Friday 22nd March, 2019 at 10:13pm
Partick Thistle returned to the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill for the first time since Aidan Fitzpatrick’s dramatic late winner beat Dundee United as they took on Inverness in Maryhill. Since that triumph over the Tangerines, the Jags had been eliminated from the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle and picked up a point at the Falkirk Stadium while on the road.
Gary Caldwell made four changes to the team which started at the Falkirk Stadium six days prior with the first coming in goals as Jamie Sneddon replaced Conor Hazard with the Celtic loanee away on international duty with the Northern Ireland senior squad. In defence, Christie Elliott and Steven Anderson returned from injury at right-back and centre-half respectively with Steven Saunders and James Penrice completing the back four. Jack McMillan operated at the base of midfield as he did in Thistle’s last home fixture only this time it was as part of a diamond in the middle of the park. Stuart Bannigan and Craig Slater were on either side of the midfield unit with Gary Harkins in the number ten role, coming in for Joe Cardle. Up front, the pair who linked up for Thistle’s opener against Falkirk retained their places as Scott McDonald and Lewis Manseel went in search of similar success against Caley. On the bench for the hosts were Aaron Lennox, Sean McGinty, Blair Spittal, Kris Doolan, Miles Storey, Aidan Fitzpatrick and Joe Cardle.
The first sight of goal came for the travelling Highlanders after ten minutes after a quick turnover around the half way line. Christie Elliott was the man dispossessed as Aaron Doran tracked back to stop the advancing Thistle defender. The ball then fell to Carl Tremarco who rushed forward into the open space left by Elliott. He was allowed to take a shot from the edge of the box but his effort was weak and Jamie Sneddon held easily.
The next chance in what was a poor first half came on 35 minutes as Inverness continued to look slightly more dangerous than their Glaswegian adversaries. John Robertson’s side broke from a Thistle corner with Coll Donaldson flicking the ball to Joe Chalmers to truly start the counter. Chalmers then fed Sean Welsh who was sprinting down the Caley right before receiving a return pass from Welsh. Chalmers then took one touch to open things up before curling a shot goalward. Unfortunately for him, his effort was far too central and Jamie Sneddon was able to simply help it over the bar.
Sneddon would be called into action once more before the break as a Caley free kick was headed towards goal by Jordan White. The big forward tried to find the bottom corner but Sneddon got down well to his left to turn it away. Carl Tremarco tried to knock the rebound home but Steven Saunders defended well, knocking the ball off Tremarco to win a goal kick.
The home side came out for the second half looking better than they had during the first and they even had the ball in the net in the 50th minute, though it was ruled out. Mark Ridgers punched Craig Slater’s cross clear after a short corner, however, Steven Anderson knocked it back into the danger area where Scott McDonald brought the ball down. The Australian tried a shot on the spin which was blocked. It deflected into the path of Steven Saunders who fired home from a couple of yards but the assistant’s flag was indicating the defender was offside. Shortly thereafter, Gary Caldwell made his first substitution of the game as Lewis Mansell was replaced by Miles Storey before then also introducing Blair Spittal on the hour mark in place of Gary Harkins.
The visitors then had the ball in the net as well, however, their goal stood as Aaron Doran gave Caley the lead. Joe Chalmers forward pass was aimed for Inverness striker, Jordan White, but the number 19 used an intelligent dummy to let the ball run through to Aaron Doran who had broken the hosts’ backline. Doran set himself before slotting home, beyond the outrushing Jamie Sneddon as the away side drew first blood.
Thistle fought back, though, and answered with an equaliser just three minutes later. Blair Spittal fed the ball into Scott McDonald in the Caley box with the number ten then laying it off for Stuart Bannigan. The midfielder’s first touch set himself for a left-footed short and that’s exactly what he went for. Bannigan curled an attempt towards goal, picking out the far corner and in the process netting his first goal since October 2015 when he scored the third in a 3-0 win over Dundee United.
The Jags then had a chance to take the lead as Blair Spittal looked to score his ninth goal of the 2018/19 season. The substitute got in behind the Caley rear-guard and controlled a high pass from Scott McDonald on his chest. Spittal then tried to volley home past Mark Ridgers at the ‘keeper’s near post but the attempt ricocheted wide off the outside of the post. Then, in the 71st minute, Joe Cardle came on for Christie Elliott as the home side continued to push for the winner.
Nevertheless, it was the travelling Inverness side who would find the vital third goal of the game as Tom Walsh once again proved to be a thorn in the Jags’ side. After Steven Saunders failed to clear the ball, Liam Polworth lifted the ball over the top to Aaron Doran, the scorer of the game’s opener. He flicked the ball into the air with Tom Walsh breaking into the box and the midfielder slammed home a volley that beat Jamie Sneddon all ends up.
That’s how the game would finish with the Highlanders sneaking an exciting second half which swung both ways at various points. The defeat meant the Jags failed to move above Falkirk and failed to extend their lead over Alloa in the table, however, Alloa’s defeat the following day meant that they failed to capitalise on Thistle’s defeat.
Next up for the Jags is a trip to Greenock to take on Morton. Kick-off is 15:00 from Cappielow Park on March 30th.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Sneddon, Elliott (Cardle, 71’), Anderson, Saunders, Penrice, McMillan, Bannigan, Slater, Harkins (Spittal, 60’), Mansell (Storey, 54’), McDonald.
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Lennox, McGinty, Fitzpatrick, Doolan.
INVERNESS CT TEAM: Ridgers, McKay, McCart, Donaldson, Tremarco, Trafford (Walsh, 68’), Welsh, Chalmers, Doran (Rooney, 85’), Polworth, White.
UNUSED SUBS (ICT): Mackay, McHattie, McCauley, Machado, Austin.