A controversial 90th minute Matt Lockwood penalty gave Dundee a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill on the first day of the new Scottish Football League season.
Thistle had the better of the chances in a game that was bereft of goal scoring opportunities. Aaron Sinclair and Scott Robertson came close to breaking the deadlock for the Jags, and David Rowson had a glorious chance to head home from eight yards out after he broke the Dundee offside trap, but he could only direct his over the bar. Dundee failed to trouble Thistle’s defence until the latter stages of the second half and were somewhat fortuitous awarded a penalty by referee Steve Conroy.
Alan Archibald was then penalised for a foul on Dundee substitute Nicky Riley inside the box, and Lockwood stepped up and scored from 12 yards to claim all three points.
Partick Thistle started the game brightly pressing Dundee back into their own half and were awarded a free kick just two minutes into the game, when Chris Erskine was brought down 30 yards from goal. Aaron Sinclair stepped up and struck his set piece just over the bar.
A good interchange of play between Tommy Stewart and Sinclair on six minutes, saw the defender gifted a great chance to open the scoring, but the marauding defender’s shot was blocked.
However Thistle’s good play, goalkeeper Scott Fox looked to throw a spanner in the works as he nearly gifted Dundee an easy opener. Having received a pass back, the former Celtic keeper dilly-dallied on the ball and only a last-minute kick away by Fox prevented the onrushing Ross Chisholm from getting on to the ball and punishing Foxs’ hesitancy.
Despite that slight slip up, Thistle pressed forward and could have taken a deserved lead on 15 minutes. Scott Robertson sent a teasing cross into the heart of the Dundee box with Tommy Stewart waiting, but a last-ditch interception by Dundee’s Rhys Weston prevented the Jags striker from getting on the end of the ball and scoring a certain goal.
Dundee were out of sorts and threatened little, losing possession far too easily in the final third, but some superb solo play from Jake Hyde gave Dundee a good chance to break the deadlock, but his tempting ball across the face of Thistle’s goal evaded everyone and the chance went begging.
On the 30 minute mark some good play from Ryan Conroy saw Matt Lockwood break through towards goal, but under pressure the ball popped up and Scott Fox saw his punched clearance deflect off a team-mate and out for a corner. From the resulting set piece Craig McKeown went down in the box, despite the Dundee fans clammering for a penalty, the referee waved play on.
Dundee were getting more and more into the game as the first half wound down and Jake Hyde tried an audacious lob, but as the Dundeefconline tweeter commented – the ball was closer to Clydebank than the Partick goal.
Hyde again had a great chance to open the scoring for the Dens Park side, a first time ball from Matt Lockwood found Hyde as he beat the offside trap, however his curling effort was weak and trundled across goal rather than testing Fox. It was the best chance of the game so far for the visitors.
Rhys Weston was then booked for a cynical foul as Thistle pressed forward down the left flank, from the free kick David Rowson stole a few yards into the Dee box unmarked, but he could only direct his header over the bar.
It was a frantic end to the first half and Thistle could have nicked a goal before the break. Jags Number 11 Chris Erskine picked the ball up close to the half way line and ran forward, with the Dundee players backing off him, Erskine played a one-two with Doolan on the edge of the box before firing a shot just over the bar. It would have been a fitting end to a great run by the man dubbed ‘an enigma rolled up in a mystery’.
Jamie McCluskey was then bundled over in front of the away dugout by Aaron Sinclair seconds before half time, and the Thistle defender was rewarded with a yellow card.
The Second Half was more of an even affair, with both chances having some good chances to score, and the tackles flying in thick and fast.
Chris Erskine gathered the ball from 25 yards and drove through the Dundee defence before firing his shot just over the bar.
The first substitution of the game was enforced as Jags lost William Kinniburgh through injury, with the former Motherwell defender replaced by Conrad Balatoni.
Just under twenty minutes into the second half and some good interchanging play saw Tommy Stewart find space inside the Dundee box before firing a rasping shot towards goal, only to see Rab Douglas tip it over the bar for a corner.
Partick continued to press forward-looking for a goal, and another chance went begging as Stewart sent in a perfectly weighted cross to Doolan in the Dundee box, only to see him head straight at Rab Douglas.
Once again Jags keeper Scott Fox looked to gift Dundee a goal, when he controlled a back pass with his knee only for it to go out for a corner to Dundee. But once again Dundee failed to punish the youngster.
With the game looking as if it would end 0-0, Dundee were awarded a controversial penalty. Nick Riley was brought down in the box by Archibald. It looked soft, but referee Steve Conroy judge it to be a foul and awarded a penalty much to the anger of the Thistle fans who chanted ‘cheat, cheat, cheat’ before the spot kick was taken.
Matt Lockwood stepped up and sent Scott Fox the wrong way, burying it in the back of the Jags goal and with that looked to have sealed all three points.
The home support headed for the exits booing the referee and chanting ‘cheats, cheats, cheats’ towards Dundee. While the Dundee fans celebrated.
As the end of the game approached Thistle claimed for a penalty as Dundee player Gary Irvine looked to have handled the ball on the line, but Conroy waved away their protestations, as the players pleaded more in hope than anticipation for a penalty.
The Final Whistle blew and the sound of boos rang out from the home end, not towards their side but towards referee Conroy and Dundee, with many claiming that Riley had dived.
After the match Jags manager Jackie McNamara admitted: “I was disappointed with the way it [the game]finished, it was their first shot at goal in 90 minutes.”
On the penalty decision McNamara added: “The lads said there was no contact….the referee was very quick to make it, I tried to have words at the end, but it wasn’t to be.”
“In terms of effort, the lads did well. They are a decent side, we limited them to a few chances but our decision making let us down.”
McNamara added that he was, “disappointed but encouraged by today’s performance.”
Dundee manager Barry Smith in his post match press conference admitted: “I think a draw would have been a fair result, if I’m being honest.”
However when questioned over the penalty decision, he was very short and sharp with his answer stating: “the referee gave it.”
Partick: Fox, Paton, Kinniburgh (Balatoni 56), Archibald, Sinclair, Cairney (Campbell 72), Rowson, Scott Robertson (Flannigan 81), Stewart, Doolan, Erskine. Subs Not Used: Scully,Grehan.
Dundee: Douglas, Irvine, Weston, McKeown, Lockwood, McCluskey (McGregor 90), O’Donnell, Chisholm, Conroy, Mcintosh (Riley 80), Hyde. Subs Not Used: Gibson, Benedictis, Webster.
Ref: Steve Conroy
© Photographs Vagelis Georgariou