This was one of those games which had both sides scratching their heads as to whether the outcome represented a point gained or two lost.
Partick were happy enough that they took away something from one of the more difficult trips on the First Division itinerary but, on the otherhand, were left bemused by Falkirk’s smothering game plan which saw the Bairns look like the away team in terms of their cautious approach and attempts to hit on the break.
Thistle’s headline-grabbing 7-0 victory over Airdrie United in their previous fixture had obviously provoked some extended pondering around the Falkirk tactical blackboard as to how to snuff out their attacking prowess. The merits or otherwise of the Bairns’ chosen 5-4-1 formation for this game proved to be a lot more intriguing and entertaining that what actually unfolded on the park during a sterile 90 minutes.
Jackie McNamara, the Partick manager, was distinctly unimpressed. “They’ve set themselves a game plan to try to contain us – and they’re the home team. We set out to win the game, gone for it with our substitutions and tried to entertain. I said to the players that I suppose we have to take it as a compliment that they’ve approached the match in this way”.
In the Falkirk camp, meanwhile, the only disappointment with the tactics was that they didn’t serve up a victory which Steven Pressley insisted they deserved. “We’ve come up with a plan based on an assessment of our strengths and weaknesses and theirs. We have a lot of speed and mobility in attack. We’ve set out to contain, steal and break at pace and we’ve had the best chances in the game”.
For all this stroking of the chin about the way the game should be played there was precious little for the fans to get excited about over the piece. Only on one occasion during the opening 45 minutes was the mettle of either goalkeeper seriously tested, with Thistle’s Scott Fox having to deny David Weatherston at point blank range. At the other end the visitors’ most plausible opening was wastefully squandered as Steven Craig took a fresh air swipe at a through ball in the Falkirk box.
Thistle upped the ante after the break and pushed the hosts deep into their own territory but apart from a few pot shots which were well dealt with by Michael McGovern they rarely looked like getting their noses in front. The wise old head of Darren Dods superbly led the Bairns’ back line and there was plenty of safety in numbers for them when they did come under pressure.
The breakaway raids from Pressley’s men carried occasional promise and Stewart Murdoch should have done better than dither to allow Conrad Balatoni to put in a last ditched blocking tackle when he was released by one such lightening attack. From successive corners thereafter Falkirk had the visitors scrambling as Weatherson saw a volley deflected wide and then Dods, lurking in the box, send in a venomous shot that was somehow deflected just over the crossbar by a flailing Thistle leg as it appeared netbound.
McNamara brought on attacking substitutions in the shape of Kris Doolan and Christie Elliot but to little effect with the two sides trading blows without ever calling the underemployed Fox and McGovern back into serious action. The sizeable visiting support made their frustrations known and McNamara concede that his players had started to feel the same way. Ultimately if this was in indeed a football match that resembled a game of chess it was perhaps fitting that it ended in stalemate.