ST MIRREN moved out of the bottom two for the first time this season with a victory as vital as it was unlovely.
Scorer: Dayton (6)
Then again, as interim manager Gary Teale attempts to secure the job on a permanent basis and the directors seek to sell while they are still in the top tier, pragmatism has taken priority over prettiness down Paisley way.
Given St Miren possess the worst home record in British football, it is just as well they can grind out results on the road. Thus far, 16 of the 18 points they have amassed were won on their travels and they again came out on top here.
Even allowing for the chilly conditions, the early exchanges were antediluvian. Long punts upfield and aerial challenges were the order of the day.
And, as if to prove that a battering ram can be as useful as a key, the opening goal came from percentage football.
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Conrad Balatoni was forced into conceding a corner and Stephen Mallan’s inswinger was aimed at the head of talismanic striker Steven Thompson.
He failed to win the aerial battle but his spoiling jump did enough to see the ball break for James Dayton and the former Kilmarnock winger, making his debut after this week joining on loan from Oldham Athletic for the remainder of the season, scuffed a shot behind Paul Gallacher from 12 yards.
The goal had the effect of jolting the hosts from their lethargy and Ryan Stevenson, who had earlier tested Mark Ridgers with an effort from distance, crossed for Stuart Bannigan, who glanced a header wide from inside the six-yard box.
Indeed, Thistle laid siege to the visitors’ goal. Stevenson couldn’t gain enough purchase on a diving header from Callum Booth’s cross and Ridgers did well to beat out a rising drive from Stephen O’Donnell. Stevenson went close again in the 41st minute, latching on to Kallum Higginbotham’s cut-back before screwing a shot inches wide from 20 yards.
Thistle were just as adventurous – but no more precise – after the break and the impressive Stephen O’Donnell came close with a hook shot over his shoulder which only just cleared the crossbar, while Ridgers held a 20-yarder from Higginbotham.
No quarter was given; Steven Lawless was cautioned for a foul from behind on Kenny McLean and Stephen Mallan had his name taken for a similar offence on Abdul Osman.
The latter had been involved in a personal battle with Isaac Osbourne and the Thistle man was eventually harshly booked for a firm but fair challenge on his rival, who had to be replaced by Sean Kelly immediately afterwards.
John McGinn was next to receive a yellow card (for a professional foul on Stevenson) as Saints effectively reverted to a 4-5-1 formation, content to soak up pressure and hit on the break.
They home support repeatedly complained about the time-wasting tactics but Thistle, who put five past Hamilton Accies in their last outing at Firhill, could have played on until midnight without finding the net.
Considering St Mirren had failed to keep a clean sheet in their previous 30 games – a sequence stretching back to May of last year – that, in itself, was an achievement of sorts.
There were more whispers of discontent when Kris Doolan, who had scored four in that win over Accies, was replaced by Nathan Eccleston, perhaps because their pressing problem was the failure to create opportunities rather than an inability to convert them.
Manager Alan Archibald has bemoaned his team’s lack of consistency since they returned to the elite division last season but, to his frustration, he is clearly no closer to finding a solution.
Partick Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth, Osman (McDaid 74), Bannigan, Lawless, Stevenson, Higginbotham (Fraser 63), Doolan (Eccleston 79). Subs not used: Fox, Craigen, Keenan, Richards-Everton.
St Mirren: Ridgers, Naismith, McAusland, Goodwin, Tesselaar, McGinn, Osbourne (Kelly 63), Mallan, Dayton (McLear 70), McLean, Thompson (Wylde 89). Subs not used: Reilly, Ball, Kello, Baird.