St Johnstone 1-1 Partick: Substance over style

IF THIS match was an animal, it’d be a pig – unattractive, noisy, full of grunt and gristle and with virtually no panache or style. Some pigs are worth putting lipstick on, but this porker doesn’t even deserve that.
Steven MacLean fires the ball home to grab the equaliser for St Johnstone. Picture: SNSSteven MacLean fires the ball home to grab the equaliser for St Johnstone. Picture: SNS
Steven MacLean fires the ball home to grab the equaliser for St Johnstone. Picture: SNS

Scorers: St Johnstone - MacLean (42); Partick Thistle - Doolan (6)

No amount of cosmetic enhancement could disguise the shortcomings of a match which looked like an escapee from the lower leagues.

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Not that both managers didn’t try to talk up a game which provided them both with a valuable point. “We deserved to win the game because we had a lot of pressure in the second half and we’re frustrated that we didn’t come away with all three points,” St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright reckoned, perhaps a smidgen optimistically.

Thistle’s Alan Archibal d was probably closer to the mark. “A draw was the right result,” he said. “We dominated for the first thirty minutes and they changed their shape and then came right back into it. We both had chances to win the game.”

The match had actually started pretty promisingly. Kris Doolan has been in superb goalscoring form this season and at times yesterday he looked sharp, straining at the leash and combining well with Kallum Higginbotham, who roved down the right wing to great effect.

It was no surprise when, with Partick taking control from the outset, the striker opened the visitor’s account after little more than five minutes with a brilliantly-taken solo goal when Doolan latched onto a hoofed clearance, skipped inside Steven Anderson and then around the onrushing Saints keeper Alan Mannus before threading the ball in from an impossibly acute angle.

It looked as if Anderson, who was clearly in agony, had dislocated his thumb when falling over in the process of being turned inside out by Doolan and he would play no further part in the game, with later reports suggesting that the defender has undergone an operation on the damaged digit and may be out for some time.

The loss of Saints’ defensive lynchpin undoubtedly went some way to explaining why Partick had the whip hand, dominating territory and possession while looking far more incisive in attack, but it was by no means the whole story.

The real story of the first half lay in the way in which Partick stopped St Johnstone playing down the wings and crowded them out in the centre of the park, with the muscular Isaac Osbourne particularly effective. With the strangely out-of-sorts David Wotherspoon, so often the main supply route into Stevie May, effectively shackled, the visitors were on top for the whole of the first half.

Yet, despite the obvious relish with which Thistle went about their business and despite the ever-present threat provided by Doolan, they rarely threatened to extend their lead. The closest they came was when Doolan’s glancing header from an Aaron Taylor-Sinclair cross went inches wide of the post. It was an inability to get a tangible reward for their dominance which was to cost them.

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St Johnstone, while labouring to get into the game, nevertheless managed to threaten occasionally, and keeper Paul Gallacher had to save smartly from both Stevie May and a Dave Mackay free-kick. Two minutes before half-time Saints got the goal that they barely merited when Paddy Cregg was worked clear in the penalty box, but hesitated for far too long, only for Steven MacLean to drill the ball from the edge of the penalty box right under Gallacher to make it one apiece.

After the break, Saints changed their shape and steadied the ship. Stevie May was the prime beneficiary of a palpable determination to move the ball forward more quickly and more directly. The ponytailed striker was shooting on sight and, within ten minutes of the restart, he had put three shots on target, the first being blocked by Gallacher, the second being deflected and the third being hooked away by two defenders.

In fact, the second half was a mirror image of the first, with Saints creating the lion’s share of scoring opportunities, while Partick tried to hit them on the counter-attack. Fortunately for the away side, keeper Gallacher was in absolutely superb form, saving smartly from Chris Millar and May, while Mackay mishit a fantastic chance at the death that he would usually have buried.

That, though, was to be the last genuine chance for either side. At the final whistle, both sides trudged off to a stony silence. Every point may be golden, and both managers may look back on this as a valuable result, but it certainly didn’t feel that way for the McDiarmid Park faithful.

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