This scrappy and uninspiring encounter hinged on a dramatic 60-second period which saw a glorious opportunity for three precious points for Partick Thistle spill out of their grasp and instead be gobbled up gratefully by Hibs.
The visitors looked to have opened the scoring with 20 minutes remaining. Baily Cargill’s header was only partially saved by Cammy Bell and as the ball was crossing the goal-line it was touched in by Danny Devine. Unfortunately for Alan Archibald’s men, the goal was disallowed for offside.
Martin Boyle then tore down the right wing and his low cross from the byline found Jamie Maclaren, who beat the goalkeeper with a front-post finish. Paul Hanlon’s header a short time later sealed the victory as insult was soon added to injury for Devine, who received a second yellow card for a foul on Florian Kamberi.
The result pushes Neil Lennon’s side to within four points of Rangers and Aberdeen in second place. Thistle, meanwhile, stay in the relegation play-off spot, three points behind Dundee. They believe they were wrongly denied the chance to put serious pressure on Neil McCann’s men ahead of today’s match with Hibs’ Edinburgh rivals Hearts.
“I watched the disallowed goal back. We think offside has been given against Miles Storey because he was standing around the area of the goalkeeper,” said Archibald. “But he didn’t impede the goalkeeper who made the save and the ball trundled into the net even before Devine got to it so I’m not quite sure but I didn’t waste my time chapping his door.”
His opposite number saw it differently. “He was in Cammy’s line. So in the letter of the law it looks like it was the correct decision,” said Lennon. “So we got a decision going for us for a change. It’s really nice that, it’s great. We are still owed about 15!”
Hibs were uncharacteristically sluggish and complacent throughout the opening half. The positive was that Thistle struggled to create anything of note while the hosts still forced the better chances.
The visitors should, however, have made more of a terrific opportunity in the third minute when on-loan Hearts player Conor Sammon flicked round the corner for strike-partner Storey. The attacker looked to have the beating of Efe Ambrose, the last defender, only he failed to properly control the ball as he attempted to run with it.
It wasn’t until the 26th minute that the first proper chance arrived and it came via the ingenuity of Scott Allan. The playmaker’s free-kick cross dropped right on to the six-yard line as Ambrose came running in. All the defender had to do was make solid contact and it was almost certainly a goal, though he fluffed his lines.
Dylan McGeouch saw a curling effort from 20 yards excellently repelled by Tomas Cerny. It did come at a cost, though, as the Czech keeper was injured making the stop and forced to go off.
Thistle ended the half brightly with Ryan Edwards curling a shot into the arms of Cammy Bell from 20 yards at the end of a promising counter-attack. The half-time whistle brought with it merciful relief and the hope of better things to come after the break.
While the contest didn’t immediately roar into life, it did begin to heat up around the hour-mark as three chances followed in quick succession.
Ambrose allowed Storey to nick the ball from him at the corner flag. The striker’s cut-back found Sammon who was denied by a reflex stop from Bell. Up the other end, Allan found Maclaren with a perfectly-weighted reverse pass. The Australian’s shot was deflected by Devine, who managed to take enough sting out of the effort to allow Adam Barton to clear.
Two minutes later Storey caused Ambrose more trouble as Marvin Bartley’s well-timed slide tackle presented the ball to the Thistle attacker running in. Once more he found his composure lacking as he thumped his effort high and wide of the target.
Then came the minute which decided the match. With Thistle distracted by the disallowed goal, Boyle crossed for Maclaren to score the opener. Five minutes later Thistle were finished. Hanlon raced across the box to meet Allan’s corner, sending a looping effort beyond substitute goalkeeper Ryan Scully.