A COUPLE of top-notch goals, flying tackles amongst fierce local rivals, a red card and the league form book turned on its head and chucked out of the nearest window – all the ingredients for a classic cup-tie were here to be found at Firhill as Thistle dumped one-time tenants Hamilton out of the cup.
Scorers: Partick Thistle - Stevenson 19, 54
As football games go, it won’t be getting used in any Dutch coaching seminars any time soon, but as a raw cup-tie it was great entertainment.
Accies, as is their usual style, started well and passed the ball around nicely on the deck, but struggled to truly penetrate the home defence with lone striker Jason Scotland starved of service and lacking the once lethal injection of pace he once boasted. The best they could muster in the opening period was an Ali Crawford effort from 20 yards he really ought to have at minimum hit the target with having slipped his way past a couple of challenges before opting for placement over power.
Thistle, struggling for form in the league and with a lack of goals to their name, were far more direct than their visitors, looking to play in the final third rather than over playing from the back. They were far from long ball, but the plan was clearly to get the likes of Ryan Stevenson, Christie Elliott and Kallum Higginbotham involved in dangerous areas as early as possible.
Stevenson, who has been a crashing disappointment since his summer arrival from Hearts, started way brighter than he has been for much of his time in Maryhill and it was his goal separating the teams at the break. Gary Fraser’s corner just short of the 20-minute mark evaded the crowd scene in the middle before landing at the feet of the mercurial Stevenson who wasted little time in ripping a thumping shot high into the net from a narrowing angle.
It was a moment of magic from Stevenson, although he followed it up soon after with a horror miss from six yards when it looked easier to score than balloon high over the bar in the manner the forward contrived to do. Thistle still led at the interval, but with the nagging suspicion this howler could come back to bite them.
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Such fears were quelled minutes into the second period as Stevenson atoned to double the home lead. The finish from Stevenson was studied and precise, but it was the merely the cherry on top at the end of an absolutely stunning move full of pace, touch and vision.
Two goals behind in a cup-tie usually means going for broke and this is exactly what Accies did with the introduction of Mikael Antoine-Curier giving them an extra body in attack. With the ability to now go more direct Accies instantly nearly halved the deficit with Paul Gallacher in the Thistle goal rolling back the years with a superb stop from Louis Longridge and a smart save with the strong hand to not only save Darian MacKinnon’s drive but also push it away from danger.
This flurry aside Thistle held on with more ease than they would have imagined as Accies ran out of ideas very quickly. Indeed, only three very good late saves from visiting keeper, Michael McGovern, prevented a more comprehensive winner margin as the former Celtic man got his body in the way to repel a Stephen O’Donnell strike then somehow clawed a Kris Doolan header from the resulting corner before denying the Thistle striker again with a full length dive low to his right as the sub bore down on goal.
Accies’ day of woe was compounded in the dying embers when Dougie Imrie, a simmering ball of frustration for much of the second half, was dismissed for a crazy wayward lunge judged by referee Kevin Clancy – and everyone else inside Firhill – to be as dangerous as it was utterly needless.
Thistle played out time as they sailed into the fifth round with what they will hope is confidence-boosting win capable of kicking life into their faltering league campaign between now and whoever lies ahead in the next round.
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