Tuesday 2nd April, 2013 at 9:39pm
A battling point at Stark’s Park enabled Thistle to open up a five point lead at the top of the First Division with six games remaining but they were at anything but their best against a Raith Rovers determined to dent another side’s title aspirations having beaten Morton at the weekend. They may well feel a little aggrieved at not having done son.
Manager Alan Archibald selected the same side that had defeated Cowdenbeath, right down to his choice of substitutes but he was forced to watch his side placed firmly on the back foot right from the start.
Thistle seldom find it easy at Stark’s Park and they could have found themselves trailing in this game as early as the second minute. Brian Graham got space on the right hand side of the Thistle box and Scott Fox had to be alert to turn his shot round the post for a corner.
That rather set the tone for the first 60 minutes of the game. With 10 minutes played Thistle almost gifted Rovers the lead. Steven Lawless’ slack pass back was seized upon by Greig Spence but Spence, despite being left with just Fox to beat, wasn’t able to take advantage of the chance that he was presented with.
Grant Anderson was posing Thistle problems down the right hand side and a teasing cross from him was only inches out of the reach of Brian Graham.
Scott Fox was again called into action saving well in the 37th minute before Hamill sent the ball over the bar as the Thistle goal just about emerged unscathed.
Thistle weren’t entirely out of things themselves but with Rovers pressing them every time they got the ball they did find opportunities limited. Kris Doolan missed one of the rare chances that came Thistle’s way in the first half after McGurn had saved at the feet of Steven Lawless and Chris Erskine, for once finding a bit of space, saw a low drive saved by the Rovers keeper.
Thistle though were more than happy to get into the dressing room at half-time with the score still level at 0-0.
There was little improvement either immediately after half-time. Scott Fox was forced to come from his line to clear the ball from the very edge of his box almost right at the start of the half as Rovers picked up from where they had left off in the first half.
What was already becoming an increasingly difficult night became just that bit harder for Thistle when twice in the space of seven minutes Aaron Muirhead was booked for fouls on Grant Anderson leaving Thistle to battle out the remaining 33 minutes with just ten men.
And battle them out they did. Strangely the reduction in numbers seemed to serve as something of a wake up call for Thistle and they performed better with ten men than they had with eleven. Jordan McMillan was brought on to make his Thistle debut after Muirhead’s dismissal and he slotted in well at the back but not before Graham had given Thistle a major fright when he turned sharply in the box before sending a shot narrowly wide of goal.
That was probably Rovers best chance of the second half although Graham was again a threat shooting over the bar when the ball just wouldn’t sit up for him.
At the other end Stuart Bannigan tested McGurn with a low drive after a forceful run from midfield and sub Steven Craig was adamant that he had been impeded in the box following a James Craigen free kick from the right hand side.
Ultimately this was a good point for Thistle; especially having played over a third of the game with just ten men. A seven point haul from three away games in the space of six days represents good work in anyone’s book and leaves Thistle destiny this season very much in their own hands.