Partick Thistle 2 - 2 Rangers: Gers pass up chance to go top

Partick Thistle's Blair Spittal (right) celebrates his equaliser with Christie Elliott. Picture: SNS
Partick Thistle's Blair Spittal (right) celebrates his equaliser with Christie Elliott. Picture: SNS
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It may no longer trip off the tongue quite as pleasantly but it was still the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill for thrills as Partick Thistle and Rangers went toe-to-toe in a tumultuous Glasgow derby.

The ground was given a new name this week but this was old-fashioned blood and thunder as Thistle marked the sponsorship deal by scrapping their way to just their second Premiership point of the season.

For Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha, momentum and consistency continue to prove painfully elusive. This was his 20th match in charge of the Ibrox club and he has yet to oversee three consecutive victories.

He appeared to be on course to change that statistic when Alfredo Morelos gave Rangers a half-time lead with his eighth goal of the season. But Blair Spittal’s brilliant free-kick and Chris Erskine’s tap-in put Thistle in sight of a first win over Rangers since 1993.

Those hopes were dashed when Erskine was sent off for a foul on Morelos and Graham Dorrans rescued a point for Rangers who will still regard this as a missed opportunity to gain genuine traction ahead of the first Old Firm game of the campaign at Ibrox next Saturday.

It was frenetic Friday night fare with both sides fully committed to the pursuit of very different objectives. The motivation for Thistle was to drag themselves from the rut of such a poor start to their league campaign, while Rangers were desperate to find the winning consistency which has proved so elusive since their return to the top flight last season.

Caixinha made just one change to the starting line-up which swatted Dundee aside last Saturday, Josh Windass replacing Niko Kranjcar. But he was forced into another alteration after 12 minutes as captain Lee Wallace succumbed to what appeared to be a groin injury sustained while blocking a shot.

It meant a Rangers debut for Declan John, the Welsh international left-back signed on loan from Cardiff on the last day of the transfer window, as the 22-year-old stepped off the bench into the fray.

He was able to join his new team-mates in their celebrations of Morelos’ breakthrough seven minutes later. Windass saw a shot blocked by Daniel Devine but Thistle were unable to fully clear the danger as Spittal was dispossessed by Ryan Jack.

He picked out a pass to Morelos on the right of the penalty area and the in-form Colombian front man produced an impressive finish, drilling a right foot shot across Thistle ‘keeper Ryan Scully into the opposite corner of the net from a tight angle.

It was exactly the start Rangers desired but although they dominated possession, there was little fluency in the play of either side for lengthy spells,

It took Thistle until the 28th minute to get a sight of Wes Foderingham’s goal when Miles Storey’s cross from the right picked out Erskine but the midfielder blazed his volley wildly over.

Morelos was earning the approval of the visiting fans with his enthusiasm and eagerness to get involved whenever possible, typified by a back-tracking challenge to dispossess Ryan Edwards. It set up a dangerous attack which saw Kenny Miller cleverly head a Dorrans cross back into the path of Windass whose shot was blocked by Adam Barton.

Such was the tempo of the contest, physical flashpoints were almost inevitable. There was an angry flare-up when Jack went down in agony following a 50-50 challenge with Edwards. The Rangers player required lengthy treatment, during which tempers on both sides were eventually cooled.

The visitors continued to look the more threatening side and Windass might have done better than slide a shot wide of Scully’s right hand post after being picked out by James Tavernier’s cross.

There was another opportunity for Rangers in first half stoppage time when Paul McGinn was booked for fouling Windass on the edge of the penalty area, but Daniel Candeias’ free-kick lacked conviction and was blocked.

Candeias had another chance at the start of the second half when Tavernier set him up but this time his weak shot floated wide.

Rangers were made to pay for their failure to secure the cushion of a second goal when Spittal equalised in stunning fashion. Fabio Cardoso was caught out by a long ball as he bundled Storey to the turf just outside the penalty area. Spittal’s free-kick was exquisitely struck, taking a slight deflection off Bruno Alves on its way into the roof of the net.

Caixinha replaced Miller with Eduardo Herrera in an attempt to regain the initiative but suddenly it was Thistle who had the wind in their sails. The dramatic turnaround saw them take the lead on the hour mark.

Spittal was the creator this time, played onside by Tavernier as he sprinted into the Rangers penalty area on the right. His low cross found Erskine unmarked at the far post for a simple tap-in.

Caixinha, who was now staring down the barrel of yet another mini-crisis, responded with his final change of the night as Carlos Pena came on for Jack.

Having put Thistle in command, Erskine then inexplicably put them at risk with his needlessly wild challenge on Morelos which earned him a straight red card from referee Willie Collum.

Rangers eagerly grasped the lifeline and made it 2-2 in the 77th minute, Dorrans bending a superb right foot shot high beyond Scully’s left hand from around 20 yards out.

Rangers laid siege to the Thistle goal in the closing stages but were unable to find a winner.