IN the end, one to add on to both teams’ unwanted lists.
Scorers: Partick Thistle - Fraser 75; Dundee United - El Alagui 28
If the honour belonged to hosts Partick Thistle for the sustained pressing that yielded a late equaliser, plaudits do not prevent them remaining mired in the winless hell that haunts their efforts at Firhill, where they have now gone 13 Premiership games without tasting victory this season.
And, while Dundee United may feel reprieved and relieved to have escaped with a point, it doesn’t help in their search for an end to a run that now extends to seven games without a win.
It is impossible not to root for Thistle in circumstances such as they found themselves, once again, yesterday. So often do they outplay opponents for lengthy spells without reward, and for half an hour of the second period it seemed that was their fate once more.
But then they got that lesser spotted Maryhill moment – a fortunate break. It came when the ball found its way to Gary Fraser on the edge of the area and he thumped a low drive that John Rankin pushed out a foot towards only to divert the ball past caught-on-his-heels keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.
“I thought we more than deserved a draw and our second half play merited it,” said Thistle manager Alan Archibald, a contention that seemed impossible to dispute.
“I thought we had enough pressure to maybe get the second goal but things didn’t drop for us.
“Before we got the goal it didn’t look like we’d get it because things were falling either side of our strikers. But we had a go and deserved our bit of luck with the pressure we applied.
“When you put balls into the box and things don’t fall it looks like it might not be your day.”
There have been too many of these days for Thistle within their own environs, where their top flight record is now seven draws and six defeats. It is remarkable with these statistics that they only remain
second bottom in the table on goal difference, Ross County unable to pull away from them.
The downward pull on United, whose winning streak of four-goal victories now seems a distant memory, was not halted and that was due to the performance of referee Willie Collum – in the mind of Tannadice manager Jackie McNamara at least.
He considered that the official failed to recognise that Stuart Armstrong going down under a challenge from Lee Mair midway through the first period was a penalty. “Anywhere else on the pitch then the referee would have given a free kick,” said McNamara. “He was through on goal.”
Few watching agreed with the United manager’s assessment but engendered greater sympathy for his complaint – he described himself as “a bit irate” – concerning Jordan McMillan going over the top and jabbing his foot down on the ankle of Andrew Robertson. “I thought he stamped on him and we didn’t even get a free kick.”
McMillan was maybe harbouring a grudge over how silly Robertson had made him look for the opening goal, on the back of the Thistle defender losing the ball deep in the United half. With his flank exposed Robertson made merry, galloping forward and turning Mair inside out before drawing the Thistle keeper and squaring for El Alagui to sweep the ball in.
It was the first goal for the Algerian forward since he joined on loan from Brentford a fortnight ago and the player credited the “unbelievable” run of Robertson for making it happen.
Plenty happened during an engrossing 90 minutes in which both teams featured newly-signed loanees. Both Newcastle defender Curtis Good for the visitors and Prince Bauben in the Thistle defence made decent contributions but, after Paul Gallacher made a triple block from El Alagui, it was Conrad Balatoni who claimed the spotlight towards the interval.
The big centre-back clipped the upright with a side-footed effort he attempted to poke through a ruck of players and then came over all Franz Beckenbauer with a 60-yard run to release Taylor, only for the on-loan Sheffield United striker Lyle Taylor to screw wide.
Armstrong proved as wasteful from an even better position in the second period and substitute Brian Graham knocked a header on to the bar in between the siege Thistle laid to the opposite goal.
“We got a bit nervous at times and sat too deep which made it hard for the forwards to press the ball. We need to work on that and make sure we’re working better,” said McNamara. Everything that was working a dream for United is suddenly not working well enough.
Partick: Gallacher, McMillan (O’Donnell, 58), Taylor-Sinclair, Fraser, Mair, Balatoni, Elliott, Buaben (Craigen, 83), Taylor, Higginbotham (Doolan, 60), Bannigan.
Subs not used: Fox, Muirhead, Lawless, Moncur.
Goals: G Fraser, 75.
Booked: P Buaben, L Taylor, S Bannigan.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Wilson, Robertson, Rankin, Souttar, Good, Armstrong (Dow, 79), Paton, El Alagui (Graham, 66), Ciftci (Gauld, 66), Mackay-Steven.
Subs not used: McCallum, Dillon, Watson, Gomis.
Goals: F El Alagui. 29.
Booked: M Wilson
Referee: W Collum