Saturday 17th January, 2015 at 10:15am
Having travelled up to Dingwall last weekend only to see the game against Ross County postponed early on Saturday morning, Thistle made the shorter trip back up the A9 to Perth this weekend. The Jags were set to face a St Johnstone side who had tasted back to back defeats in their first two games of 2015.
With Thistle not having won in Perth since 1993 it has never been a happy hunting ground, but hopes were high that, with manager Alan Archibald having a few familiar faces to recall to the squad, the Jags could lay the ghost to rest.
Dan Seaborne and Abdul Osman returned to the starting 11 in place of Liam Lindsay and Gary Fraser who was ill. Frederic Frans and Kallum Higginbotham also returned to the bench. Youngsters Dale Keenan and Declan McDaid kept their places in the side after impressive displays against Dundee United.
After only ten seconds Kris Doolan almost got in behind the Perth side’s defence which, eventually, managed to scramble the ball clear. However, after only three minutes, it was the home side who took the lead. The Thistle defence had a couple of chances to clear an Easton cross ball and when the ball broke to Mackay his 20 yard shot took a deflection off Seaborne and crept in at Gallacher’s near post.
The home side almost extended their lead when a Lappin cross found Caddis rising above the unsuspecting Keenan forcing Gallacher into a brilliant fingertip save from the header. Thistle hit back and a good Bannigan pass allowed Keenan to drive forward and his 25 yard shot was blocked by Wright.
The Jags came closer still after Doolan had got the better of Mackay and won a corner. Bannigan’s took the set piece and found Stevenson 14 yards out. The Jags’ number 10 turned two defenders and his rocket shot smashed off the Saints bar with Mannus rooted to the spot – surely a Thistle equaliser was on the cards?
The Saints weren’t for lying down though and it wasn’t long before Wotherspoon sent a 22 yard shot wide of Gallacher’s post.
Thistle enjoyed the majority of possession, but again the ball in the final third of the park was lacking the creative and killer touch to trouble the home side’s defence. With Saints happy to sit back and hit on the counter attack it was already proving a tough afternoon for the Thistle front line.
As the first half ticked on a great ball from Stevenson found McDaid but, as he cut into the box, there was no support and he fired into the side netting from an acute angle. Balatoni and O’Donnell then did well to crowd out O’Halloran after he had burst clean through from a long punt up the pitch and then only a terrific last ditch tackle from Seaborne on McLean prevented any more scoring as the teams went in at half time with the score at 1-0 to the Perth Saints.
There were no changes for either side into the second half and McDaid saw his half volley blocked in the early stages. However, yet again, three minutes into the half and the Saints extended their lead with a simple goal.
Wotherspoon swung in a corner and Anderson rose, completely unmarked, to glance a powerful header at the near post past Gallacher to make it 2-0.
Lappin nearly extended the lead further with a curling effort from 25 yards. Mannus then needed two attempts to gather a Doolan effort from the edge of the box after he had turned Wright, Mannus gathering at the second attempt – just before McDaid could get a touch.
Higginbotham and Eccleston replaced Lawless and Doolan respectively and the two combined in the 67th minute when Thistle should have been back in the game. A lovely through pass behind the defence sent Eccleston clean through on Mannus, he elected to go round the keeper but saw his shot cleared off the line by Easton.
A dangerous Bannigan cross evaded Eccleston and McDaid saw his cross deflected by Easton into the keeper’s arms. With five minutes left good pressure by Bannigan saw him force a mistake from Mackay and his pass found Higginbotham who fired wide from 22 yards.
The last chance of the game came in injury time when Stevenson fired a 35 yard shot towards the top corner, forcing a magnificent save from Mannus. It was the home side who were celebrating at the final whistle, a goal early in each half enough to give them a 2-0 victory while, for Thistle, despite all their possession, a lack of a cutting edge in the final third of the park proved costly.
Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell (73), Seaborne, Balatoni, Keenan, Osman, Bannigan, Lawless (59), Stevenson, McDaid, Doolan (65)
Subs: Fox, Craigen, Frans, Higginbotham (Lawless), Eccleston (Doolan), Lindsay, Wilson (O’Donnell)