THEY left it very late, but this was a day on which Thistle managed to rip up the script.
SCORERS: St Johnstone - May 9; Partick - Doolan 90
The story of much of their season has been about playing lots of decent football, occasional defensive lapses and no end product up front.
After Stevie May had pounced in typical opportunistic fashion to give St Johnstone the lead early on, it was seemingly Groundhog Day for the Firhill side until, out of nowhere, substitute Kris Doolan snatched a deserved equaliser right at the death.
With St Mirren and Ross County also picking up points, this share of the spoils may not bring any immediate relief for Alan Archibald and his men, but the psychological lift gained from at last seeing their efforts earning a result in this fashion may be huge as the battle to evade the relegation play-off place shifts up several gears.
“It will make a massive difference to the lads,” insisted the Thistle manager. “It all bodes well for going into the run-in.
“Since January we’ve started to get more of a reward out of games and we’ve got a never-say-die attitude that we’ll need going into the last six games”.
You wouldn’t have held out much prospect of Archibald sounding so positive post-match as Saints gave his side a bit of a mauling in a sustained opening salvo.
A goal was not long in materialising and it was down a combination of attacking zest and horrible defending as the ball should have been cleared long before it reached May on the edge of the box. As is his wont, the young striker took a pot shot and, with the aid of a substantial deflection off the shin of Lee Mair, it ended up in the net.
It was league goal No.18 for the prolific May and he should have had another as Lee Croft’s thunderous shot cannoned off the body of Paul Gallacher and looped into the air. The Saints striker sent a header arcing towards the goal but it struck the crossbar and was cleared for a corner.
Thistle did a pretty decent job of digging their way back into the game after that and Chris Erskine, in particular, started to ask some searching questions of Saints’ experienced centre-back pairing of Fraser Wright and Steven Anderson.
He nearly posted an instant reply to May’s opener with a header from a Gary Fraser cross that flashed over the bar and then sent in a shot that tested Alan Mannus after a delightful twist and turn in the box. The mercurial Thistle winger continued to lead the way for his side after the break with yet another fine piece of footwork prising him clear but he whipped his shot wide of the mark.
Shortly afterwards, Fraser made a fine connection from 25 yards which looked to be on its way to the back of net before Wright stuck out a toe and diverted it wide.
So it went on, with the visitors unable to be faulted for their honest endeavour but completely devoid of any cutting edge and seemingly destined for another barren 90 minutes.
However, with the clock counting down, Doolan manoeuvred himself into space and his low drive was a decent effort. Mannus could only get a weak hand to it and the ball continued on its course to the bottom corner the goal to send the hitherto exasperated Thistle support into raptures.
“We’re disappointed to draw the game at the end, we’d almost seen it out,” remarked a sanguine Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager back on press duties after his recent short spell in hospital.
“But they kept on going right to the end and probably deserved a point. We’ve played three games in a week and it’s been a long season so we probably looked a bit tired at times.”