A BIBLICAL deluge put paid to the meeting between these sides when the fixture was halfway completed six weeks ago.
SCORER: May 27
Since then it is goals by St Johnstone’s Stevie May that have come at a flood and the Scotland under-21’s fifth strike in three games left hosts Partick Thistle feeling it never rains but it pours when they play Premiership matches within their own environs.
May’s goal puts him out on his own as Scotland’s leading scorer with 20 strikes. In truth, his 27th-minute counter was his only telling contribution on a night when Thistle’s failings in the final third yet again meant their ability to camp in their opponents’ half for long spells was no recipe for success. Only Hearts have scored fewer league goals this season.
May has proved a marvel this season, but what is most marvellous about his scoring feats is that there has been a simplicity to so many of his net-finding
efforts. His hat-trick at the weekend was gushed over but one of the goals was the scrappiest of bundle-over-the-goalline jobs, with the two others penalties. And, although he has the capability to produce scorchers, he is equally likely to be unfussily on hand to administer a straightforward finish. So it was last night in Glasgow, when all the strenuous work for the 27th-minute opener was done by David Wotherspoon. The winger burst inside off the left flank and corkscrewed round a couple of markers like they were training cones before his run was brought to a shuddering halt. Sent face-down on the turf in the area, there might have been a call for a penalty were it not for the fact the ball broke to May who side-footed into the bottom left-hand corner of Paul Gallacher’s net.
Saints manager Tommy Wright was quick to praise the contribution of Wotherspoon and said: “David Wotherspoon has been a dream for us this season as he can play in so many positions – either on the right, in off the left or behind the striker.
“He had a shot by drifting off the left just before he created our goal that was close. I’m really pleased with him and it was a great assist for Stevie, who tucked it away nicely.”
Partick manager Alan Archibald was patently of the belief that the best way to end the curse that has seen his side fail to win at home all season was to deploy as many players as feasible untainted, or at most hardly tainted, by the inability to prevail in the previous eleven such encounters.
To that end, he threw Chris Erskine straight in only a day after the attacker returned to his old club on loan from Dundee United. That selection meant Erskine joining Lyle Taylor, Lee Mair and Gary Fraser as players who have only been at Firhill, in most cases, since the January transfer window opened.
The decision to launch an appeal against the red card administered to Steven Anderson in the 3-3 draw against Hearts at the weekend meant Wright didn’t have to redraw his team as much as he might have anticipated on Saturday night, Anderson able to take his usual place in defence. Alan Mannus was also red-carded at the weekend and 41-year-old Stevie Banks was installed in the Saints goal.
For about the first half hour, St Johnstone, with Paddy Cregg in for Murray Davidson, could have Gordon Banks between their uprights for all that the home side were able to trouble them. At the other end, Gallacher made a good stop from a dipping Chris
Millar drive and the one-way nature of the goalmouth activity must have had the minds of the Maryhill club’s followers messed up long before their fears were realised.
A strange development immediately followed the May goal. Thistle, until that point entirely incapable of putting together the passing moves that have won them many admirers, if not home games, started to spread the play and put real pressure on the Perth side.
Taylor tore into his tasks as he burrowed his way into the box on several occasions without being then able to provide the set-up or shot that might have brought end product, and the on-loan Sheffield United striker also came close with an audacious 35-yard piledriver that almost sneaked through the defences of Banks.
Territorial advantage remained with Archibald’s gallant team in the second half and it was keeper Gallacher who was reduced to bystander status. Such a turnaround counted for nothing, however, because, for all those intricate passing moves in and around the St Johnstone box, any shooting opportunities created were snatched at and the target never troubled.
“The first half was as poor as we’ve played in the league,”
admitted Archibald. “Even in the second half, we gave the ball away in silly areas.”
Partick: P Gallacher, S O’Donnell, Mair, Balatoni, McMillan, Fraser, Craigen (Elliot 77), Lawless (Doolan 67), Higginbotham (Forbes 85), Erskine, Taylor. Subs not used: Fox, Muirhead, Piccolo, Wilson.
St Johnstone: Banks, Mackay, Anderson, Wright, Scobbie, Millar, Cregg (Miller 84), McDonald, Croft (O’Halloran 78), May, Wotherspoon. Subs not used: Hasselbaink, Brown, Fallon, D Easton, Hurst.