Dundee United 0 – 1 Partick Thistle: Kris Doolan hits vital winner

Partick Thistle goalkeeper Thomas Cerny challenges for the ball with Gavin Gunning. Picture: SNS

Partick Thistle goalkeeper Thomas Cerny challenges for the ball with Gavin Gunning. Picture: SNS

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THE more things change, the more they stay the same. Dundee United introduced two home debutants in the hope of galvanising the squad and securing a much-needed victory.

Scorers: Partick – Doolan (50)

Instead, neither Guy Demel nor Florent Sinama-Pongolle lasted 60 minutes and the league’s bottom side slumped to yet another defeat.

Once again Mixu Paatelainen’s side were the better team for much of the match and yet conspired to take nothing from it, finishing the day eight points adrift at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

“Yes we can claw it back,” insisted the United manager. “It’s a hard task. We need to defend for the full game. We need to make sure we hit the target in the corner of the net rather than straight at the ‘keeper. We need to improve, but this is nothing new. We are where we are because of these moments.”

Luck can also play a crucial role in any football game and fate began conspiring against the hosts as early as the ninth minute. Sinama-Pongolle, who’d looked lively in the opening exchanges, stretched for a bouncing ball near the halfway line and immediately felt his hamstring go.

United still enjoyed the better of the play in the opening period with Demel head and shoulders above all others in an otherwise dreadful first half. The veteran, formerly of Borussia Dortmund and West Ham, looked completely assured and should be an excellent addition once he’s fully up to speed.

He even livened things up before the crowd drifted off into a boredom-induced coma by performing a Ronaldinho-style flick at the

halfway line. The action was completely pointless other than giving those in attendance something to talk about.

It would not have been possible for the second half to be as dire as the first, and sure enough proceedings livened up within five minutes as Paul Dixon brought out a save from Tomas Cerny with a stinging shot from 20 yards.

Thistle are only relegation candidates in the sense that every team from Hamilton down are threatened by the relegation play-off spot.

Five points now separate sixth from 11th, but Alan Archibald’s side have won five of their last eight and sit two points from the top six. And in Kris Doolan they’ve got a

confident striker in ruthless goalscoring form.

There didn’t seem much of a threat when Stuart Bannigan found Doolan with a pass a couple of yards inside the area. The striker had his back to goal with two defenders in close attendance, but he expertly controlled with his right, struck on the turn with his left and sent the ball spinning into the far corner.

“Chances were limited, it was one of those games,” reflected the match-winner, “but I know that if one of those chances falls at my feet then I’m going to put it in the net. We’re not going to get carried away. Things can change quickly, though we are going to look up the way. We’re in great form.”

A tired Demel asked to be substituted almost immediately after Doolan’s strike, but United responded well to the latest blow with John Rankin’s energy providing a spark in the centre of the field. The midfielder had an effort trail past the far post before Blair Spittal watched his deflected shot drop inches wide with Tomas Cerny stranded.

The hosts cranked up the pressure in the closing stages of the game and thought they deserved to win a penalty when Callum Morris’ goal-bound shot was blocked by the arm of Liam Lindsay. Steven McLean waved away with the appeals and United’s hopes went with it.

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