Saturday 26th January, 2019 at 8:00pm
It was a return to league action for Partick Thistle, following their Scottish Cup victory over Stranraer last Saturday, as they took on Queen of the South this afternoon. The Jags entered the clash unbeaten after three games in 2019 but were still looking for a first Championship victory of the new year. They faced the challenge of the on-form Queens side who had lost just once in their last 11.
Gary Caldwell made just two changes to the team that won in the cup with an alteration being made to the defence and the frontline. Conor Hazard retained his spot between the sticks with Jack McMillan debuting as part of the backline alongside Christie Elliott, Steven Saunders and James Penrice. Stuart Bannigan, Craig Slater and Blair Spittal formed the midfield again as the Maryhill men deployed a 4-3-3 formation for the second week in a row. Up front, Joe Cardle and Aidan Fitzpatrick were picked again while Kris Doolan returned to the starting XI. On the bench for the hosts were Jamie Sneddon, Sean McGinty, Andy McCarthy, Miles Storey, Souleymane Coulibaly, Lewis Mansell and Ally Roy.
The away side started the game on top and had a good chance to open the scoring after just eight minutes. Andrew Stirling was the creator as the Queens number seven drove down the right before cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot. It found Stephen Dobbie and the man with 33 goals this season tried to make it 34 by bending a shot into the top corner. However, Conor Hazard was on hand to turn the ball away from goal with a strong left hand.
The match then descended into scrappiness as both sides battled for control until Thistle sneaked into the lead after 17 minutes. The hosts had been slowly growing into the match and they were rewarded for their improvement with the deadlock-breaker. It all began with Craig Slater holding the ball up on the wing for the home side before laying the ball off for Christie Elliott who fed it to Blair Spittal. The midfielder then turned his man and delivered across the face of goal, finding Joe Cardle. Cardle tried to fire the ball home first time but a poor finish saw the ball drop in front of him, allowing him to stab home at the second attempt. The goal was Cardle’s second in two starts and continued Thistle’s record of scoring the opener in all of their matches since the turn of the year.
Not much happened for the rest of the first half with the only notable shots coming from range with Stephen Dobbie and Craig Slater trying their luck from distance, however, neither of them really looked like finding the net.
Although there wasn’t much goal mouth action after the opener, there was some drama as the man who netted the first goal of the game was forced off through injury. Joe Cardle pulled up off the ball and went down in need of treatment in the latter stages of the opening 45 minutes and had to be replaced by Miles Storey with Cardle seemingly holding his hamstring.
Nevertheless, the Jags got to half time at 1-0 and they had probably just about deserved it after a generally even first half. Both teams had enjoyed spells of dominance but those in red and yellow had looked slightly more dangerous than their adversaries in blue and white.
Coming out for the second period, the game continued to produce little in the way of goalscoring opportunities with the first flashpoint after the interval coming when Kyle Jacobs made a late challenge on Craig Slater which had many in the Jackie Husband Stand baying for a red card. Referee, Colin Steven only produced a yellow though and the game continued.
Any annoyed with that decision from a Thistle perspective had forgotten all about it two minutes later, though, when Miles Storey extended the home side’s lead. Some terrific work from 17-year-old, Aidan Fitzpatrick worked the space for Blair Spittal who he found with a well-weighted ball. The number seven then claimed his second assist of the match as his delivery was bundled over the line by a mass of bodies, one of whom was Miles Storey.
It could very easily have been three moments later as Aidan Fitzpatrick produced more excellent skill to find space before crossing towards the front post area. His ball found Kris Doolan who used the pace on the delivery to redirect it on target from the angle. His effort forced a decent save out of Alan Martin but the Doonhamers’ goalkeeper was able to parry away from danger.
The visitors almost clawed their way back into the game in the 63rd minute as Conor Hazard made a meal of a high ball near the edge of the box. The number 15 came to claim the lofted pass but dropped it under pressure with Stephen Dobbie standing nearby. The Queens number 11 tried a low driven shot from 20 yards but saw his attempt blocked by Hazard who made amends for his error by denying Dobbie a free shot on goal. There were claims for a free kick as it looked like the Celtic loanee, Hazard had possibly edged outside his box before saving Dobbie’s half-volley but Colin Steven waved play on.
It was then Thistle’s turn to have a chance again as a thrilling second half continued with Aidan Fitzpatrick at the centre of things once again. The number 21 this time ran down the outside of Barry Maguire, getting the better of the centre-half before playing the ball across the six-yard box. The pass missed Kris Doolan, reaching Miles Storey at the back post but the attacker’s touch was poor, allowing a couple of Queens defenders to converge and clear. Five minutes later, Gary Caldwell made his second change of the match as Kris Doolan was replaced by Ally Roy.
Shortly thereafter, there were further calls for a red card from those in red and yellow as Lyndon Dykes appeared to lash out at Steven Saunders. The striker seemed to nibble at Saunders heels twice in a matter of seconds, knocking the defender to the ground. The referee took his time over the decision and with the help of his assistant decided on a yellow for the number 25, Dykes.
Thistle’s third substitution came in the 77th minute as the hard-working Blair Spittal was withdrawn to be replaced by Andrew McCarthy. Unfortunately, the youngster’s first significant involvement was to give away a penalty two minutes after being introduced.
The spot kick was awarded for a shove by McCarthy on Andrew Stirling but came after a Conor Hazard double save. The first effort came from range and Hazard got down to it but didn’t parry convincingly and Stephen Dobbie had a chance on the rebound. Hazard saved again but Owen Bell picked up the ball. Eventually it got to Stirling and that was when the foul was adjudged to have been committed.
Stephen Dobbie stepped up and sent the ‘keeper the wrong way as he bagged his 19th league goal of the season and his third in three games against Thistle this term.
From that moment on, there was plenty of huffing and puffing from the away side but it was Thistle who had the best chance to score the game’s fourth goal, in the 89th minute. The opportunity came as Aidan Fitzpatrick broke with the ball, moving into the Queen half at speed. He had Ally Roy in support and he spotted the number 99’s run, trying to find him with a curling pass.
The ball reached his and the ex-Hearts man knocked it into the net, seemingly scoring his first goal as a Jag, however, the linesman’s flag was up and the goal didn’t count which looked a contentious decision.
Even without a third goal, the hosts held out for a well-earned 2-1 win which lifts them above Falkirk, off the foot of the Championship table and to within four points of Alloa Athletic.
Next up for Thistle is a trip to the Highlands to face Inverness Caley with the Jags’ first away win of the season firmly in the crosshairs. Kick-off is 15:00 from the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Hazard, Elliott, Saunders, McMillan, Penrice, Bannigan, Slater, Spittal (McCarthy, 67’), Cardle (Storey, 43’), Fitzpatrick, Doolan (Roy, 70’).
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Sneddon, McGinty, Coulibaly, Mansell.
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH TEAM: Martin, Mercer, Doyle, Maguire, Marshall, Jacobs, Murray (Watson, 83’), Stirling, Todd (Bell, HT), Dykes, Dobbie.
UNUSED SUBS (QOS): Leighfield, Harvey, Irving.