LIKE their city neighbours Celtic, Partick Thistle made a belated entrance to this season’s Premiership and, like the champions, the Maryhill side started with a convincing victory.
Partick Thistle - 4 Bannigan (40), Frempah (54og), Fraser (73), O’Donnell (90)
Ross County - 0
Referee: A Dallas
Having taken 14 games to register their first win in last season’s campaign, this emphatic and thoroughly deserved success was just the tonic Alan Archibald’s side needed, but a second defeat on the trot does not augur well for the Dingwall team. The Jags had three new signings in their line-up as Daniel Seaborne, Ryan Stevenson and Abdul Osman, the last returning to Scotland six years after leaving Gretna, made their competitive debuts.
County boss Derek Adams, meanwhile, kept faith with the players who lost narrowly to St Johnstone in Dingwall.
After some fairly tame early jousting, the game sprang to life on 18 minutes when Thistle were convinced they should have had a penalty, only to be denied by referee Andrew Dallas.
Kallum Higginbotham pounced on a misplaced pass in the County box and drew a rash challenge from visiting goalkeeper Antonio Reguero which sent the Thistle man sprawling.
However, there was consternation among home fans when Higginbotham was booked for diving. Higginbotham, nursing a grievance, should have given his side the lead shortly afterwards but, having played a neat one-two with Stevenson, he shot wastefully wide. The Maryhill side continued to dominate both pressure and chances and Gary Fraser was next to threaten when his volley rebounded off the inside of a post. Almost half an hour had been played before County finally awoke to the possibility that they too might offer a threat going forward and when Jake Jarvis pounced on a long ball he appeared to have the beating of home ’keeper Scott Fox as his effort trundled just wide of the far post.
Thistle, though, deservedly took the lead when Higginbotham’s pass released Stuart Bannigan who deftly beat Reguero.
The Highlanders almost replied before the break when Rocco Quinn forced a diving save from Fox before Graham Carey rattled the Thistle crossbar. Having survived those scares, Thistle re-established their control on the restart with Higginbotham again proving a handful for the County defence, finding space to nod a Stephen O’Donnell cross wide.
But an addition to their lead was not long delayed and it came courtesy of the unfortunate Ben Frempah who diverted another O’Donnell delivery behind his own ’keeper.
Thistle, who had problems in front of their own supporters last season, were now playing with a rare freedom and they almost increased their advantage further when Fraser’s netbound shot was blocked by Reguero.
However, County might have thrown themselves a lifeline only for Fox to deny Jarvis with a brilliant reflex save.
Instead, the Jags made the points safe when a sweeping four-man move culminated with Fraser’s composed finish.
Wing-back O’Donnell embellished the victory with a fine solo effort in the dying minutes to leave the visitors with a thoroughly miserable trek home.
Partick Thistle: Fox, Seaborne, McMillan, O’Donnell, Balatoni, Lawless (Doolan 82), Higginbotham (Elliott 69), Bannigan (Craigen 74), Fraser, Osman, Stevenson. Unused subs: Muirhead, Gallacher, McDaid, Keenan
Ross County: Reguero, Arquin (Cardle 62), Boyd (Frempah 47), Dreesen, Celcer, Brittain, Carey (De Leeuw 62), Quinn, Kiss, Fenlon, Jervis. Unused subs: Maatsen, Boyce, Balk, Brown