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Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle V Hearts – 25th February 2017

After picking up their first league win of 2017 against Hamilton at Firhill last Saturday, Partick Thistle would look to build on it at the same venue but this time against Hearts. The Ladbrokes Premiership’s bottom side, Inverness, picked up a big win over Rangers on Friday night so Thistle had to come up with a performance if they were to stay a decent distance from the bottom two places. Luckily for the Jags, the visitors weren’t in great form, they had failed to win in their last three games, including a damaging 3-1 defeat to their city rivals, Hibernian, on Wednesday night.

Alan Archibald made three changes to the side that began the clash with Hamilton last week. Ade Azeez, Steven Lawless and David Amoo dropped to the bench and were replaced by last week’s game changers Kris Doolan and Chris Erskine, Niall Keown also joined the starting 11.

The team reverted to a three-at-the-back formation, similar to the one that was played in the Jags’ William Hill Scottish cup tie with St Johnstone. Mustapha Dumbuya and Callum Booth occupied the wing back positions. Abdul Osman, Adam Barton and Ryan Edwards created a midfield three with Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan playing up-front.

Kris Doolan was the man to get the game underway and he would be the man to open the scoring. Just five minutes into the game the striker was able to break the deadlock and it all came from a Ryan Edwards free-kick. The Australian launched a ball deep into the Hearts box and a combination of Liam Lindsay and a Hearts defender turned the ball back across the box.

A poor headed clearance meant the ball went in the direction of Adam Barton who then headed down to Kris Doolan who controlled before shooting on the turn. His shot nestled into the bottom corner of the Hearts net from very close range as he moved to within two of the much awaited 100 competitive goals in the red and yellow of Partick Thistle. This was not only the first time Thistle had taken the lead against the Jambos since May 2014 but also the first time the Maryhill men had scored in the first 15 minutes of a league game this season.

The contest became a slightly cagey affair after the goal. The home side were happy to allow Hearts some possession as they’re high tempo pressing meant that the Jambos were unable to put together any passing moves. Due to this, the next chance of the match didn’t fall until the 29th minute. Goncalves was fed the ball and found himself at the by-line, he then lifted it back to the edge of the box where Tziolis was situated. The Greek midfielder proceeded to volley towards goal but the ambitious attempt flew high and wide.

A minute after that opportunity, Kris Doolan had a chance to double the lead. Mustapha Dumbuya tried to cross into the box but it deflected off a Hearts body. The ball spun fortuitously and landed at the feet of Doolan who found himself in behind the defence. The forward controlled and then attempted to skip past Jack Hamilton in the Hearts goal but the ‘keeper was able to block with his legs and collect.

There would be one final chance in the opening 45 minutes and it would again fall to the hosts. Callum Booth whipped a cross in from the left wing finding an unmarked Kris Doolan. The marksman had to stoop to head the ball but still got something on target. The attempt was sent towards the near post by Doolan but the Hearts stopper, Hamilton, was able to make a strong, two-handed save.

Hearts would be dealt a blow before the game reached half-time as, with two minutes of the first period remaining captain, Jamie Walker, was forced off through an injury he had been struggling with for a while. He was replaced by Sam Nicholson.

The players went into the interval at 1-0 with Kris Doolan’s eighth league goal of the season the difference. Thistle’s performance had been solid, the centre-half trio had been dominant in the air and on the ground, restricting the away side to little more than half-chances.

The first half had a goal within five minutes but the second half’s first talking point came just four mniutes in. After being fouled by Niall Keown, Esmael Goncalves vented his frustration in the direction of the referee and was adjudged to have been a little bit too strong in his protestations by whistler, Nick Walsh who booked the former St Mirren loanee. It was a yellow card that would prove to be important.

Alan Archibald made his first change of the game in the 51st minute when Christie Elliott made his return from suspension to replace Mustapha Dumbuya who was withdrawn as a precautionary measure after picking up a small knock in the first half.

On the hour mark, the earlier Goncalves yellow card came back to bite the Jambos. Christie Elliott was given the ball on the left flank and skipped past Goncalves. The wing back then tried to go past him a second time but in the second instance, he was taken down and Nick Walsh brandished another booking meaning Esmael Goncalves was dismissed and Ian Cathro’s team were down to 10 men.

After going down to 10 men, Hearts were struggling to create openings. One of their better second half attempts came when Faycal Rherras cut in from the left hand side and hit a shot from 35 yards. Unfortunately for the visitors, the defender’s attempt flew over the bar.

Even when up against ten men, a one goal lead is not a safe one which is why the Firhill faithful would have been ecstatic to see their team double the lead in the 73rd minute.

A Callum Booth corner was nodded away from danger by a defender and seemed to be going out for a corner but Thistle skipper, Abdul Osman, had other ideas and kept the ball in play before hitting an excellent cross into the centre of the box, finding Liam Lindsay. The centre-half controlled the ball sensationally and hit a half-volley on the turn. The shot was very powerful and was beat Jack Hamilton at his near post making it 2-0 to the hosts. This goal was Liam Lindsay’s sixth in the league this season and his first of 2017.

As the remaining minutes of the game dwindled, the Jags took advantage of their last two available substitutes. Steven Lawless and Ade Azeez came on for Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan.

In the closing minutes Hearts were unable to create anything. Thistle conjured up a couple of half chances but nothing came of them and the game ended 2-0. The Jags remained in seventh spot with this win and stayed within one point of the top six. In their next game they face the team currently in sixth, Dundee. The game is on Wednesday night at Dens Park in Dundee with kick-off at 19:45.

PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Cerny, Dumbuya (Elliott, 51’), Devine, Keown, Lindsay, Booth, Barton, Osman, Edwards, Erskine (Lawless,76’), Doolan (Azeez, 83’).

PARTICK THISTLE SUBS (N/U): Ridgers, McCarthy, Amoo, Nisbet.

HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN TEAM: Hamilton, Struna, Sowah, Avlonitis, Rherras (Choulay, 80’), Nowak, Tziolis, Walker (Nicholson, 43’), Currie (Bikey, 58’), Djoum, Goncalves (S/O, 60’).

HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN SUBS (N/U): Noring, Smith, Kitchen, Martin.

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