Neil McCann demanded a reaction from his listless players both privately and publicly in the aftermath of Tuesday’s dismal loss at Tynecastle, and he got what he was looking for at Dens Park yesterday. The hosts played throughout with a confidence and urgency utterly missing in midweek, earning themselves a valuable victory against fellow relegation battlers and some penalty-kick redemption for what occurred the last time these sides met.
In their October trip to Firhill, McCann’s men dominated the game yet left with nothing thanks in large part to a curious first-half turning point. Leading 1-0, Dundee were then awarded a penalty to double their advantage. Goalscorer A-Jay Leitch-Smith demanded the ball from designated taker Sofien Moussa, only to miss the spot kick. Thistle would go on to win the match 2-1, handing Dundee what would turn out to be their second defeat in a run of five. They’ve not been out of the bottom four since.
So you can only imagine there must have been some trepidation when, after Moussa hit the deck inside the penalty box and was awarded the foul, Leitch-Smith initially picked up the loose ball. This time he resisted the temptation to break rank, handing it to his team-mate to confidently stroke into the back of the net.
While yesterday’s result won’t haul them out of the relegation picture, it at least gives them some much-needed breathing room with Motherwell, Celtic and St Johnstone to face before the winter break.
“I think today we’ve shown the application and the responsibility to go and do what we’re good at,” said McCann. “I’m really happy with the performance, some really good individual performances inside an overall team one.
“Moussa was up against three uncompromising central defenders and I felt he linked the game well.
“The big thing for me today was energy levels and we broke forward with unbelievably good purpose and that really put Partick on the back foot.”
Dundee were so energised in the opening ten minutes that Alan Archibald was persuaded to change the shape of his Thistle side. The 3-5-2 formation, which helped them defeat Motherwell in midweek, was quickly ditched in favour of a 4-2-3-1, though it made little difference to the flow of the game. A minute after Moussa’s penalty, the home side went close again when Leith-Smith’s shot was deflected over. The goalscorer then headed over from a Mark O’Hara cross.
It would be the latter who doubled the advantage. The midfielder was in the right place to rifle home from inside the six-yard box after Leitch-Smith’s shot was parried out by Thomas Cerny following a Faissal El Bakhtaoui cross.
Thistle would finish the half the stronger of the two sides but couldn’t find the goal to give them a lift before the break. Miles Storey shot wide before Ryan Edwards had an effort from inside the area hit Jack Hendry and bounce clear. Edwards would then get on the end of a Conor Sammon cross, but failed to divert it goalbound.
Thistle introduced Chris Erkine for Storey at the half and then brought on Steven Lawless after just six minutes, but the changes made little impact. Despite enjoying some early pressure, they couldn’t force Elliot Parish into making a save, and the game was over as a contest when Danny Devine conceded his second penalty of the game, this time fouling Cammy Kerr. Moussa once again sent Cerny the wrong way.
The result could have been even more emphatic with O’Hara going close with a drive from 25 yards , while a thunderous strike at the back post was pushed over by Cerny.