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Partick Thistle FC
Match Report

Partick Thistle v Ross County – 4th May 2018

With the Ladbrokes Premiership season drawing ever closer to its conclusion, Partick Thistle welcomed fellow top flight strugglers, Ross County to the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill. Thistle looked to push the Staggies closer to automatic relegation with a win while the Highlanders aimed to leapfrog the Jags with two further games in the league season.

Alan Archibald made four changes to the side that drew at St. Johnstone last Saturday with a couple of those alterations being enforced. Tomas Cerny remained in goals behind a back four that saw two changes. Niall Keown and Callum Booth both missed the game through injury, being replaced by Daniel Devine and Paul McGinn in the starting line-up. Baily Cargill retained the centre-half spot beside the returning Devine while Christie Elliott shifted over to the left to allow McGinn to play on his natural right side. In the midfield, Andrew McCarthy and Martin Woods remained in the sitting midfield roles with Chris Erskine and Ryan Edwards slightly ahead of them. Edwards replaced Steven Lawless in the starting XI and allowed the midfield unit to form something of a diamond which was characterised by its fluidity as Edwards, Erskine and McCarthy moved around fairly freely during the game. For the first time since the Jags last played County, they started with a two-man strikeforce. Conor Sammon came in for Blair Spittal as he partnered stand-in captain, Kris Doolan.

The game began rather frantically but with little quality as both teams looked to take control. Half chances fell the way of Conor Sammon and Jason Naismith but there were few clear cut chances until the deadlock was broken on 21 minutes by Chris Erskine. A long ball forward flew towards Conor Sammon and the Irishman simply left it. That seemed to surprise two County men who saw the ball skip past them into the path of Kris Doolan. Thistle talismanic number nine then lifted a perfectly weighted ball into Chris Erskine who struck the ball first time on the volley, beating Scott Fox and giving Thistle the lead.

County almost found a leveller with five minutes of Erskine’s deadlock-breaking goal. A deep free-kick into the Thistle box found Liam Fontaine who had got the better of Baily Cargill and the ex-Hibs man tried to direct his header towards goal. He managed to get the effort on target but it lacked power and Tomas Cerny was able to save easily.

The Staggies would pull level though, in the 42nd minute, through Billy McKay. It was another deep free kick causing Thistle problems and this time, although nothing came of the initial ball in, a failure to clear the second ball led to Fontaine lifting the ball back towards goal. It was at this point that Billy McKay peeled away from the Thistle defence and slammed the ball past Tomas Cerny from close range. The former Inverness Caley Thistle striker had timed his run to perfection and finished well in a tight situation.

Thanks to that equaliser, the sides went into the interval with the score at 1-1. Thistle had dominated large parts of the game but, similarly to their last home game against Hamilton, had failed to convert dominance into good chances. County, on the other hand, had done well with the possession that they had. They had looked dangerous following quick turnovers of possession and seemed happy to scrap with Thistle for every ball.

The hosts were dealt a serious blow as they were forced into a substitution early in the second half. Baily Cargill had been struggling with a bad gash on his leg and had to be replaced by Adam Barton in the 56th minute.

Thistle then made another alteration on 66 minutes as Blair Spittal was introduced, replacing Ryan Edwards who had given everything to the game for over an hour.

Thistle nearly carved out a goal-scoring opportunity for legendary marksman Kris Doolan in the 70th minute. Martin Woods picked up the ball on the Jags right and tried to bend a ball into the box. Doolan made a diagonal run towards the front post and leapt to try and meet the ball but the delivery was marginally too high for the number nine and his very slight touch was only enough to put the ball behind for a goalkick.

That would be Doolan’s last meaningful contribution to the game as he was withdrawn in the 73rd minute to be replaced by Miles Storey with Thistle changing to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the remainder of the game.

With both teams pushing for a vital winner, there were half chances going both ways. Miles Storey, Billy McKay, Jason Naismith and Martin Woods all went close from difficult situations but the biggest chance to win the game came in the 90th minute. Blair Spittal whipped a right-footed corner in from the Colin Weir Stand side of the stadium, finding Daniel Devine. The defender, who has never scored competitively for Thistle, headed towards goal but Scott Fox pulled off a good save to deny him. The ball then fell to Miles Storey who shot from a tight angle but Marcus Fraser got something in the way of the shot and deflected it behind for a corner. There were appeals for handball against Fraser from a number of Jags men but Kevin Clancy gave nothing and the game ended 1-1.

Thistle remain in 11th place two points ahead of Ross County and three behind both Hamilton Accies and Dundee with two game remaining.  They now turn their attentions to Tuesday night’s game against Motherwell which gives Thistle another chance to keep County in 12th. Kick-off is 19:45 from the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.

THISTLE TEAM: Cerny, McGinn, Devine, Cargill (Barton, 56’), Elliott, Woods, McCarthy, Edwards (Spittal, 66’), Erskine, Doolan (Storey, 73’), Sammon.

UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Scully, Dumbuya, Osman, Lawless.

ROSS COUNTY TEAM: Fox, Naismith, Fontaine, Souttar, Fraser, Melbourne (Keillor-Dunn 69’), Lindsay (Kait, 82’), Draper, Gardyne, McKay (Curran, 86’), Schalk.

UNUSED SUBS (RCO): McCarey, O’Brien, Dow, N’Gog.

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