MARTIN Canning’s prospects of succeeding Alex Neil as manager of Hamilton Accies dimmed following this toothless display at Firhill.
Scorers: Hamilton - Doolan (29, 44, 60, 62), Eccleston (89)
Having failed to win a point in his first two games in charge, the 33-year-old could only watch disconsolately from the sidelines as Hamilton fell to their heaviest defeat of the campaign. It almost goes without saying that this was Thistle’s biggest winning margin since returning to the top tier last season and the scoreline did not flatter them. While their opening goal was dubious – to say the least – they could easily have added a few more to their tally, such was their undoubted superiority.
As it was, Kris Doolan – substituted to a standing ovation with 11 minutes remaining – became the first Jags player to score four times in a match since Ian Cameron in 1993 as Thistle, without a league win at home since 4 October, crushed their opponents.
The visitors were without Canning due to suspension but no-one saw this coming. Indeed, they came close to taking the lead in the eighth minute when a dipping 20-yarder from Ali Crawford beat Paul Gallacher but shaved the outside of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Gallacher also made the first save of the evening, holding a looping header from Michael Devlin underneath his crossbar after the defender had peeled away from his marker to get on the end of Crawford’s delivery. Thistle’s first chance came in the 26th minute when Doolan’s driven cross was met by Ryan Stevenson but he couldn’t adjust the angle of his run in time and headed wide from point-blank range.
However, the former Hearts midfielder played a key role in the opening goal, which arrived, in controversial circumstances, just two minutes later.
Michael McGovern could only parry a ferocious drive from Kallum Higginbotham and Stevenson was first to react to the rebound, clipping the ball over the Irishman as he spread himself to block the shot. The ball may have gone in without further assistance but top scorer Kris Doolan, following up, made sure by prodding it over the line from what looked like blatantly offside position.
Accies appealed at length to referee Craig Thomson and his assistant, Kylie McMullan, but the goal was allowed to stand.
While Accies sulked over that perceived injustice, Thistle almost doubled their advantage when Frederic Frans sent a header just wide from an Higginbotham free-kick. Steven Lawless went similarly close with a snapshot from Doolan’s knockdown before the second goal finally arrived a minute from the break.
This time the roles were reversed, with Doolan accepting an incisive pass from the midfielder before swivelling to place a low, left-foot shot inside the far post from ten yards for his sixth goal of the season.
Canning replaced the ineffective Jon Routledge with Louis Longridge at the interval but the pattern remained unchanged, with the hosts utterly dominant.
Lawless was unfortunate to see a rising shot come back off the crossbar, leaving Stevenson with an open goal.
Fortunately for the visitors, the ball became trapped under his feet and McGovern recovered to block his effort from the rebound.
In the great scheme of things it counted for little as Doolan completed his first senior hat-trick just after the hour.
There seemed to be little room for manoeuvre when he received the ball 12 yards out, facing his own goal and with a defender behind him but he feinted to his right and wrong-footed everyone with an audacious back-heeler which trundled inside McGovern’s left-hand post.
Accies were shell-shocked and fell further behind immediately after the restart when Doolan stole in to head home an inviting cross from Lawless for his fourth. It was an achievement befitting a bigger audience but the select few who braved the freezing conditions to get behind their team at least witnessed something out if the ordinary, even if the tiny band of supporters from Lanarkshire could be forgiven for not appreciating it.
They became even more disgruntled when Nathan Eccleston, who had replaced Doolan, piled on the misery with his first league goal.
Sean Welsh picked him out with a cross from the left and, although McGovern managed to push out the striker’s first shot, Eccleston picked himself back up to nonchalantly sidefoot home from eight yards out.
Partick: Gallacher; O’Donnell, Frans, Seaborne, Elliott; Osman (Welsh 69), Craigen; Lawless, Stevenson, Higginbotham (McDaid 73); Doolan (Eccleston 79). Subs not used: Basalaj, Balatoni, Wilson, Keenan.
Hamilton: McGovern; Gillespie, Devlin (Watson 52), Tena, Hendrie; Routledge (Longridge 46), MacKinnon; Imrie, Andreu, Crawford; Antoine-Curier (Brophy 64). Subs not used: Hill, Watson, Docherty, El-Zubaidi, Redmond.