[media-credit name=”© Phil McCloy | Scotzine” align=”alignleft” width=”227″][/media-credit]Thistle welcomed back Paul Paton into the line up and he was the only change from the side that last week beat Forfar Athletic in the Scottish Communities League Cup. Aaron Sinclair lost his starting berth to accommodate. Falkirk, having beaten Elgin City by the same margin as Thistle had managed with Forfar last weekend in the Cup found themselves with three changes from the starting line up. One of the biggest blows for the Bairns in advance of this game was to lose Darren Dods after 18 minutes last weekend and with that experience lacking Steven Pressley also made significant changes with Chris Smith, Dale Fulton and Blair Alston making a start.
No matter how much planning before a game there can be little rehearsal for dealing with the start your opponents make when in 4 minutes a free-flowing move from midfield ends with a cross from Chris Erskine that Steven Lawless converts to put Thistle one up. No more than three minutes later Kris Doolan had the opportunity of pouncing on a defensive mix up in the heart of the Falkirk defence and with the aid of the post trundled goal number two in.
At this point Michael McGovern would have been forgiven for thinking he was the only one awake as defensive frailty looked in danger of becoming a cliché for the four defenders in front of him. Falkirk’s first serious foray into the Thistle half in 12 minutes saw Lyle Taylor play in Dale Fulton, and with Fulton’s shot saved Taylor was able to pick up the rebound. With his shot blocked they at least had the consolation of a corner.
It was not long before the ball was back in the Falkirk half and we had keep the ball being played between Centre Half, Chris Smith and keeper McGovern as the Thistle midfield pressed high up the park. Having nearly lost it to a Thistle shirt further pressure mounted when a wayward back pass from Kieran Duffy put McGovern further under pressure. It was a nervous team that was beginning to make their supporters increasingly nervous too. The taunts from the Thistle fans were delightful in the sunshine, unless of course you had come visiting for the day.
On the 31st minute Falkirk almost got themselves back in it as Stephen Kingsley and Andy Howarth combined well down the right and whilst Howarth was dispossessed and there were calls for a foul the ball fell for Kingsley to send a dangerous ball into the box. Lyle Taylor rose to greet it but his header went wide.
On the 35th minute tensions became tempers as first Chris Smith took out Scott Fox at a corner, turning himself into the traditional panto villain for the Thistle faithful before Stephen Kingsley was penalised for fouling Kris Doolan. Smith again got booed for a legitimate challenge that looked less than fair, then Andy Haworth hit the deck like he had been shot when tackled by Hugh Murray and Sean Welsh and Kieran Duffy had words. This was all within the space of five minutes. Any thought that this would spark some life into the half were dispelled when referee George Salmond called the first period to a halt.
Falkirk made one change at half time with Craig Sibbald replacing Dale Fulton and Falkirk appeared to take the game to Thistle much more confidently. Their just rewards came in the 53rd minute when a long ball was played out of midfield and it fell delightfully for a half volley from Lyle Taylor to slam it home. There was nothing Fox could do as the shot from the right hand edge of the box was hit sweetly and greeted with applause from the Falkirk fans who were right on front of where Taylor had hit it from.
Thistle responded in the 56th minute as Stephen Lawless got in the box but Chris Smith was able to dispossess him and sent the ball out for a corner. The corner came in and when it was headed back across the face of the goal McGovern was able to parry it. Unfortunately it landed right in front of him and Kris Doolan in the 6 yard box and Doolan buried it to make it 3-1.
[media-credit name=”© Phil McCloy | Scotzine” align=”alignleft” width=”240″][/media-credit]Four minutes later Falkirk showed they were not to be forgotten as a shot hit the post, another the bar and then was cleared off the line from substitute Craig Sibbald all within the space of seconds and as the result of the type of free-flowing football we have come to expect from the Bairns. In the 66th Andy Howarth sent across a speculative cross that Fox was relieved to see go wide. Falkirk were pressing but it was just not to be their day.
This was ably summed up in the 77th minute when Aaron Muirhead fluffed a headed pass back and Lyle Taylor found himself ready to pounce. Waiting for the ball to drop he failed to see Alan Archibald just behind and Archibald’s intervention took the ball off Taylor’s toes and the chance went begging. A minute later Kris Doolan was at the other end 1 on 1 with McGovern but on this occasion found he couldn’t quite squeeze the ball past at a difficult angle.
Entertained we were but ultimately the only result that matters is that the 3 points stayed at Firhill. Speaking afterwards, Thistle boss claimed to be happy with the performance as much as the result, “I though it was a great advert for the game and both sides played positively but we are of course happy that the result went our way.” Pressley partly concurred, “I thought it was a great advert for the league. Two sides wanting to play football and we will take the positives from today and the slight negatives and work on each for the next game.”
Partick Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Bannigan (Craigen 82), Paton, Muirhead, Archibald, Lawless (Elliot 67), Welsh, Doolan, Murray, Erskine (Sinclair 67).
Subs not used: Scully, McGuigan
Falkirk: McGovern, Duffy, Kingsley, Flynn, Smith, Fulton, J, Fulton, D (Sibbald 45), Murdoch, Taylor, Haworth, Alston.
Subs not used: Leahy, McGrandles, Dick, Bowman
Referee: George Salmond
Assistant Referee: Craig Young, Rodney Marshall
For more match photos check out our official flickr page….