to block an effort from Blair Alston.
Play swiftly moved to the other end and Thistle missed an excellent chance to extend their lead when Chris Erskine blasted wide after Steven Craig had nodded a Stuart Bannigan cross into his path.
The next goal, however, would level the scores and there was more than a hint of controversy surrounding the goal. Chris Erskine appeared to be fouled in the centre circle but there was no whistle for a foul allowing Falkirk to break. Thomas Grant’s cross was missed by Blair Alston but not Lyle Taylor who at the back post steered the ball into the net.
Thistle though were back in front in next to no time. Steven Lawless’ cross picked out Chris Erskine and a rare headed goal from Erskine gave him his tenth strike of the season. There would be more to come from Erskine before the end of the game.
Steven Lawless’ involvement in the game, however, would soon be at an end. A collision with Falkirk goalkeeper Michael McGovern left the Thistle player on the ground with a nasty injury to his face and he was substituted by Sean Welsh.
Lyle Taylor continued to be the biggest threat to the Thistle goal and he forced Scott Fox into a sharp save low down at his right hand post in the 30th minute underlining the fragility of the Thistle lead.
Twice before the break Thistle would come close to extending that narrow advantage. Steven Craig was able to get his head to a hanging cross from Ross Forbes but the ball slipped round the wrong side of the post. Sean Welsh meantime was denied a goal by a superb save from McGovern who turned Welsh’s effort from the edge of the box round the post for a corner.
Scott Fox wasn’t exactly idle either and he had to make an important double save to preserve the Thistle lead with half-time approaching.
In the opening stages of the second half both teams would miss excellent chances to score. Steven Craig saw his shot, after collecting a pass from Chris Erskine, saved by McGovern.
The Thistle number 9 was unlucky not to have scored but his opposite number really should have scored in the 52nd minute. Kieran Duffie’s cross from the right picked out the normally deadly Taylor right in front of the Thistle goal but he somehow managed to screw his shot wide of target when most people inside the ground expected to see the ball in the back of the net.
That proved to be a real turning point in the game as within 12 minutes of that miss the game was all but over and Thistle were out of sight and well on the way to all three points.
In the 62nd minute Thistle were able to put some breathing space between them and Falkirk with a third goal. Falkirk were unable to clear a Forbes corner and when the ball dropped invitingly into the path of Conrad Balatoni the centre back had his second goal of the afternoon.
Two minutes later Thistle had a fourth goal and it was the pick of the afternoon’s goals. Chris Erskine collected James Craigen’s pass and burst through the heart of the Falkirk defence before chipping the ball over the head of McGovern and into the net.
With the points now well and truly safe Thistle could have scored further goals in the time remaining. Steven Craig sent a first time shot from a Sean Welsh cross over the bar but it was really McGovern that stood between Thistle and more goals. He saved well from Stuart Bannigan who had collected Ross Forbes’ perfectly judged pass, and from Chris Erskine with Forbes sending the rebound over the bar.
There were few complaints though about a failure to score more than four from the Thistle fans in 3,000+ crowd at full-time.

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