PITY the poor punter. The form book suggested that Thistle, who had lost their four previous home games and who hadn’t beaten yesterday’s opponents in nine attempts, would struggle to avoid being sucked back towards the relegation zone.
Scorers: Partick Thistle - Doolan 3, Balatoni 9, Bannigan 65
Instead, they steamrollered Saints from the first whistle and could have been home and hosed inside the opening ten minutes.
As it was, they were two up by then. Dilatory defending by the visitors contributed to their downfall at both goals, with Kris Doolan heading his ninth of the campaign from Abdul Osman’s cross while latecomers were still taking their seats.
Lessons were clearly not learned when Conrad Balatoni rose unchallenged to beat Alan Mannus with a header from Stuart Bannigan’s corner.
Sandwiched in between was another opportunity for Doolan. Bannigan’s incisive pass sprung the offside trap and he took the ball round the goalkeeper only to fire wide of the gaping goal.
The Perth side appeared to be traumatised by their catastrophic start and it required a fine save by Mannus to turn over a powerful shot from Ryan Stevenson.
It could have been worse. When Murray Davidson sliced an attempted clearance into the path of Stevenson, the former Hearts midfielder volleyed against Mannus’ left-hand post.
Michael O’Halloran should have thrown his side a lifeline just before the interval when he was picked out by Brian Easton’s cross, only to get under his shot and fire wastefully over.
Thistle continued to look the likelier side and Balatoni wasted another free header as Saints showed few signs of improvement.
However, it took something out of the ordinary to underline their superiority. Saints again failed to clear at a Stephen O’Donnell free-kick and Bannigan, pictured left, the day’s outstanding performer, lashed a 25-yarder into the postage-stamp corner.
The result hoisted Thistle nine points clear of Motherwell in the play-off position with as many fixtures remaining.
Doolan, who led the line well throughout, has no doubts that the Jags will not become embroiled in the dogfight at the bottom.
“This result has helped,” said Doolan. “It was important that we bounced back from a poor display at Ross County and an emphatic win like this one shows just what we’re capable of. They had a chance at 2-0 and it could have been different but we still stuck the third one away. We just look at ourselves and I think we controlled the game and restricted them to just a few shots.
“If we can keep up that level of performance until the end of the season we’ll see where it takes us.”
Saints manager Tommy Wright was, understandably, less pleased with what he had witnessed.
“We are disappointed,” he said. “We have made too many mistakes in our third of the pitch and that isn’t like us and it won’t be like us.
“It’s a blip from us defensively and we will bounce back.”
Partick Thistle: Fox; O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth; Osman, Bannigan (Fraser 85); Craigen, Lawless (Wilson 80), Stevenson; Doolan (Taylor 82). Subs not used: Gallacher, Richards-Everton, McDaid, Keenan.
St Johnstone: Mannus; Mackay, Anderson, Scobbie, Easton; Swanson (Croft 66), Millar, Davidson, O’Halloran; Wotherspoon (McFadden 55); MacLean (Kane 77). Subs: Banks, Wright, Graham, Miller.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 3,196.
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