This top-of-the-table clash lived up to its gladiatorial billing and, with honours even at the final whistle, it leaves plenty of scope for intrigue as to the destiny of the First Division championship trophy in the coming weeks.
Scorers: Morton: MacDonald (59, 81pen); Partick Thistle: Erskine (9), Craig (47)
The outcome only scrapes the surface of the drama in this one however – with momentum seemingly favouring Morton.
With Alan Archibald making a belated start to his caretaker manager role at Thistle, you might have thought it would be the visitors who left Cappielow feeling the happier with the share of the spoils. In reality it was the contrary with Archibald and his charges somewhat crestfallen to have allowed a two-goal lead slip from their grasp as Peter MacDonald dragged Morton back into the game with strikes from a free kick and the penalty spot.
It was something of a baptism of fire for Archibald then but he could take heart from his side’s performance.
“I was delighted with the boys’ commitment and effort. It was great, everything was there. It’s just that position of being in a 2-0 lead – it can be horrible at times,” said Archibald.
“The next goal is crucial and it was really disappointing to lose it to a set piece”.
He went on to explain his own non-appearance on the field of play as being down to the pressures of dealing with taking on training and organising the side as well as “keeping his head in the right place”.
For a side that might be assumed to be ring rusty due to postponements Thistle fairly raced out of the traps and grabbed the upper hand within ten minutes. A fairly straightforward affair it was too, with Aaron Sinclair driving into the home penalty area and squeezing a pass through to the lively Chris Erskine, who drove the ball beyond Derek Gaston.
Not surprisingly the hosts were stung into a response and they came close to restoring parity almost immediately with Michael Tidser slipping a free kick to Peter MacDonald, whose raging strike skimmed the top of the crossbar. Colin McMenamin then spurned a wonderful opening created by David O’Brien’s persistence down the left by completely missing the target.
The game was played at a furious pace throughout but, immediately after half-time, the home side were again caught looking somewhat flat-footed as Thistle extended their lead. Ross Forbes took the credit as he crossed for Steven Craig to score with a close-range header.
With the visitors continuing to do a fine containment job, it seemed the only hope for Morton was to try to conjure something from a set piece – and they managed to do just that not once, but twice to bring the game to a thrilling conclusion through MacDonald’s twin strikes. The first was a re-run of a first-half free-kick routine with Tidser, the latter once again rolling the ball into his path but this time the striker drilled his shot low into the corner of the net.
Then, with Cappielow fairly gripped by tension, a Tidser shot was handled by Hugh Murray and MacDonald kept his composure to sweep the resultant penalty beyond Scott Fox.
Murray was booked for his troubles and quickly saw yellow again, followed by red, after a clash with MacDonald, but Thistle held out for what was a point that they undoubtedly merited.
“We showed fighting spirit” insisted a relieved Morton manager Allan Moore, “and the way we’ve come back, it’s like a point gained for us and two points lost for them”.