Friday 25th April, 2014 at 2:53pm
Honours were even at the end of the first post split Firhill fixture as a late first half penalty from St Mirren cancelled out Kris Doolan’s headed opener for Thistle.
After winning 2-1 at Rugby Park six days earlier there was little surprise that Alan Archibald selected the same team for this fixture. It was the visitors though that started the game the better and they were close to taking the lead after barely 60 seconds of action. They enjoyed the break of the ball at the edge of the Thistle box and through good fortune more than anything John McGinn was presented with an opportunity to give his side an early lead. His shot though lacked conviction and Paul Gallacher was able to make a fairly routine save.
It did, however, set the tone for the very early portion of the game in which St Mirren looked determined to establish an early advantage. Thistle though weathered the storm of the opening five minutes and were in control for large chunks of the first half that followed.
The first real opportunity to come Thistle’s way arrived in the 9th minute when after a spell of pressure a Chris Erskine shot was deflected wide for a corner kick.
Kallum Higginbotham has been in sparkling form of late and he was causing the St Mirren rear guard all kinds of problems and in the 14th minute he was hauled down at the left hand corner of the St Mirren box. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, scorer of the winner against Kilmarnock, went for goal from the free kick but his effort flew straight at Dilo in the St Mirren goal.
Thistle continued to press and Higginbotham was central to Thistle’s next opportunity. A piece of magic from him allowed him to find the space to cross into the box and although James Craigen’s late run into the box was in time to meet the cross he wasn’t able to direct his header towards the St Mirren goal.
The opening goal though arrived just two minutes later in the 26th minute. A sublime cross with the outside of his right foot from Kallum Higginbotham picked out Kris Doolan at the back post and he headed back across goal and into the bottom corner of the net for his 10th goal of the season.
Doolan was close to adding to his tally for goals for the season four minutes when his outstretched leg was just unable to make contact with a long range effort from Taylor-Sinclair and divert the ball towards goal.
Just as they had started the half strongly so St Mirren finished it strongly as well. A sliced clearance from Lee Mair only just cleared his own crossbar and a ball bounced free right in front of the Thistle box begging for a finish before it was hacked clear. Jordan McMillan also made an important headed clearance as it looked as if Thistle would go into the dressing room at half-time a goal ahead.
There was, however, still time for more first half action. With the clock touching the 45 minute mark Kallum Higginbotham’s challenge on Jason Naismith resulted in a penalty that Kenny McLean tucked away expertly despite Paul Gallacher going the right way.
St Mirren began the second half on top but they weren’t able to truly extend Gallacher in the Thistle goal. The closest they came was a free kick that went wide of goal and a snatched effort from Newton that crept past the post with Gallacher untroubled.
The longer the half went on the more Thistle again started to take a grip on the game. Lee Mair stooped to connect with a curling Higginbotham free kick in the 67th minute but his header went over the bar.
Three minutes Thistle were again close to a goal. Kris Doolan’s flick sent James Craigen clear on goal. His shot was blocked but only as far as the path of Kallum Higginbotham who, despite a poor first touch, delivered a cross that Christie Elliott couldn’t quite flick into the back of the net from 6 yards out.
It was hardly one way traffic though and in the 74th minute Thistle were caught on the break and very nearly punished to the full. Magennis was able to break clear and he set up McLean to his left whose shot rebounded off the base of Gallacher’s left hand post. Gallacher, however, was required to get a touch to long range effort from Sean Kelly just three minutes after St Mirren had struck the frame of the Thistle goal.
Thistle too would strike the frame of the goal before the end of the 90 minutes. Lyle Taylor replaced Kris Doolan who had worked tirelessly up front for 72 minutes and Taylor merely picked up from where Doolan had left off. He managed to get the merest of touches to a ball in from the left in the 79th minute but not sufficient to guide the ball away from Dilo and with 8 minutes remaining his header from a Gary Fraser cross struck the St Mirren crossbar.
It was Thistle that looked the more likely to find a winner as the game drew near to a conclusion and with the match in injury time Conrad Balatoni nearly found a late winner but his header from a Higginbotham corner flew wide of target.