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Match Report

Partick Thistle V Ross County – 1st April 2017

Partick Thistle 2-1 Ross County

Two weeks after their disappointing draw with Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle returned from the international break looking to extend the gap between themselves and the bottom six with a huge game against Ross County at Firhill. Thistle were unbeaten in their previous five Ladbrokes Premiership outings but a reappearance of the late-goal syndrome that had hampered the Jags’ early season form, had cost Alan Archibald’s men four points in their last two games.

Ross County had won just one of their last nine in all competitions, scoring less than a goal a game in the process. They sat six points below Thistle in the table before play, with the top six still very much still a mathematical possibility for the Staggies.

Thistle started with a back four of Mustapha Dumbuya, Niall Keown, Liam Lindsay and Christie Elliott. Adam Barton and Abdul Osman began the game as the two holding midfielders with Ryan Edwards, Chris Erskine and Steven Lawless forming a midfield three in behind the sole striker in Kris Doolan who would continue his search for his 100th Partick Thistle goal in all competitions.

It was Doolan who got the game underway but the forward wouldn’t have much to work with early on as the play was pretty awful in the opening minutes. Misplaced passes and poor touches from both sides were symptomatic of the scrappy first half that was to come.

The first real chance of the match presented itself in the 14th minute. Ryan Edwards latched onto a loose ball and whipped a cross into the box. He found Steven Lawless who headed the ball towards goal but Scott Fox made an easy save at his near post.

In the 31st minute the fans turned their focus from the match to remembrance. A minute’s applause was held in memory of Robert Watson, a loyal Jags fan who passed away recently aged just 31. It is always sad to hear of the passing of a dedicated member of the Jags family and everyone at Partick Thistle were saddened by the news. Both sets of fans carried out the applause as a tribute to Robert.

With nine minutes left until the interval, Ross County had their first meaningful opportunity. Kenny van der Weg crossed the ball into the Jags’ box finding Alex Schalk. The visiting attacker tried to direct a header on target but his attempt cleared the bar safely.

In the 45th minute Thistle were dealt a serious blow as skipper, Abdul Osman, was forced off the pitch after a collision in the County area. The midfielder was taken off as it was suspected that he may have dislocated his shoulder, however, the extent of the injury is unclear at the moment and he will be assessed by the medical team as soon as possible. He was replaced by Daniel Devine as the home side morphed into a five-at-the-back formation.

After losing their captain with a minute left of the first half, Thistle’s misery was almost compounded by a goal for the away side. Liam Boyce lifted a well-weighted ball to the back post which eluded Christie Elliott and found Marcus Fraser. The defender headed at Cerny’s goal but his attempt rebounded off the crossbar and, when the ball was cleared, the referee brought the first half to a close.

It was a first 45 minutes with few talking points. Good play was scarce and both teams struggled to create with passing moves and the half’s best chances came from crosses. The loss of Abdul Osman was a difficult one to deal with for the hosts as his presence in the middle of the park was sure to be missed.

After a disappointing first half, Thistle almost got off to an excellent start in the second. A fortunate deflection fell into the path of Chris Erskine who found himself with a clear run on goal. The midfielder had a chance to shoot with his left foot but opted to attempt a squared pass to Kris Doolan which was intercepted and the opportunity passed.

Two minutes after that attack, Erskine did have a shot on goal. The number ten picked up the ball around 35 yards out and unleashed a left footed shot towards the far bottom corner. It looked destined to find the net but ex-Thistle ‘keeper, Scott Fox, got a strong left hand to it and collected afterwards.

Despite a promising start to the second half, Ross County would take the lead 13 minutes after the restart. Martin Woods was in possession and managed to get in behind Liam Lindsay who had been dragged out of position. Woods then cut the ball back looking for a teammate in the Jags box but it ricocheted off a couple of bodies before finding Craig Curran. The Staggies’ forward then turned home, finding the corner of Tomas Cerny’s goal and putting his side in pole position.

Five minutes after the goal, Thistle made their first change. Chris Erskine was withdrawn and was replaced by Ade Azeez as Alan Archibald looked to inject some energy into the attack.

It seemed that the introduction of Azeez had some sort of motivational impact on the team as Thistle equalised before he could even touch the ball. After a poor Edward free kick, the Australian had a second chance to whip the ball in. He found Liam Lindsay and the centre-half used a clever flick to knock the ball on to Kris Doolan. The marksman then shuffled to gain a yard of space and blasted a left-footed shot in at the near post. The goal was a landmark strike for Doolan as he netted his 100th for the Jags. The goal also made him the Thistle’s all-time top league goal scorer.

Doolan wasn’t given long to bask in the glory of his 100th goal as just 15 minutes later he grabbed his 101st. Doolan was fed the ball on the edge of the box and he played the it to Adam Barton before spinning off his man and running into the area. Barton then headed back into the path of Doolan who controlled before simply stroking the ball home at the near post.

With just a one goal lead, the game wasn’t over by any means and after conceding late goals in their last two games the Thistle players had to stay completely focused to avoid a similar fate against the Highland outfit and that’s exactly what they did. As the opposition piled on the pressure late on, the Jags kept pushing and chasing to protect their lead and the out-ball of Ade Azeez was a great tool to have as the Englishmen held the ball in the County half on several occasions.

In the dying moments of the game, the visitors were launching the ball forward at every opportunity but before they could create anything, the referee blew for full time. The victory sent Thistle four points clear of Kilmarnock in sixth after Killie could only manage a draw with Inverness. The three points represented a huge step towards the Firhill side’s prospective top six finish.

Alan Archibald’s men are next in action on Wednesday night when they travel to Parkhead to face the reigning champions of Scotland, Celtic. The game is Thistle’s third last match before the split and kick-off is at 19:45.

THISTLE TEAM: Cerny, Dumbuya, Keown, Lindsay, Elliott, Barton, Osman (Devine, 45’), Lawless, Erskine (Azeez, 63’), Edwards, Doolan.

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

ROSS COUNTY TEAM: Fox, Naismith, Fraser, Davies, McEveley (Gardyne 77’), van der Weg, Routis (O’Brien, 79’), Woods, Boyce, Schalk, Curran (Dow, 83’).

ROSS COUNTY SUB (N/U): McCarey, Tumility, Dykes, Lalkovic.

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