AFTER his Kilmarnock side fought their way to Premiership safety with a first four-goal haul of the season, it was natural enough for Gary Locke to want to talk about the result. Especially when it was the first in the eight games since he was handed his post on a permanent basis that hadn’t ended in defeat. That was never going to happen, though, when Josh Magennis and Jamie Hamill exhibited fighting spirit of an all-too-literal nature.
The rutting of heads that followed Hamill having a right go at what he perceived as a lax team-mate was one of those friendly fire incidents that rarely blow-up during a game. According to two-goal Tope Obadeyi – who might have been the headline act were it not for the head-to-head thanks to his crazed disrobing to celebrate his first strike – it was merely a case of friendly, “fiery characters” giving vent to their emotions.
In fairness, and unlike his manager, at least the attacker did not seek to make out what happened between Hamill and Magennis was just one of those things. The 25-year-old admitted that, in a career that has brought him spells with Bolton Wanderers, Swindon Town, Rochdale, Shrewsbury Town, Chesterfield, Rio Ave, Bury and Plymouth Argyle, he had never seen the like in a match.
“Luckily we got the win,” he said. “If we had lost and they were going at it then it would have reflected badly. It was sorted out at half-time. They are good friends off the pitch and live close to each other. They are just two guys who want to win.”
Amid the fire, thankfully there was also finesse – never to be confused with fitness when you are talking about Alexei Eremenko, but that can be irrelevant when he can be as assist-tastic as he was yesterday. Eremenko had a foot in all four Kilmarnock goals, a haul they last achieved 14 months ago.
Against a home side that played as if they hadn’t really anything much to play for, a typically visionary, rangy pass from the Finn was controlled on the edge of the area by Greg Kiltie before he was nudged by Callum Booth in a messy attempt by the defender to close him down. Hamill looked to have made a hash of the resultant penalty but he was fortunate that, although Scott Fox blocked his tame effort, the ball rebounded neatly for him to drive it into the net.
That was midway through the first period and shortly before Hamill was at, eh, loggerheads with Magennis but more crucial for the complexion of the Rugby Park club’s season was Obadeyi dinking in an Eremenko corner at the near post as the interval approached.
When a free kick on the right from the playmaker just past the hour mark allowed the English forward to bundle the ball in again, it meant he had taken his tally for the season against Partick to five goals. He has only found the net nine times.
“I had an inkling before the game I might get one but luckily I got two,” he said afterwards. “I’m not sure what the second one hit to be honest. I had my eyes closed. I think it was maybe head and chest.”
Heads will clear now at Kilmarnock after they threatened to be filled with the fog that comes from repeated failure. Even when Conrad Balatoni headed in a free kick to make it 3-1 shortly after Obadeyi’s second, success was guaranteed for the visitors, who restored their handsome advantage when Magennis bore into the box and drilled in a low shot that Fox got his body in the way of but could not stop.
“There is so much relief,” Obadeyi said. “It was a real grind trying to get it but we can relax going into the final home game. I know a lot of people had us down and going into the play-offs but we showed a lot of character and belief. It is always hard when you are losing games but now we will be a top-flight team next season.”
For Thistle, it was a grim way to make their final bow at Firhill following a campaign in which Alan Archibald has not received the credit he warrants for guiding his Thistle side to a creditable eighth position. “I think Kilmarnock just wanted it more, that was fairly evident out there,” he said.
“We we’re delighted to finish in eighth position but we want to finish well, we don’t want to finish with a whimper. It’s very disappointing, we wanted to give our fans something to cheer about in our last home game.”
Scorers: Partick Thistle - Balatoni 68; Kilmarnock - Hamill 23, Obadeyi 37, 63, Magennis 71
Partick Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth (Elliott 45), Fraser (Craigen 77), Bannigan, Lawless, Doolan, Higginbotham, Taylor (Wilson 67). Subs not used: Gallacher, Osman, Richards-Everton, Hendry. Goals: Balatoni 67’. Booked: Booth, Lawless, Higginbotham.
Kilmarnock: Samson, Barbour, Connolly, Pascali (Ashcroft 45), Westlake, Kiltie (McKenzie 73), Hamill, Slater, Obadeyi, Eremenko (O’Hara 86), Magennis. Subs not used: Johnston, Cairney, Brennan, Eccleston. Goals: Hamill 25’; Obadeyi 37’, 63’; Magennis 71’. Booked: Connolly, Obadeyi.
Referee: J Beaton