Tuesday 23rd September, 2014 at 6:54pm
It was League Cup action for Thistle on a foul Tuesday night as the Jags looked to avenge Friday’s league defeat to St Mirren, their opponents again in the cup. It took until extra time for a Nathan Eccleston goal to separate the sides and put Thistle’s name into the hat for the quarter final draw.
Manager, Alan Archibald, made two changes to the side from last Friday with Dan Seaborne returning from injury to replace Aaron Muirhead and James Craigen coming in for Ryan Stevenson.
The Jags started well and good link up play between Lawless, Doolan and Craigen saw Doolan shoot wide from the edge of the box after just a couple of minutes. The ball through was weighted perfectly but Dools, hitting it with his left foot couldn’t steer the effort on target.
Drury blazed high and wide from a good position for the visitors but the game developed into a scrappy midfield battle where chances were at a real premium. While Thistle did enjoy the better of the possession, it was a largely uninspiring first period.
Just before half time Osman headed wide for the home side and McLean did likewise at the other end but the game remained goalless.
Into the second half and Balatoni did well to clear under pressure from the St Mirren attacking line – the centre half enjoying one of his better performances this season. At times Thistle were forced to go long and, following a clearance from Fox, Doolan used excellent control to bring the ball down but had no support running beyond him. Still, he held it up well and managed to get a pass to Craigen who couldn’t get his shot on target.
A short corner nearly paid dividends for the home side and Balatoni was unlucky to see Kello pluck the ball off his waiting head following a dangerous looking cross from Craigen. The Jags’ new left back, Jake Carroll, saw his effort deflected just wide from the edge of the box as the minutes ticked away and extra time loomed.
As the game became more stretched the chances began to fall for Thistle and, when the home side broke quickly from a corner, a Lawless pass found Stevenson in space, he drove forward towards goal but his effort from 22 yards was easily saved by Kello and perhaps he should have looked at options inside.
St Mirren were far from done though and, when Thistle failed to properly clear their lines, Fox was forced to produce a save of the highest quality from a Reilly shot. The resultant corner found McLean unmarked at the back post but he headed wide under little pressure from the Jags defence.
There were more chances to come for the visitors as, former Gateshead striker, James Marwood, fired wide from 25 yards.
With time running out Stevenson again made good progress for Thistle but, when his pass failed to find Lawless the move broke down. In the end neither side could make the breakthrough so it was into extra time.
Saints threatened first with Ross Caldwell turning well and getting a shot away, luckily for the home side it was a shot that was saved by Fox.
It took a full 100 minutes for the deadlock to be broken and, luckily it was Thistle who got the ball in the net. Lawless, who was superb throughout the game and was named man of the match, found Christie Elliott, who himself made a real difference when he came on, in the box. Christie cut inside and hit a shot hard and low but Kello was equal to it and saved well. Unfortunately for the Slovakian international the ball broke straight to substitute Nathan Eccleston, who slotted home into the back of an empty net to make it 1-0.
As the end of extra time rapidly approached the chances started to come more regularly. Jake Carroll again looked dangerous firing a low cross into the box that was rolled into the path of Stevenson by Lawless but his shot was too high.
Reilly then saw Fox produce a good save low to his right as the visitors looked for an equaliser but instead Thistle nearly grabbed a second when Carroll went on a terrific mazy run at the Saints defence and, when the ball broke to Stevenson, his curling shot was headed away as it went towards the top corner.
Thistle held out for the win which, over the piece, they deserved. Thoughts now turn to Kilmarnock on Saturday for an important league fixture. The draw for the next round takes place at Tannadice following the conclusion of their game against Dundee.