Saturday 19th January, 2019 at 8:35pm
Partick Thistle began their William Scottish Cup journey for the 2018/19 season this afternoon as Stranraer visited the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill. The game represented these sides’ second meeting of the season after the Jags won 5-0 at Stair Park earlier this term in the Irn Bru Cup. The Blues, however, came to Maryhill having secured victory in the third round with an impressive 1-0 win away to League One leaders Arbroath.
Gary Caldwell made three changes to the side which drew with Falkirk the previous week as Kris Doolan, Gary Harkins and Miles Storey dropped to the bench. Conor Hazard maintained his starting berth in goals behind the unchanged backline of Christie Elliott, Steven Saunders, Sean McGinty and James Penrice while Stuart Bannigan, Blair Spittal and Craig Slater formed the midfield. It was up front where all the changes were made as Aidan Fitzpatrick returned to the starting XI while Joe Cardle and Ally Roy came into the team, making their first starts since signing for the Club.
The game started quickly and the Jags were almost struck on the break within two minutes. P.J. Crossan made a terrific run down the channel and was found by a well-weighted pass which took Steven Saunders out of the game. The number 20 then delivered a cross into the box which Innes Cameron flicked goalward. It looked a certain goal but on-loan ‘keeper, Conor Hazard spread himself well and made an excellent save to keep things goalless.
That chance was followed by a period of pretty timid football from both sides until the hosts took control and got the opening goal on 16 minutes. Joe Cardle was the creator as he cut in from the left and slotted a sensational defence-splitting pass through to Aidan Ftzpatrick. The 17-year-old then lifted the ball past Max Currie with a confident left-footed finish as he bagged his first home goal as a Jag.
The Maryhill men could have doubled that lead on 26 minutes as Ally Roy endeavoured to score his first goal as a Thistle player. Once again, it was Cardle looking to create as he whipped a wicked cross in from the left flank but as Roy tried to nod home, his glanced effort skipped past the far post.
Fitzpatrick then could have had another in the 34th minute as he showed off all of his pace and trickery. The number 21 picked up the ball around the half-way line and galloped forward, leaving Connor McManus in his wake. He then cut inside, using Ally Roy’s run as a decoy, and tried a low shot, however, Max Currie got down well to parry away before the ball was cleared.
The Jags had one more golden opportunity in the first half as Steven Saunders missed a huge chance to open his Thistle account. It was Blair Spittal’s corner delivery which carved out the opening, finding Saunders about two yards from goal. The defender tried to lunge at the ball and poke it into the net but he didn’t catch it properly and only ended up laying it into the goalkeeper’s hands.
So the game went into the interval at 1-0 with the Jags missing some decent chances to go further ahead. The visiting Blues started the match well but faded towards the end of the half.
The hosts would be looking for more of the same in the second period with more end product and that’s exactly what they got in the 50th minute as Joe Cardle doubled the advantage. The move all started with a 50- yard pass by Sean McGinty which found James Penrice with pinpoint accuracy. The left-back then played a low ball across the box aiming for Ally Roy. The ball was hustled away from Roy but did fall the way of Cardle who found the back of the net, albeit via a deflection, for his first in Thistle colours.
However, the red and yellow delight was short lived as P.J. Crossan pulled a goal back for the away side two minutes later. After the ball ricocheted off the shins of James Penrice, it fell to the number 20, Crossan. He then took one touch before firing a well-struck finish past Conor Hazard at the near post.
The Blues could very easily have been level in the 55th minute as David Brownlie went close. A high free-kick towards the box was flicked on by Innes Cameron and then knocked down by Jamie Hamill towards Brownlie. The defender then tried to knock it home from around five yards but Conor Hazard was out quickly to make a block before collecting the loose ball.
Shortly thereafter, Thistle made two substitutions as Kris Doolan and Gary Harkins were introduced in the 60th and 68th minute respectively, replacing Ally Roy and Craig Slater.
The alterations would pay off with 16 minutes to play as Gary Harkins played a key role in Thistle’s third goal. The number 11 played a smart through ball to Stuart Bannigan from a free kick which completely caught out Stranraer’s defence. The skipper, Bannigan, then lifted a cross to the back post which was then headed home from close range by Steven Saunders.
Gary Caldwell’s men were then able to add a fourth thanks to the Jags’ top scorer, Blair Spittal in the 80th minute. Christie Elliott charged forward with the ball, moving into the Stranraer box before trying to manufacture some space. He eventually decided to fire the ball into the six-yard box but it was deflected away from goal. Nevertheless, it came to Blair Spittal who had the simple task of guiding the ball home from a matter of five yards. Shortly after the fourth goal, Souleymane Coulibaly made his return from injury, coming on for Joe Cardle with six minutes left.
The game ended 4-1 though and the Jags secured their place in the next round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. Thistle scored four or more goals for the second time this season with the last time coming against Stranraer in August. The last 16 draw takes place tomorrow afternoon following Hearts vs. Livingston.
Thistle now look forward to a return to league action next week as they take on Queen of the South. Kick-off is 15:00 from the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.
PARTICK THISTLE TEAM: Hazard, Ch. Elliott, Saunders, McGinty, Penrice, Bannigan, Slater (Harkins, 68’), Spittal, Cardle (Coulibaly, 84’), Fitzpatrick, Roy (Doolan, 60’).
UNUSED SUBS (PTH): Sneddon, Wilson, McCarthy, Storey.
STRANRAER TEAM: Currie, Smith, Brownlie, Cummins, Hamill, O’Keefe (Ca. Elliott, 76’), Turner, McManus, Lamont (Anderson, 69’), Cameron, Crossan.
UNUSED SUBS (STR): Avci, McDonald, McGowan.