The acclaim that greeted the final whistle in this game told you everything about how much these three points meant to Partick Thistle. The roar may have been made up of a mixture of elation and relief but on discovering that this victory had also been enough to lift them off the bottom of the Premiership it added a whole new meaning to notion of Christmas cheer.
A rare strike from Niall Keown just beyond the midway point of the first half was enough to ensure it was no unlucky 13 for Alan Archibald’s men as they extended their long unbeaten sequence over Hamilton Academical and continued their impressive home form which may yet be a crucial factor in lifting clear of the drop zone. The Thistle manager was happy that his side had prevailed in what was undeniably a high pressure fixture for his side given recent reverses.
“It was a great reaction from the lads,” he reflected, “but at one-nil it’s always going to be in the balance. I’m delighted with the clean sheet and that we saw the game out.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. We played Hamilton earlier in the season and it was a similar game – a game of few chances. It’s good psychologically for the players going into the Christmas period with us off the bottom of the table.”
Any notion beforehand that the high stakes attached to this encounter might lead to a dull, cagey affair were quickly dispelled in some brisk opening exchanges. Chris Erskine burst clear for the hosts and should really have opened the scoring after only eight minutes but his shot was too close to Gary Woods. At the other end former Hamilton ‘keeper Tomas Cerny thwarted his old teammates with a brilliant one-handed save from a net bound Dougie Imrie header.
Despite this scare Thistle merited their advantage at the interval. There was an energy and determination about their play that put the normally well-drilled visitors’ rearguard at constant unease. Blair Spittal’s tenacity paved the way for the breakthrough, winning a corner through sheer persistence. He took the set piece himself and the ball landed on a plate for Keown to drill it into the net from six yards.
Archibald’s men may have been forced deeper as Accies sought to salvage something after the break but they still went close as another pacey counter-attack saw Erskine’s curling shot clip the top of the crossbar. If that one had gone in it would have saved the home support from some pre-festive heartburn as for a 15-20 minute spell in the second half Hamilton gave it their all as they chased a leveller.
David Templeton watched in disbelief as Cerny topped his earlier save with a stupendous reaction block from his perfectly struck drive. A short while later it was the frame of the Thistle goal that denied the Accies winger, his 20 yard snap shot cannoning to safety. But unlike the blustery gale that swirled around Firhill the visitors’ storm blew itself out and some composed Thistle defending eventually saw them over the line.
“I thought we dominated the second half” insisted disappointed Accies manager Martin Canning. “We had three or four chances that you’re wondering about how they didn’t go in. It just wasn’t to be.”