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Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Ross County – 30th December 2017

It was midweek disappointment for Partick Thistle as a 1-0 defeat to Aberdeen at Pittodrie sent them back to the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership after four days in 11th spot. They did, however, have a chance to lift themselves off the foot of the table once again as they faced the team who overtook them on Wednesday night. Ross County came to Maryhill sitting one place above their hosts with the sides being separated by goal difference alone.

Alan Archibald made three changes to the side that narrowly lost out to the Dons during the week. Tomas Cerny remained between the sticks behind a back five of Paul McGinn, Niall Keown, Adam Barton, Jordan Turnbull and Steven Lawless. Daniel Devine dropped to the bench, missing his first game since August. Ryan Edwards and Martin Woods rekindled their connection in the midfield after a good performance together last Saturday. Blair Spittal sat just ahead of Edwards and Woods in behind a front two of Kris Doolan and Miles Storey who both returned to the starting line-up, replacing Andrew McCarthy and Conor Sammon.

The match started as one with little quality as both teams struggled to get the ball down and play. As such, it was a lofted free kick that produced the first big chance of the match on 11 minutes. Michael Gardyne’s delivery from deep was flicked on in the Thistle area. Staggies skipper, Andrew Davies moved for it but couldn’t make meaningful contact, however, the ball fell to Sean Kelly who struck home at the back post. The travelling County players threw their hands into the air in celebration before realising that the linesman’s flag had gone up, denying them the opener.

Thistle first opportunity of the game just three minutes after Kelly’s chalked off effort. A Marcus Fraser slip allowed Miles Storey to claim possession in the final third. He shifted in-field and let fly with his right foot but his low attempt was straight at Scott Fox who held easily.

Following their first opportunity of the game, the Jags were dealt a sizeable blow as the man who created that opportunity was forced off the pitch. Miles Storey picked up a muscle injury in the 24th minute and had to be replaced by Conor Sammon. The Irish striker came on to face a side he has a good record against having notched two goals against the Highlanders last season while at Kilmarnock.

The change could have been a disruptive force for Thistle however it ended up being anything but as they broke the deadlock with ten minutes of the first half left to play. Andrew Davies dilly-dallied on the ball in his own half before trying to pass the ball back to his ‘keeper. The backpass was short though and the ever-alert Kris Doolan was on hand to steal possession. He knocked the ball past County goalkeeper, Scott Fox before hitting home, over the sliding Andrew Davies, as the defender looked to atone for his earlier mistake. The goal represented Doolan’s sixth of the season and the marksman’s 110th in the red and yellow of Partick Thistle.

Despite falling behind, Owen Coyle’s visitors were not disheartened and they should have equalised just two minutes after Thistle’s opener. Michael Gardyne delivered the corner from the Colin Weir Stand side of the park and his cross found the head of Andrew Davies. The County captain had peeled off his marker Adam Barton and found space to head on goal from. He nodded the ball towards Tomas Cerny’s net but missed the target completely from around ten yards.

The game went into the interval at 1-0 with the home side edging things at the midway point. There hadn’t been much to separate the teams that propped up the Ladbrokes Premiership and it was a single moment of madness on Andrew Davies’ part that was the difference between the sides at the break.

Although the away side were the team in desperate need of a goal, it was the hosts that came out fighting for the second half and Thistle could have been two up six minutes into the second period. A long ball forward by Blair Spittal gave Marcus Fraser all sorts of problems and Conor Sammon managed to jostle possession away from Ross County’s number two.  He shifted quickly onto his right foot and rifled a shot low across goal. Scott Fox got down well to save and Kris Doolan was unable to reach the rebound with the veteran Jags striker inches away from a tap-in and a lead-doubling goal.

After that opening, Alan Archibald was forced into a second change of the afternoon. Ex-County man, Martin Woods had to come off and he was replaced by Thistle Weir Youth Academy graduate, Andrew McCarthy.

Conor Sammon went close once again on 68 minutes as he was denied for a second time by Scott Fox. Andrew McCarthy won the ball in the middle of the park before playing Sammon through with a ball down the right channel. The Irishman tried to slot the ball low across goal but Fox made a great save with his right leg to deny the Hearts loanee the second goal of his Thistle career.

The hosts were almost made to rue their missed chances when Davis Keillor-Dunn had a sight of goal with less than 20 minutes left of the game. Michael Gardyne tried to create some space in the Thistle half before eventually feeding the ball to Keillor-Dunn. The impressive youngster then fired a shot goalward but his attempt zipped just wide of Tomas Cerny’s right-hand post.

With this crunch match drawing nearer and nearer to a conclusion, the Jags would find a stress-reducing second goal with just four minutes left of the regulation 90. With the away side pushing for an equaliser, Conor Sammon received the ball 15 yards inside the defensive half. He laid the ball off to Andrew McCarthy before spinning away into space. McCarthy recognised this and slid a perfectly weighted pass into Sammon’s path. The striker then galloped forward with pace before cutting inside, past Tim Chow, and curling a low shot beyond Scott Fox, into the far corner. The ex-Derby County forward wheeled off to celebrate his second Thistle goal; one created by Alan Archibald’s two substitutes. The goal sent the Firhill faithful into raptures and lifted some of the pressure and tension that so often plagues the end of Thistle matches.

In the subsequent minutes, the home side professionally saw out the match with the final whistle blowing at 2-0. This victory took the Maryhill men into eleventh spot, three points clear of today’s opponents and to within two of Dundee who also won this afternoon. The win represents a fifth home win in six games from the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill and gives the Jags their fourth clean sheet of the season.

A chaotic December month now ends for the Jags as they are faced with a three week break of recovery and preparation. Alan Archibald’s side return to competitive action on the 20th of January when they take on Queen of the South in the William Hill Scottish Cup. Kick-off is 15:00 from Palmerston Park where we’ll hopefully see some familiar faces make a return.

THISTLE TEAM: Cerny, McGinn, Keown, Barton, Turnbull, Lawless, Woods (McCarthy, 53′), Edwards, Spittal, Doolan (c), Storey (Sammon, 24′).

UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Scully, Nitriansky, Devine, Nisbet.

ROSS COUNTY TEAM: Fox, Naismith, Fraser, Davies (c), Routis, Kelly (Keillor-Dunn, 57′), Chow, Lindsay, Gardyne (Eagles, 75′), Schalk, McKay (Curran, 57′).

UNUSED SUBS (RSC): McCarey, van der Weg, Draper, Dow.

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