Scorers: Dundee United - Goodwillie (33, 45, 90), Dow (87); Partick Thistle - Elliot (89)
Referee: C Murray
Goodwillie benefited from a brief spell out of the limelight as proved by his double towards the end of the first-half which was followed by his fine finish in injury-time which was more than enough to see them past lacklustre Partick Thistle.
After being taken out of the firing line by manager Jackie McNamara in their previous two league games, the 24-year-old was restored to considerable effect to bring about the downfall of their SPFL opponents, with team-mate Ryan Dow chipping in with their other goal.
The 24-year-old forward would admit himself he hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders since his second stint at Tannadice got underway in the summer after a spell at Ewood Park where he found regular first-team football hard to come by. That paved the way for him to move back to the club where he began his career, until the end of January at least, and he showed why they brought him back with a virtuoso display in front of goal.
Thistle, the SPFL new boys who’ve more than held their own since making the step up, couldn’t reproduce their league form and in the end didn’t do enough to merit staying in the competition any longer.
The hosts were given a pre-match lift when influential defender Gavin Gunning returned to the United defence after missing the past two league games through suspension. There were several changes among the home ranks which included skipper Sean Dillon, along with youngsters Dow, Ryan Gauld and John Souttar dropping to the bench as they made way for Goodwillie, Brian Graham, and Mark Wilson.
Thistle began the brighter side with Ross Forbes something of a livewire who did his best to keep the United defence on their toes every time he seized possession with his back to goal in the final third. As the first-half simmered along with no real sign of things coming to life, former Dundee United midfielder Mark Kerr was cautioned for a foul on Paul Paton in the 23rd minute.
United were struggling to be seen in an attacking sense but in 28 minutes skipper Stuart Armstrong assumed responsibility by releasing Graham inside the box with a slick pass, but the striker’s shot was saved by Scott Fox, the Thistle keeper.
In 38 minutes, though, United went ahead. Paton cut the ball back in the direction of striker Nadir Ciftci but it was Goodwillie who stepped in and managed to jab the ball outwith the reach of Fox for the opening goal.
It was just Goodwillie’s second goal for the Taysiders since returning in the summer on loan from Blackburn, but one that gave the hosts a vital lead. Thistle were by no means deterred by falling behind and with just minutes remaining of the first-half, Kris Doolan out-muscled Calum Butcher inside the six-yard box and saw his shot flash past Radoslaw Cierzniak’s far post.
However, right on the stroke of half-time the hosts increased their lead. Wilson’s textbook corner was met by Goodwillie whose glancing header nestled in Fox’s top right-hand corner. The timing was almost perfect to give his team-mates a suitable cushion going into the break, but Thistle, under boss Alan Archibald, are not the sort of team to simply crumble and accept defeat.
The second half started with the visitors doing their utmost to try to find a way back into proceedings and striker Kallum Higginbotham led the way with a 16-yard snap-shot which Cierzniak held comfortably. Thistle’s frustration at not being able to spark a comeback became apparent as Christie Elliott was booked for lunging in on Ciftci in 72 minutes.
Goodwillie had a chance for his hat-trick in 82 minutes but couldn’t connect with Andrew Robertson’s tempting cross. With five minutes remaining, substitute Dow completed the scoring with a close-range finish after Goodwillie’s low drive had come back off the post.
Elliott pulled a goal back for the visitors in the final minute with a neat run and left-foot finish from 12-yards.
But the night belonged to United, and in particular Goodwillie who grabbed his hat-trick with a thunderous finish in injury-time from Armstrong’s set-up.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Wilson, Robertson, Butcher, Gunning, Paton, Goodwillie, Rankin, Graham (Dow 51) Armstrong, Ciftci (Gauld 75). Subs not used: Dillon, Soutar, McCallum.
Partick Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Taylor-Sinclair, Welsh, Balatoni, Dolan (Baird 51) Forbes (Lawless 65) Piccolo, Elliott, Kerr, Higginbotham (Craigen 75). Subs not used: Paul Gallacher, Osbourne.