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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Raith Rovers – 15th December 2012

Thistle may well have good reason to look back at this game at the season’s conclusion. The league leaders weren’t at their best this afternoon but thanks to a late Steven Craig winner they were able to see off the not inconsiderable challenge of Raith Rovers and, with Dunfermline only managing a draw at home to Hamilton, increase their lead at the top of the table.
Manager Jackie McNamara began a three match touchline ban and watched from the stand after selecting a team that showed three changes from the side knocked out the Scottish Cup by Dunfermline. Injury prevented Stephen O’Donnell from continuing his 100% attendance record this season. On the plus side, Paul Paton returned following suspension and with Aaron Muirhead moving over to the right back slot vacated by O’Donnell; Alan Archibald returned at centre back. Up front Steven Craig got the nod ahead of Kris Doolan.
Thistle looked in the mood in the very early stages of the game but it soon became clear that Rovers, looking to move up to fourth in the league, were going to provide Thistle with their sternest test yet at home in the league. A fact underlined in the 12th minute when they took the lead. It was a poor goal from a Thistle perspective to concede. The Thistle defence was far too static when a free kick came over from the right and Greig Spence was able to steal in and lift the ball beyond Smith.
Thistle, a goal behind at home in the league for the first time this season, took a little time to recover from the loss of that goal, but in the 17th minute Paul Paton wasn’t too far away from marking his return with his first goal of the season. Chris Erskine laid the ball back into Paton’s path and from the edge of the box his shot went narrowly wide of Laidlaw’s right hand post.
Three minutes later Thistle were celebrating an equaliser. Steven Craig was able to hold off the attention of a Rovers defender before pushing the ball into the path of Stuart Bannigan to his left and Bannigan’s first time shot beat Laidlaw low to his right.
Now back on level terms, Thistle began to look much more of a threat when they pushed forward. Steven Craig was heavily involved as Thistle searched for the go ahead goal. He set up Chris Erskine only for Erskine to be tackled as he attempted to side step a challenge inside the box  and Craig himself nearly profited from a mix up inside the Rovers box though why the flag went up for offside was a mystery to most people.
In the 31st minute Thistle were in front. Aaron Muirhead pushed forward down the right hand side and collected a pass from Steven Lawless. When Muirhead’s cross was cleared only as far as the aforementioned Lawless he struck the ball first time high into the net to reach double figures for the season.
Although Thistle had managed to overturn a one goal deficit there was a strong feeling that they would need at least a third goal if they were going to win this match and 7 minutes after taking the lead they had Graeme Smith to thank for keeping that lead when he managed to direct a Grant Anderson shot round the post for a corner.
Thistle began the second half in positive fashion and there were appeals for a penalty when Lawless took a tumble inside the Rovers box and an Aaron Muirhead cross from the right would have produced an easy tap in for two unmarked Thistle players at the back post had Ellis not made a magnificent clearance.
Rovers though were doing anything but make up the numbers in this match. Smith made a brave save at the feet of Spence in the 55th minute with Graham sending the loose ball wide of goal.
They were even closer to an equaliser four minute later when a Graham header from a Thomson cross came off the inside of the post and stayed out.
As the game moved into its’ final quarter Thistle looked to have weathered the Rovers storm somewhat and were close on a couple of occasions to scoring what almost certainly have been a match winning third goal. Steven Lawless shot over after McGuigan, not long on for Erskine, and Craig combined to set him up. Aaron Sinclair meantime tested Laidlaw at his near post after his run down the left took him almost to the goal line.
Ross Forbes forced Laidlaw into action as well in the 77th minute when his free kick from 30 yards was pushed away by the Rovers keeper.
A minute later Steven Lawless was close to a second goal of the afternoon with a shot that went wide after a Forbes corner had been only partially cleared.
The next goal though was a Raith Rovers goal. Twice the ball came off the frame of the Thistle goal before Brian Graham buried the ball in the net from inside the Thistle six yard box.
You wonder at this point that with the momentum with them whether they might go on and snatch a winner but this Thistle side isn’t short of character.
Thistle looked to be denied a clear penalty when McGuigan was tugged inside the box but referee Clancy ignored the Thistle pleas. McGuigan though still managed to fire in a shot and when Laidlaw saved Thistle had a corner. It was from that corner that Thistle netted the winner. After a scramble inside the box, Steven Craig was in the right place at the right time to fire home from close range.
That may have ended the scoring for the afternoon but not the talking points. Rovers had contributed much to an incident packed match and will certainly feel aggrieved not to have earned a point. They were especially aggrieved when with the game in injury time they had appeals for a handball inside the Thistle box turned down.

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