St Johnstone 1-2 Partick: Saints stung by Thistle

YOU need to be good and you need to be lucky to win football matches at times, and Partick Thistle were the perfect combination of exactly that as they secured a first triumph at Perth in 21 years.

St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran (left) and Partick's Callum Booth battle for possession. Picture: SNS
St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran (left) and Partick's Callum Booth battle for possession. Picture: SNS

More relevantly, this was a second successive league victory after a terrible start to the season which eases the pressure on manager Alan Archibald, who for once benefited from the sort of fortune that often deserts teams in their position.

Never more so than six minutes from the end when Abdul Osman was sent off for a second bookable offence after deliberately handling the ball, with only referee John Beaton and his assistants convinced the incident occurred outside the penalty area.

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Tommy Wright thought otherwise with the naked eye and had that initial impression confirmed by studying pictures afterwards before the St Johnstone manager emerged to say “It should be [a penalty].

“It happened quickly and the linesman has told the players he wasn’t sure if it was in but it is clearly well inside the box and the officials have missed it. That can happen but it is disappointing when it is that far in the box.”

That break followed Thistle’s first bit of good fortune, though full-back Mustapha Dumbuya will view that as anything but after reporting back ill after playing in Sierra Leone’s World Cup qualifying defeat by Chad.

That gave Gary Miller the chance to face his former club and, as is so often the case in football, it was one that he took with relish by not just scoring but hitting an absolute beauty to break the deadlock after 28 minutes against a team he scored for just once in three years.

He also made an equally important contribution late on when dispossessing Steven MacLean when the striker looked poised to equalise having already taken the ball around goalkeeper Tomas Cerny.

That opening goal was no more than the visitors deserved as Miller’s accurate delivery from a wide area created an early chance for Stuart Banningan to test Mannus with a sharp shot from the edge of the area.

The midfielder then let fly from much further out with a shot that flew past Mannus and the goalkeeper’s right-hand post during an opening spell of play in which the visitors played with a confidence and composure imbued by that unique victory.

They even threatened to give the counterattacking experts a lesson at their own game when Steven Lawless released David Amoo on a rapid breakout only for the former Carlisle United player to underpower his shot.

That’s not a charge you could lay against Miller, or fellow goalscorer Lawless for that matter, as St Johnstone were stunned by a spectacular double blow in the space of six minutes as a team who couldn’t buy a goal until recently looked like they couldn’t stop scoring them.

Miller’s was stunning for more reasons than one from someone who scored just once in three years at Perth as he produced a volleyed finish from 25 yards of a quality and technique more reminiscent of a top striker than a full-back.

Lawless certainly went close to matching it when found a long way out with an innocuous looking throw-in. If St Johnstone thought so then they were sorely mistaken as Lawless lashed a 30-yard drive high past Mannus.

Earlier this week, the St Johnstone manager tipped Michael O’Halloran to break into the Scotland squad this season but even that wasn’t enough to earn the player an instant return to the starting line-up after recovering from injury.

It was no surprise to see the pacey player introduced at the interval, though, and a greater sense of urgency throughout the team resulted in a quick retort as MacLean took his tally to nine for the season with a typically adroit effort.

Thistle were guilty of negligence as they lost track of the striker in the six yard box and when Graham Cummins floated over a cross MacLean was left with a simple task to head into the unguarded goal.

They then withstood a late onslaught as St Johnstone tried to give their manager something to smile about other than that new four-year contract he signed earlier in the week. But it was Archibald who had more reasons to be cheerful on the day.

“We haven’t won here since 1994 so it was very satisfying to change that and Gary [Miller] deserves a lot of credit as Mustapha was a late call- off and he was very good defensively and with his goal.

“I thought we defended manfully but getting the first goal is vital in this league and now we have something to hold on to all we can do is keep battling to get away from the bottom of the league.”

More displays like this one and they should be able to do just that.