WITH 2015 having started with a bit of a wobble following a fine run of form in the run-up to the festive period, there was probably a temptation for St Johnstone to look forward to this fixture with some home comfort in mind – and they got it.
Scorers: St Johnstone - Mackay 4; Anderson 49
Partick Thistle haven’t won a league match at McDiarmid Park since 1994 and they didn’t ever really look like ending that woeful run yesterday with a largely insipid performance helping Saints get their top-six finish aspirations back on track with about as straightforward a victory as you could imagine through early goals in either half from defenders Dave Mackay and Steven Anderson.
“We were on a good run before Christmas and it probably raised expectation levels,” reflected Saints manager Tommy Wright. “That’s why there was disappointment when we took no points out of six in our last two games. But we’ve bounced back today and it’s just important to try to go on another run.”
Having had a mini midwinter break of their own courtesy of their previous game against Celtic being postponed, Saints certainly opened this game looking suitably revitalised. They moved the ball around with an assured crispness and earned a quick reward when Brian Easton’s cross was ushered by Steven MacLean into the path of Mackay and his low drive beat Paul Gallacher with the help of a substantial deflection.
As Thistle struggled to find first gear, the hosts came close to extending their lead when an arcing header from Liam Caddis was clawed away by Gallacher. Slowly, however, Alan Archibald’s men started to thread passes together, with Ryan Stevenson knocking the ball around with some aplomb. The former St Johnstone striker was unfortunate not to restore parity when he thundered a 25-yard effort off the crossbar with Alan Mannus beaten all ends up.
This set the tone for a much more evenly-contested affair up to the interval, with Thistle enjoying the upper-hand in possession but lacking a decent final ball, and the home side looking to snatch something on the break using the pace of Michael O’Halloran.
Having worked hard to get a foothold back in the game – and no doubt wound themselves up during the break to turn things around – Thistle then effectively blew their chances by conceding another soft goal with the second half just minutes old. David Wotherspoon sent over a corner and with the visitors defence seemingly in a trance, Anderson slipped forward at the near post to glance home a header.
Even with 40 minutes of the game remaining Saints entered a comfort zone, which, in truth, Thistle very rarely came close to disturbing. Substitute Nathan Eccleston should have reduced the deficit when he beat Mannus in a chase to the ball, but his resultant shot just wasn’t hit firmly enough to prevent a doggedly determined Easton diverting it for a corner. It was a little cameo that perfectly summed up the difference between the two sides on the day.
“St Johnstone are a good enough side without giving them a goal of a start,” lamented Archibald afterwards. “I thought we were the better team in the first half but then we switched off again at the start of the second – you can’t do that.”
St Johnstone: Mannus; Mackay, Anderson, Wright, Easton (Scobbie 82); Caddis, Millar (Brown 24), Lappin, Wotherspoon; MacLean, O’Halloran (McDonald 72).
Partick: Gallacher; O’Donnell (Wilson 73), Balatoni, Seaborne, Keenan; Lawless (Higginbotham 59), Osman, Bannigan, McDaid; Doolan (Eccleston 65), Stevenson.
Referee: G Aitken. Attendance: 2,994.
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