Saturday 11th April, 2015 at 7:15pm
With the stakes high for both clubs, there was much anticipation around the visit of Motherwell to Firhill on Saturday. After a battling and spirited display against Celtic manager, Alan Archibald, made one enforced change to the starting XI, with Lyle Taylor replacing the suspended James Craigen. Kris Doolan recovered from his hamstring injury sufficiently to take a place on the bench.
It was the visitors who were on the front foot in the early stages and Sutton glanced an early header well wide. A few minutes later, Osman and Fox seemed to miscommunicate and McDonald pounced on Osman’s poor back pass, he found Sutton eight yards out and his shot would have been goal bound had it not been for a magnificent block by Frans who deflected the ball inches wide of the post.
Thistle slowly started to settle and impose themselves on the game in a swirling wind which was making conditions far from easy for the players. Both Taylor and Lawless looked lively and O’Donnell was enjoying space on the right hand side. All that was lacking was the final ball in the danger area, as the Jags looked for the opening goal.
Erwin saw a header easily saved by Fox at the other end but Thistle were now enjoying the majority of possession. A long O’Donnell throw caused trouble for the ‘Well defence and, after some trickery from Lawless, the shot from Osman was deflected into the arms of Long. Taylor fired a great cross along the six yard box which just evaded Stevenson and then a lovely long pass from Frans was controlled by Taylor and his powerful effort from an angle was too high. Ainsworth played Lasley in wide of the Thistle box but his chipped effort went wide of Fox’s goal and, at half time, the teams went in level at 0-0.
Into the second half and Higginbotham fired wide from 25 yards after good work from Taylor as Thistle pressed forward and, in the 54th minute the home side deservedly took the lead. O’Donnell was pulled back and, from the resulting free kick, Higginbotham found Balatoni who had brilliantly lost his man at the back post. Thistle’s centre half headed strongly back across goal and there was Taylor to nod home from a couple of yards out to make it 1-0.
Minutes later it could have been two when Lawless found Booth who sent Taylor through on the keeper but his effort was well saved by Long for a Jags corner.
Jags fans wouldn’t have to wait long to see the team extend their lead though. In the 61st minute Higginbotham sent Booth scampering down the left to the bye line and his low cross found Taylor five yards out, Long brilliantly saved his first effort but could do nothing about the rebound as Taylor poked his, and Thistle’s, second goal home.
Thistle were now well on top and a terrific charging run by Bannigan saw him bulldoze his way into the box and his cut back was cleared off the toes of Taylor. Lawless also had an effort in an attempt to replicate his winner against Inverness but his fierce drive from 20 yards was parried by Long as the Jags continued to turn the screw. O’Donnell then cut inside onto his left foot but saw his well struck shot well saved again by Long.
As time ticked down there were changes made and, shortly after arriving to the game, Kris Doolan tried his luck from 25 yards but fired over. The last action of the game saw the visitors’ substitute, Carswell, pick up two yellow cards in the space of five minutes. The first was for hauling down Bannigan as he looked to break and the second was for thumping into Stevenson from behind, a challenge that on another day may have seen a straight dismissal. The sending off marked a poor day for the visitors but ultimately an excellent afternoon’s work for Thistle.
Saturday once again saw another excellent team performance from the home side with everyone working hard for each other. On another day the score line could have been bigger but for some great goalkeeping from Long.
Thistle: Fox, Booth, Frans, Balatoni, O’Donnell, Osman, Bannigan, Higginbotham, Stevenson, Lawless, Taylor (Doolan)
Subs: Gallacher, Doolan (79), Richards-Everton, Fraser, McDaid, Wilson, Keenan