Ask any Dundee United supporter and their prime concern invariably is staying up. But here they at least gained some measure of welcome respite from their on-going fight against relegation by proceeding into the Scottish Cup quarter-final.
Mixu Paatelainen’s side, who sit bottom of the table and face the ominous threat of dropping down to the Championship unless they can sustain their recent revival between now and the end of the season, left it late through Scott Fraser, their inspired substitute, whose 85th minute winner proved enough in the end to edge out Alan Archibald’s visitors and provide them with back-to-back wins for the first time this season, having defeated Kilmarnock 5-1 in their previous encounter.
It was far from vintage stuff for their long-suffering supporters as they ground out victory more than anything, but the Tayside club, who lifted the trophy by beating Ross County at Hampden back in 2010, will hope they can add further to their momentum in the coming weeks when the much more significant issue of retaining their top-flight existence will be decided.
“It’s a very good feeling to be through,” said Paatelainen. “That was the aim and we got the job done. It was not the best performance- wise but we fought for it.
“It was a fantastic finish. Fraser is a good finisher with great technical ability. It was just great to see the ball hit the back of the net.
“Of course, we want to build on this and try to win every game. The players have been great in their approach so all credit to them for getting us through into the next round.”
Partick, having beaten Motherwell 1-0 in the league courtesy of Steven Lawless’ last-minute goal earlier in the week, began brightly and Sean Welsh’s 22-yard shot was spilled by the home keeper, Eiji Kawashima, before the United defence swept the ball to safety.
The visitors looked the more likely side to get their noses in front. Callum Booth’s cross from the left was aimed for Lawless, but he couldn’t connect with the ball at the far post after Kawashima had advanced off his line trying to smother.
The second half started with Guy Demel linking with Blair Spittal before Paul Paton shot high over the bar from 25 yards.
Thistle, in an attempt to lift the tempo, made a double substitute in 64 minutes as Mathias Pogba and Gary Fraser replaced Welsh and Kris Doolan. But it was United who almost opened the scoring in 67 minutes.
John Rankin went on a surging run down the left before crossing low into the six-yard area where Simon Murray was lurking.
It looked like Murray would make contact to put the hosts in front but the striker just missed out by inches.
Fraser, in 76 minutes, almost made an instant impact as he hit a goal-bound shot, only for it to be deflected wide by Welsh.
But the 20-year-old, having only been on the park for 20 minutes, wasn’t to be denied with five minutes left as he latched on to Spittal’s through pass and steadied himself before slotting a left-foot shot into Tomas Cerny’s far post for a goal fit to win any tie.
“It was a sore one with the late goal,” admitted Alan Archibald, the Partick Thistle manager. “We got the benefit of that the other night against Motherwell and now it’s gone against us. It looked like a draw all day.
“I didn’t think anyone deserved to win the match. There wasn’t a lot quality on show. We were good defensively up until they scored their goal.
“We gave the ball away in a bad area and credit to United for scoring a quality goal. We didn’t create anywhere near enough today which was very disappointing.
“We changed the shape to combat the way United play.
“They are very, very direct with their two boys up front. I thought we handled that and had a wee spell in the second half before the substitutions but it filtered away unfortunately.”