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Thistle secure victory over title challengers Morton at packed Firhill

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Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine.com

Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine.com

A bumper crowd of nearly 9000 packed out Firhill for this First Division title decider and thanks to a solitary goal from James Craigen, Thistle secured all three points and with that further stamped their claim on the league title, as they now sit five points clear of Morton in second place, and have a game in hand also.

A highly anticipated clash – the match had to be delayed for 15 minutes to let in the huge number of fans queuing outside the ground, which had not seen these numbers for years.

The opening stages were very lively, but there wasn’t much action in front of goal to show for it. Colin McMenamin had the first chance in the 16th minute when he outmuscled Stephen O’Donnell on the edge of the box but his shot was straight at the keeper.

Ten minutes later it was Fouad Bachirou who tested Scott Fox. The Frenchman drifted pasts Stuart Bannigan in midfield before sending a 25 yard shot at goal which went wide.

In the 33rd minute Bannigan swung a ball across from the left, but Kris Doolan could only head the ball straight at Derek Gaston from ten yards out.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 41st minute and it was Thistle’s James Craigen who found the back of the net. Chris Erskine drilled a ball across the box, which Kris Doolan dummied and allowed Craigen enough space at the back post to give Thistle a half-time lead.

Scott Taggart came on in the second-half for Morton and he had the first chance after picking up a wayward cross-field pass and driving into the box. However, his shot from a tight angle was well over the bar.

Morton then had another chance as a Michael Tidser cross from the left-wing reached Peter McDonald but the striker was too far out to get a strong enough header and Fox gathered the ball.

Thistle began to hit Morton on the break more often as the ‘Ton pushed for an equaliser. With 20 minutes to go Kris Doolan controlled a long ball forward and ran at the Morton defence. He chose to shoot early and his 25 yard shot was saved by Gaston.

The introduction of Christie Eilliot made Thistle look more dangerous on the break, but both teams failed to create much in the closing stages and the match ended 1-0 much to the delight of the home support and players.

Thistle manager Alan Archibald stressed after the match that the title wasn’t won yet. He said: “The job isn’t done. We know just how quickly football changes and Morton came here with the chance to move top. We need to keep on winning so nothing changes. It all rolls on to Saturday’s game at Airdrie now. But I don’t think this title will be won quickly. Morton will keep winning games as they are a good side.

“It’s a fantastic victory and I’m proud of the players who showed their character by bouncing back from Sunday’s Cup Final defeat. They put in a performance to beat a very good Morton side who we had yet to beat this season. To win this game was outstanding.”

On the number of fans who turned up to watch the game, Archibald added: “I can’t remember the last time Firhill was as busy. Even when we won our last promotion there wasn’t an atmosphere like that. This is a great advert for the division with two teams striving for the title and it’s a big disappointment there is only one prize. There should be a play-off place too.”

Morton manager Allan Moore was despondent over his sides performance in front of a healthy support, he said: “We didn’t put enough pressure on their keeper and it wasn’t to be. Every time we bring a good support to games we seem to let them down.

“Both teams have put up a good fight and we can’t afford to let our season peter out. This was a game we needed to win or even get a draw to keep the race alive. We will see what happens as we have four games and Partick have five. You never say never in football. We will now get ready for Saturday’s game against Dunfermline.

“Thistle have kept more clean sheets than us and that’s why they are ahead. We just need to try to gain as many points as we can and if it allows us to win the league then great. If not, then so be it.”

Partick Thistle: Scott Fox, Stephen O’Donnell, Andy Dowie, Conrad Balatoni, Aaron Sinclair, Sean Welsh, Ross Forbes (Steven Lawless 70’), Stuart Bannigan, James Craigen, Kris Doolan, Chris Erskine (Christie Elliott 81’)

Subs not used: Glenn Daniel, Steven Craig, Alan Archibald

Morton: Derek Gaston, Craig Reid, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Mark McLaughlin (Kyle Wilkie 76’), Thomas O’Ware (Scott Taggart 45’), Martin Hardie, Fred, Bachirou, Michael Tidser, David O’Brien, Colin McMenamin (Archie Campbell 68’), Peter McDonald

Subs not used: David Graham, David Hutton

Att: 8,875

Referee: Brian Colvin

For match photos check out our official Flickr gallery.

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