SFL Div One: PARTICK THISTLE 3 DUNFERMLINE 3: Date: 27/04/13 : :
It was a beautiful sunny day in Maryhill for what was going to be the Partick Thistle title celebration. Dunfermline's mission was to darken the Jags great spirit as the Pars set out to try and take away precious points in their attempts to avoid the play offs.
John Potter came in for the suspended Chris Kane in a Pars starting line up that was otherwise unchanged from the side that faced Cowdenbeath the previous Saturday. Pleasingly after being kept out through injury, Andy Geggan and Ryan Wallace both made the bench.
Into the side that clinched the First Division championship at The Falkirk Stadium, Thistle brought Jordan McMillan, Christie Elliott and Mark McGuigan in place of Stephen O'Donnell, James Craigen and Kris Doolan.
When Michael, Thistle's stadium announcer welcomed the Pars to Firhill he expressed best wishes for their future which was met by a warm round of applause by the home support. John Potter had one of his final word huddles before the warm up concluded. The Pars re-emerged through the yellow and red chequered flags and they formed a guard of honour for Alan Archibald's league winners.
"Championees" was chanted by the home support and the music suggested that "Tonight is going to be a good night" but from the next 95 minutes Dunfermline set out to do their best to spoil the party. Allan Smith and Ryan Thomson took the kick off attacking the goal at the open south end.
A Shaun Byrne foul on Chris Erskine set up as fifth minute free kick just 25 yards out but Ross Forbes lifted the effort over the wall; and well over the crossbar. Josh Falkingham beat his man up on the right and got in a cross that Scott Fox held. Thistle looked composed in the opening exchanges however and most of the play was in the Pars half.
Dunfermline forced the first corner of the match in 13 minutes but when Ross Millen sent that in from the left Callum Morris was forced to put his header wide left. Two minutes later Forbes took Thistle's first corner but Michal Hrivnak fisted that away.It looked more positive for the visitors when Alex Whittle broke. Husband was chosen in midfield and his ball to Young was pushed through for Falkingham but there was just too much on it.
Play returned to the Pars half and they werre forced deep again. Young picked up a yellow casrd for a robust challenge and then Thistle should have got the opener in 21 minutes. McGuigan sent Erskine in on goal but Morris and then Whittle prevented the shot. Steven Lawless cut the ball back from the right byeline but fortunately there was no yellow shirts near to convert.
It was no real surprise when Partick went ahead in 27 minutes. Erskine did all the hard work to lay off a fine ball for former Pars captain McMILLAN to shoot across Hrivnak and find the net to the keeper's right. The Pars replied with Whittle forcing a corner but the trip up the park was short lived. Lawless had a dangerous run into the Dunfermline box and the pressure continued.
A 41st minute Andy Dowie was forward for a Forbes corner and Hrivnak did really well to keep out the downward header. Forbes tried a 30 yarder but the Slovakian keeper held easily. Partick at times seemed to want to work the ball too much. Right on half time Falkingham had a glorious chance but Thistle managed to limit the damage to a corner.
It was the kind of first half to give the 500+ travelling support much optimism for the second half.
Half Time: Partick Thistle 1 Dunfermline 0
Jim Jefferies changed his system for the restart moving away from the 5-3-2 to 4-3-1-2 with Ryan Wallace coming on to sit just behind the front two. Dunfermline had a great chance on 55 minutes when Thomson dispossessed Aaron Sinclair out on the right wing and set off towards goal, the chance fell for Smith just six yards out but he was denied when Conrad Balatoni cleared off the line.
Erskine and then Lawless had opportunities but Wallace was then provided with a glorious chance. Smith made the break up through the right channel and as he reached the penalty box sent a diagonal ball that Thomson dummied to set up the sub but he drove his shot at the keeper.
The Dunfermline goal did come in 65 minutes and it was as a result of great work by Husband on the right edge of the Thistle box. He picked out WALLACE who took a touch and found the net at the bottom right. 1-1
It may have been the Thistle fans who were singing but it was Dunfermline who were in tune. Andy Geggan had replaced Byrne and with him came a further injection of energy. Thomson had a shot but a second goal was to come his way in 72 minutes. Wallace had his shot parried by Fox but THOMSON was well placed to slot home.
Thistle rallied and Wallace conceded a free kick on the left edge of the box that allowed Forbes to find Dowie at the far post but fortunately he directed the ball wide. Then from an 80 minute corner that Wallace sent over from the left, Husband could not control the ball first time but he toed it back towards the left post where THOMSON headed in the Pars third! 1-3.
Four minutes later ERSKINE squeezed in a second for Thistle to create another nervy end to a game. With news of Cowdenbeath getting a goal to make it 3-2 to Dumbarton at Central Park, the Pars only needed to see the game out to ensure their First Division status.
That was delayed by injuries to Thomson and Hrivnak that both required physio Kenny Murray's attentions. The added time went on and on and Thistle kept coming. There was 49 minutes 15 seconds of the second half gone when a ball from the left just could not be cleared and LAWLESS was able to sink the ball into the net low to the left. 3-3.
It was a cruel end to the match but means that a win over Airdrie United at home next Saturday will ensure the outcome that Dunfermline should have secured had it not been for the late late Thistle equaliser.
PARTICK THISTLE:: Scott Fox, Jordan McMillan, Andy Dowie, Aaron Sinclair, Christie Elliott (Stephen O'Donnell 60), Conrad Balatoni, Mark McGuigan (Kris Doolan 68), Chris Erskine (c), Stuart Bannigan, Ross Forbes (Steven Craig, 81), Steve Lawless
SUBS NOT USED David Wilson, Glenn Daniels (GK)
SCORERS: McMillan (27), Erskine (84) Lawless (95)
YELLOW CARD: Bannigan (82)
DUNFERMLINE: Michal Hrivnak, Ross Millen, Kerr Young, John Potter (Ryan Wallace HT), Callum Morris, Alex Whittle; Shaun Byrne (Andy Geggan 62), Stephen Husband, Josh Falkingham (c), Allan Smith, Ryan Thomson (Grant Munro 91).
SUBS NOT USED: Ross Drummond, Ryan Goodfellow (GK).
YELLOW CARD: Young (18), Husband (66), Wallace (76), Falkingham (89)
SCORERS: Wallace (65), Thomson (72, 80)
REFEREE: Willie Collum
WEATHER: Sunny 11C
NEXT GAME: (home) IRN BRU First Division v Airdrie United
Saturday 4th May 2013, kick off 3.00pm
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 22nd April, Dunfermline v Falkirk kick off 3.00pm