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Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Greenock Morton – 1st September 2018

League football returned to the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill this afternoon as Partick Thistle took on Greenock Morton in game number four of the new Championship season. The Ton came to Maryhill for the second time this term having visited Thistle in the Betfred Cup group stages with the Jags coming out as 2-1 winners on that occasion. However, since then the Ton had lost just once in six games with no losses in their first three league fixtures of the 2018/19 campaign while the Jags came into the game off the back of a 3-1 defeat by Dundee United at Tannadice.

Alan Archibald made four changes to the side which lost out in Dundee last Saturday with one player brought in to make their debut. Cammy Bell retained his place in goals behind a slightly altered backline. Tam O’Ware dropped out of the squad having received unfavourable injury news during the week with Niall Keown coming back into the starting line-up having revised his contract on Thursday. Sean McGinty started alongside Niall for the second time this season and Christie Elliott remained at right-back while James Penrice returned to his natural left-back role as Max Melbourne dropped to the bench. Craig Slater started in central midfield once again alongside Thistle debutant, Brice Ntambwe who was playing his first minutes for the Jags since penning a one-year deal with the Club near the end of last month. Blair Spittal and Miles Storey retained their places on either wing while Chris Erskine came into the team as a number ten in behind Kris Doolan who also made his return to the starting line-up. On the bench were Jamie Sneddon, Max Melbourne, deadline day signing, Dan Jefferies, Callum Wilson, Jack Storer, Aidan Fitzpatrick and Stuart Bannigan who appeared in a Thistle squad for the first time since last September.

Morton started the game in control and could have had the lead within two minutes. Christie Elliot was caught cold in possession and that gave Bob McHugh the chance to cross into the Jags’ area. His low delivery was met by Denny Johnstone who was only denied the opener by a great Cammy Bell save who turned the striker’s shot away from goal before Brice Ntambwe cleared.

The hosts’ first half-chance of the game fell after 18 minutes and it came from a dangerous Craig Slater corner. The midfielder whipped the ball into the Morton box and it was hastily half-cleared by the away side. It fell to Chris Erskine who struck a first-time half-volley towards goal which was going wide, however, Niall Keown outstretched a leg, trying to divert the ball into the corner of the goal but his effort flew wide of the target.

Another chance fell for Thistle in the 38th minute and this time, it should have ended in a goal. A deflected forward pass almost spun into the path of Kris Doolan but Ryan Scully was out quickly to scupper the number nine’s attack. However, the ball then fell to Chris Erskine on the edge of the box and with Scully 15 yards out of his goal, the ex-Kilbirnie Ladeside man tried to lift the ball into the gaping net. Unfortunately for Chris, he didn’t get enough on the lofted effort and Scully saved the shot denying Erskine a third of the new campaign.

The half ended with honours even although the Jags had ended the half very positively after a rocky start. The biggest chance of the half came within two minutes as Cammy Bell denied Denny Johnstone with Bell doing excellently to maintain his clean sheet. At the other end, Chris Erskine’s misjudged lob represented the home side’s best opportunity but the midfielder wasn’t able to capitalise on Ryan Scully being out of his goal. A continuation of the end of the first half into the second would do the Jags just fine as they built themselves into the game while Morton would be looking to take the sting out of Thistle’s pressure.

They were unable to do so though as Thistle took the lead within four minutes of the restart. Miles Storey played the ball down the Jags’ left to Craig Slater who had made a terrific run, puncturing the Morton rear-guard. The ex-Kilmarnock midfielder then delivered a left-footed cross into the danger area which found Chris Erskine and, unlike in the first half, the number ten made no mistake with his shot, sweeping the ball past Ryan Scully and into the far corner. The goal puts him clear top of the Thistle league scoring charts with two, putting him on three for the competitive season.

The Jags thought they’d made it two six minutes later with Kris Doolan seemingly opening his account for the 2018/19 campaign. A corner from the Jackie Husband Stand side of the pitch caused havoc in the box but it was scrambled away from the goalmouth. Doolan proceeded to pick up the loose ball, move away from his marker and fire a left-footed effort into the net off the underside of the bar. The net rippled as Kris wheeled away in celebration but the jubilation was cut short by the referee who after a period of deliberation with his assistant, called for a Thistle throw to be taken to the bemusement of all in the stadium.

Following that contentious call, the Jags took a few minutes to regroup, however, they quickly regained control of the match with Blair Spittal, Niall Keown and Chris Erskine both missing half chances before Sean McGinty had a golden opportunity to give the Jags the two goal lead that they thought they should have had. Again, it was a corner causing the problems for Morton as Craig Slater’s delivery found Sean McGinty at the front post. Still looking for his first goal in the red and yellow, McGinty aimed for the near post with his attempt but he missed the target completely from close range.

Thistle made their first substitution of the game as Brice Ntambwe was withdrawn from the game to be replaced by Stuart Bannigan in the 75th minute. The Jags number eight was coming on to play his first minutes for around a year after a poorly timed setback in July ahead of the first game of the competitive season. He received a standing ovation from the Thistle faithful as he entered the fray after almost 12 months out.

Then in the 89th minute, Chris Erskine was replaced by Max Melbourne who was introduced to help Thistle see the game out and see the game out they did with the referee blowing the final whistle at 1-0 to the Jags. The win doesn’t change Thistle’s league standing as they remain seventh but they do now move to within three points of top spot ahead of our next league game in two weeks time away to second-placed Inverness.

However, before that trip to the Highlands we have a trip to Methil as we battle it out with East Fife in the Irn Bru Cup. Kick-off is 15:00 from the Locality Hub Bayview Stadium.

THISTLE TEAM: Bell, Elliott, Keown, McGinty, Penrice, Slater, Ntambwe (Bannigan, 75’), Spittal, Erskine (Melbourne, 89’), Storey, Doolan.

UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Sneddon, Jefferies, Wilson, Storer, Fitzpatrick.

GREENOCK MORTON TEAM: Scully, Tumilty, Kilday (Waddell, 62’), Buchanan, McKeown, Millar, Tidser (Tiffoney, 69’), McAllister, MacLean, McHugh, Johnstone (Armour, 69’)

UNUSED SUBS (MRT): Gaston, Iredale, Telfer, Langan

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