24 September 2008 Firhill Stadium 7.45 pm.
Reporter: Kieron Dempsey
Scorers: Thistle: McKeown 33. Rangers: Boyd 25, Pedro Mendes 116.
For the second year in a row Thistle gave their wealthy city rivals the toughest of challenges before losing out by the odd goal. For much of the game Ian McCall’s side matched a full strength Rangers team in every department. Manager McCall started the game by making two changes to the side that faced Morton on Saturday, Donnelly and McKinlay replacing Kinniburgh and Gray, and by changing the formation to an attack minded 4-3-3.
Thistle started the game quickly taking the game to Rangers. Indeed the first real chance of the match came to Thistle with Rowson shooting just wide from a poor Rangers clearance of a Harkins pass.
Rangers had the next couple of chances with Davis shooting wide and Novo’s effort going straight to the keeper. Thistle continued to push forward and another Harkins cross exposed some Rangers defensive problems but the attack came to nothing. Rangers rallied and came back at Thistle and the Jags were lucky not to go one down with Kris Boyd’s poor finishing making it easy for Tuffey to save. In fairness to Boyd he seemed to be expecting the whistle to blow for off-side but the lines-mans flag controversially stayed down, much to the annoyance of Thistle fans.
Rangers continued to press for the opener but the Thistle defence stuck to their task and contrived to thwart Rangers’ efforts. However, in the 25th minute Boyd slammed the ball home from a floating Davis cross to score a superb opener.
Thistle did not fold and went back on attack. This nearly paid off very quickly and McKeown’s drive had to be pushed over the crossbar by an impressive Neil Alexander. However, Thistle got their just reward in the 34th minute when Storey intercepted a Thomson pass before sending the ball through to Donnelly. Donnelly measured his pass into the path of McKeown who shot past the stretching Alexander.
Rangers had two good chances to score before half-time but Novo’s efforts came to nothing the first going well over and the second being easily saved by keeper Tuffey. As half time came the Thistle fans were probably the happier of the two having seen their favourites perform extremely well against the premier league leaders.
Thistle started the second half well and a Roberts drive across the face of the Rangers goal came to nothing with no Thistle player able to connect. Manager McCall had made some tactical adjustments to the Thistle side that all but neutralised the contribution of the talented Mendes. As a result Rangers failed to be as creative as they had been in the first half and although they had a lot of possession real chances were few. However, Mendes did have one decent effort in the 62nd minute, but his shot didn’t trouble the keeper as it went over the bar.
In the 70th minutes Chris Turner came on for Mark Roberts and only two minutes later he tried a diving header in an effort to connect with an excellent cross supplied by Twaddle. Only inches prevented the substitute from putting the Jags ahead.
Three minutes before the end of play, Thistle were again denied by the excellent Alexander who was called upon to make a double save first diving to block Turner’s low drive then getting quickly onto his feet to block Rowson’s bullet.
The action kept going up to the final whistle with Novo shooting over and Tuffey blocking a Chris Boyd injury time effort. The referee then blew for the end of ninety minutes. With the score still one a piece the game moved into extra time.
Chaplain started extra time as replacement for a tired McKeown. Rangers dominated much of the first period for spells but Boyd and Novo both failed to turn their early efforts into goals. The referee who had had a fairly decent game throughout rather harshly booked Storey for a foul on Beasley in the fifth minute of extra time. Three minutes later Manager McCall brought on Damon Gray to replace Simon Donnelly who had had an excellent game. Rangers continued to press and Novo missed another chance this time shooting just wide of the right hand post. Thistle looked a little jaded and tired legs may have been contributing to this. However, after the restart Thistle once again came back into the match with a good move that ended with a weak 25 yard shot from Turner being easily dealt with by Alexander. Kevin McKinlay followed this up only minutes later with a blasting shot that went just wide of the Rangers goal.
Rangers came back at Thistle and Beasley’s speed got him past the Thistle defence allowing him to slip the pass to Kris Boyd who spurned his chance by shooting over. Thistle were matching Rangers in effort and chances but after 116 minutes of play a calamitous error in Thistle defence allowed Beasley to gain possession just outside of the box. Beasey’s pass went straight to Mendes who scored a magnificent goal, his bending shot firing into the Thistle net. Thistle didn’t have time to recover from this but the heads did not go down either. Indeed, they fought with some vigour right through to the end.
The players left the field to the cheers of the fans. A magnificent effort had been brought to an end by a great goal. The match had been a very entertaining affair and all three goals were of the highest quality. Throughout the match the Thistle team were well organised and did not appear like a team from a league below the SPL leaders. Ian McCall and his players had once again given the Thistle fans a performance of which they can rightly be proud.
Partick Thistle: Tuffey, Storey, John Robertson, McKinlay, Twaddle, Rowson, McKeown (Chaplain 90), Maxwell, Roberts (Turner 71), Donnelly (Gray 98), Harkins.
Subs Not Used: Hinchcliffe, Kinniburgh.
Goals: McKeown 33.
Rangers: Alexander, Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Papac, Pedro Mendes, Davis, Thomson, Novo (Lafferty 111), Boyd, Darcheville (Beasley 72).
Subs Not Used: McGregor, Edu, Dailly.
Goals: Boyd 25, Pedro Mendes 116.