To Partick Thistle a place in the next round of the Scottish Cup – to Penicuik Athletic, well, just about everything else. The East of Scotland Premier League side went behind to what is likely to be one of the fastest goals in the entire competition this season, were expected to then crumble but instead gave the Firhill side such a decent game of it that Ian McCall’s side were pretty glad to see the back of them by full time.
Reece Cole’s well-taken strike after 58 seconds was all that separated the two sides ultimately and Thistle manager McCall, whilst contending that his men should have won more comfortably, conceded that this was one just to get out of the way.
“Huge credit to Penicuik,” he acknowledged. “Their supporters were fantastic, they played very well and when you look at some of the other results in the Scottish Cup today a lot of bigger teams have been put out so we’re pleased to be through to the next round.”
Having suffered the worst conceivable start, it was to their immense credit that the Midlothian side didn’t implode but kept their composure, shape and cohesion. Whilst Thistle sought to capitalise with a quest for more goals, the traffic was soon far from one way.
Encouraged by a loud, proud and pugnacious travelling support, the visitors had a glorious chance to get back on level terms in the 12th minute when Sam Jones was one-on-one with Scott Fox but got his angles all wrong to send his shot wide of the post.
Such was the commendable fashion in which Penicuik had imposed themselves on the game by the interval that the half-time whistle was actually greeted with a chorus of boos by the Thistle fans.
In a clear sign that McCall agreed with their verdict, he rang the changes, with Gary Harkins and Ben Hall being replaced by Kenny Miller and Osman Kakay in a bid to inject some drive into their endeavours.
The impact of the changes was incremental rather than transformational. The hosts enjoyed more control of possession and, aside from a final frantic push, they allowed Penicuik to get barely a glimpse of Fox’s goal.
Cole had a fine chance to add a second but Robert Watt calmly blocked his effort and then Miller really ought to have settled the tie but his close-range attempt smashed off the far post and was cleared.
A couple of plausible penalty claims for Thistle were also somewhat surprisingly waved aside by match referee Mike Roncone.
With the scoreline unchanged heading toward the final whistle, the visitors summoned up some final reserves of energy to give it one last heave but the door would not open for them. Afterwards Penicuik co-manager Tony Begg was rightly effusive about his players’ efforts. “I’ve got immense pride in their performance today. The plan was always that we stayed in the game and that didn’t go out the window despite the early goal.”