JAMES McFadden scored his first Scottish Premiership goal of the season as Motherwell consolidated second place with an emphatic fourth consecutive victory.
Scorers: Partick Thistle - Lawless (8); Motherwell - Lasley (15) Francis-Angol (21) McFadden (36) Ainsworth (57) Sutton (65)
Referee: S McLean
Former Motherwell winger Steven Lawless opened the scoring but any hope Thistle had of claiming their first Premiership win at Firhill was extinguished before an end-to-end first half finished.
Keith Lasley quickly equalised before Zaine Francis-Angol scored an excellent solo goal and McFadden lobbed Scott Fox before the break. Lionel Ainsworth and substitute John Sutton added to the scoring to secure a 5-1 victory for Stuart McCall’s side.
McFadden, 30, looked a rejuvenated player, a far cry from the player who had not started a game since Motherwell’s William Hill Scottish Cup defeat by Albion Rovers last month, when he again looked below par on the right wing, and had not come off the bench in their previous two wins.
But some great skill and awareness set up Keith Lasley to fire the visitors level in the 15th minute after Steven Lawless had opened the scoring.
McCall, who played McFadden just off centre-forward Henri Anier, said: “We know Faddy would like to play in that position but when you have Sutton and Anier, who have formed such a good partnership.
“But today we felt we needed pace in wide areas to stay with their full-backs and it’s such a big park, we don’t want to play two up. Faddy playing in that area is probably his best position. How many times we play that way is there to be seen.
“I was delighted for him because he has worked hard. He made a goal for Lasley and you could see his old confidence come back. He hits the bar and could have had another one.
“It was an outstanding performance, one we know he is capable of. Hopefully it kick-starts him into action, as long as we can get him a lot of time on the grass.”
Thistle boss Alan Archibald felt his players were made to pay for their inexperience.
“I thought it was embarrassing,” he said. “The second-half performance was unacceptable. We had a go in the second half and left ourselves wide open.
“We started the game very well, made a number of chances and got the goal, but I thought Motherwell were more professional and precise, and individual errors cost us.
“It’s probably naivety, after we scored the one we kept on trying to get more. We probably should have got another one but Motherwell went up the park and capitalised on our mistakes.”
Despite that, it was Thistle who struck first. Kris Doolan played in James Craigen in the left channel and he cut the ball back for Lawless to steer into the bottom corner.
Both sets of fans joined in applause for Phil O’Donnell, who died exactly six years ago while playing for Motherwell against Dundee United.
Thistle kept up the pressure and Lawless almost doubled his tally with a 25-yard strike that Dan Twardzik pushed wide before Piccolo headed not far away from the corner.
But Motherwell were level in the 15th minute. McFadden took the ball in from a throw-in, turned his man and slipped the ball into the path of Lasley, who placed the ball inside the far corner.
The goalmouth action was relentless. Lawless played in Kallum Higginbotham but Twardzik raced off his line to block, and seconds later a Francis-Angol cross fell for Iain Vigurs but the midfielder could not head on target.
Francis-Angol soon caused even more damage in the 21st minute after some sharp build-up play down the left with Steven Hammell at its heart. The former Tottenham trainee cut
inside Stephen O’Donnell and squeezed a right-footed shot inside the near post.
Thistle made a change in the 27th minute when another former Motherwell player, Ross Forbes, came on for Christie Elliott with Higginbotham moving to the right.
Doolan came close with a curler but Motherwell extended their lead in the 36th minute.
There appeared little danger but Henri Anier pounced on a loose ball midway inside the Thistle half and lofted a pass forward for McFadden. The Scotland hero beat Piccolo for strength and skill and lobbed the ball over Scott Fox and into the corner of the net.
Thistle pressed but Motherwell moved further ahead in the 56th minute. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair appeared to have thwarted a Motherwell attack but he gifted possession to Lasley, who played in Ainsworth to slot the ball into the corner for his third goal in three games. McFadden powered a header against the bar following a Vigurs cross just before Sutton netted in the 65th minute when he ran on to a long ball from Vigurs and steered the ball home.
McFadden played Ainsworth through two minutes later but Fox came off his line to block the shot and the former Everton player curled just wide from 25 yards as Motherwell threatened to embarrass the Jags.
Thistle came closer to a seventh goal of the game though, but Twardzik slid to clear to deny Doolan a consolation after Hammell’s short backpass.
Partick Thistle: Fox,Stephen O’Donnell,Balatoni,Piccolo,Sinclair, Craigen, Bannigan, Elliot (Forbes 27), Lawless (Baird 60),
Higginbotham, Doolan. Subs Not Used: Muirhead, Paul Gallacher,K err, Lee Gallacher, Wilson..
Motherwell: Twardzik, Hammell, Ramsden, McManus, Francis-Angol, Ainsworth, Carswell (Lawson 75), Lasley, Vigurs, Anier (Sutton 57), McFadden (McHugh 79). Subs Not Used: Nielsen, Cummins, Moore, Murray.