CHRISTMAS is a time of tradition, and deep into injury time at the end of this scrappy contest Partick Thistle obliged with one of their own.
Scorers: Thistle - Craigen 58; Dundee - Balatoni 90og
For there can be no other team in the Scottish top flight who’ve thrown away points with the alarming regularity that Thistle have. Time and again they outperform opponents and fail to earn a victory. It’s why, after 18 months in the top tier, they’re still looking for back-to-back league wins.
It wasn’t even as if they getting the kitchen sink thrown at them. Chance-wise, Dundee did little of note throughout the 90 minutes and, despite three attacking second-half substitutions, they still didn’t look like beating Paul Gallacher.
Instead, one of their opponents did that for them. Conrad Balatoni’s attempt to block a Phil Roberts shot saw him shank the ball into the bottom corner, leaving the Firhill crowd with a horrible feeling of deja vu.
“I think the lads are learning because it’s a different type of goal we’re conceding,” manager Alan Archibald said. “Last season we were sitting too deep, this time it comes from our own goalkeeper’s kick out where we’ve bodies pushed up the park and don’t get back.
“That’s two home games now we’ve drawn one each. You look at St Johnstone’s win today. They ground out a victory. That’s the difference when you’re looking to get into the top six.”
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The opening 45 minutes was something of a non-event. Greg Stewart should have reacted better when presented with a chance just inside the penalty box, which he blasted over the bar. And, at the other end, James Craigen should have opened the scoring long before he did after being played through one-on-one with Kyle Letheren. The midfielder curled his effort right on to the keeper’s chest.
The move which preceded the goal had little business arriving in such a sloppy match. Dundee were caught napping by a quick throw-in which allowed Kallum Higginbotham to advance the ball into box. There, he played a reverse pass to Ryan Stevenson, who duly delivered a low cross into the six-yard box which Craigen couldn’t fail to dispatch into the back of the net.
Suddenly the hosts began playing with the type of attacking verve they’re renowned for. Gary Fraser went close with a rasping shot which grazed the outside of Letheren’s left-hand post, while Craigen wasted a chance to double his tally after Stevenson found him with a cut-back on the edge of the 18-yard line, managing to side-foot it high over the crossbar despite having ample time to steady himself.
Martin Boyle, Luka Tankulic and Phil Roberts were all introduced by Dundee, and it was the latter who provided the telling, if highly fortunate, contribution.
David Clarkson picked up the ball 25 yards from goal before feeding it wide for Roberts. Stephen O’Donnell backed off his man, allowing Roberts to fire in what initially looked like a cross – he later admitted it was a “terrible” shot – that found the net off Balatoni.
Even though they’d earned a tough away point, manager Paul Hartley couldn’t hide his disappointment. “We need to play better,” said Hartley. “Hopefully it’s that little bit of luck which jump starts us, because we’ve got a big period coming up.
“We’re down to the bare bones, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. Hopefully, with January coming up, we can strengthen by bringing in one or two players.”
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