St Johnstone 3 - 0 Partick Thistle Scottish League First Division
25 October 2008 Mc Dermott Park 3.00 pm.
Reporter: John Henry’s Underpants
Scorers: St. Johnstone : McCaffrey 14, Craig 62, Milne 70 minutes.
JAGS BLOWN AWAY AS SAINTS STORM TO VICTORY
Another game at McDiarmid, another defeat. These matches are hardly worth reporting on given the regularity with which the Jags leave pointless from Perth.
A week, as they say, is a long time in football, but the transformation witnessed in both teams during the eight that have passed since we overran St Johnstone at Firhill is cause for alarm among the Thistle faithful and something to celebrate up McDiarmid way. Only a Jonny Tuffey save from a Paul Sheerin penalty prevented a complete reversal of fortunes.
Having a number of friends in
Perth, I decided to take the Aidan Smith approach to the day’s game and sit with the opposing supporters.
However, unlike the Heartlfelt and Union Jock author, I could never bring myself to join in their joy, especially when it is at the expense of my own team. In saying that, it was hard to hide my admiration for the way St Johnstone weathered the (literal) storm and emerged comfortable winners.
My day started brightly enough, despite the miserable conditions, when a scally profiteering from St Johnsone’s generosity sold me a complimentary ticket for £10. Further encouragement was to be taken from the way in which Thistle began the game.
The Jags, who lined up 3-5-2 with Storey deputising for the injured Twaddle, Kinniburgh taking the Aussie’s place in the back three and Buchanan partnering McKinlay up front, had two early chances. A Paton free kick was smothered by Main then Liam, making his first start since February, did well to knick in front of the Saints keeper when a kick out was caught by the wind and the ball blown back to the edge of the box.
The forward, whose goals, not to mention his energy and doggedness, have been sorely missed, fired a pass across the face of goal. It was unfortunate, and more than a little frustrating, to see no midfield runners within acres of what would, and should, have been a tap in.
Nevertheless, the Saints were clearly out to avenge their Firhill drubbing and Holmes flashed a header wide of Tuffey’s goal. It was a signal of intent and one which clearly wasn’t heeded as St Johnstone took the lead shortly after.
The home side were awarded a free kick around twenty yards out after Storey fouled former Firhill favourite Martin Hardie. Big Mad Mental elected to take the set piece himself, crashing the ball into the Jags wall. However, the static Thistle defence could only look on as the ball broke to McCaffrey and the defender, a one-time signing target for McCall, fired the ball past Tuffey to score Saints’ first of the afternoon.
The men in blue nearly made it two a couple of minutes later when a sweeping move ended with a Swankie cross that Sheerin looked set to head home only for Chris Millar to bundle his own player out of the way.
Saints were making good use of the ball, particularly in the wide areas, but the next chance fell to Thistle.
A Hardie foul on McKinlay, not Jim Hamilton as The Ghost of Jim Morton - St Johnstone’s more rotund, less venomous, but equally vocal version of Hamilton’s Fergie - would have had the south end of the East Stand believe, resulted in free kick which Holmes headed out. Paton’s in-swinging corner was met by Maxwell, but his goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Sheerin.
The Jags have been accused of lacking invention of late, but they’ve clearly been experimenting on the training ground. A well-worked free kick involving Rowson, Harkins and McKeown presented Maxi with a shooting chance, but his slip in the build up left Main with an easy take.
It was to be the last time Thistle threatened the home goal.
The game was preceded by an impeccably observed minutes silence for Saints legend Charlie McFadyen, described by St Johnstone fans in the build up to the game as ‘the original attacking fullback’. Liam Craig was doing his best to invoke the player’s spirit and fired over after a poor Paton clearance.
Clever play from Millar and efforts from Swankie and Milne ensured St Johnstone ended the half firmly on top.
Saints started the second 45 as they’d finished the first with Craig again testing Tuffey and a last-ditch McKeown block halting a searing Milne run following a Thistle corner. A low Irvine cross then ricocheted off John Robertson and was bundled off the line by Maxwell.
Thistle had survived a penalty shout in the first half when a Milne cross appeared to strike Robertson, but the referee was left in no doubt when Kinniburgh blocked a driven Craig free kick with his arm. Luckily for the player nicknamed ‘bombscare’ by the Thistle support, Sheerin’s penalty was just the right height for Tuffey to make a save.
Saints weren’t to be denied though, and they notched their second following another penalty. Maxwell pulled Holmes down in the box and Craig did what Sheerin couldn’t by rifling the ball into the net from 12 yards.
McCall has been talking of the need for a target man for what seems like an eternity and Holmes is clearly the type of player he’s after. The big striker caused the Thistle defence no end of bother and it was his lay off that saw Milne score his fifth goal in four games.
If this didn’t end the afternoon as a contest then Simon Storey’s sending off definitely did.
The utility man was guilty of missing a great chance minutes before Saints’ third when he failed to convert an inch-perfect Paton cross. This was followed by two poor runs and his frustration clearly got the better of him as he jumped into a two-footed challenge on Gary Irvine that left the referee with no choice but to send him off.
The travelling Thistle contingent must have then feared the worse when Holmes was substituted for MacDonald, so often a thorn in Jags flesh, but St Johnstone were content to pass the ball to death in the closing stages of the match. Milne did have a chance to score his second, but his acrobatic scissor kick a couple of minutes from time sailed harmlessly over Tuffey’s bar.
The win leaves the Perth side one point from the top of the table and the Saints can now march on to Dunfermline knowing a win could send them top. However, Thistle would need to take something from next week’s game against Queen of the South for that to happen - highly unlikely given the Jags’ recent form.
Victories for Clyde and Morton have left us two points from the play-off spot and we’re now looking over our shoulders. The optimism surrounding our last game against St Johnstone now seems like hopeless naivety and it was a crushing way to end a week in which we celebrated the 37th anniversary of our greatest result.
Thistle: Tuffey 7, Paton 7, Kinniburgh 4, Storey 2, Robertson 5, Maxwell 4, McKeown 6, Rowson 6, Buchanan 6 (Gray 4), McKinlay 6, Harkins 5 (Chaplain 4)
Unused subs: Hinchcliffe, Turner, Donnelly
Booked: Tuffey, McKinlay, Harkins
Sent off: Storey
St Johnstone: Main, Irvine, Craig, Millar, Rutkiewicz, McCaffrey, Swankie (Moon), Hardie, Holmes (MacDonald), Milne, Sheerin
Unused subs: Robinson, Anderson, Samuel
Booked: Rutkiewicz, Hardie, Holmes
Goals: McCaffrey (14), Craig (62), Milne (70)
Referee: Colin Brown
Assistants: John Bicknell, Alan Mulvanny