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Fresh blood, but no end to Thistle's home horror

THAT sinking feeling continues to wash over Partick Thistle.

Stevie May celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game against Partick Thistle. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Stevie May celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game against Partick Thistle. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

While the initial attempt to win this match on December 14 was drowned in the deluge as the game was halted at half-time, the Firhill club's ambitions of recording their first home win in the SPFL Premiership were swept away again last night in the cold drizzle.

Thistle may have sent a torrent of attacks forward to bring about their first home league victory for 285 days - the last came against Morton in a 1-0 First Division triumph - but their fragility at the back was to be their undoing again, with Stevie May taking full advantage to net his 20th goal of a quite extraordinary season for the St Johnstone forward.

Large swathes of this game - and pretty much the majority of the second half - were played on the edge of the visiting penalty box with Thistle peppering Steve Banks' goal, yet the win to take them out of 11th place in the league rarely looked like materialising as St Johnstone climbed to within two points of fifth-placed Dundee United.

Alan Archibald, the manager at Firhill, has consistently played down this record, insisting his players are not concerned by the increasing clamour for some home comforts. There was little evidence of that last night. His team were frantic in their early play, before eventually settling for jittery as the game wore on.

Their passing was hurried but at times haphazard while frustration from a lack of clear-cut opportunities before the closing stages was taken out in a series of angry skelps from range. "We were lucky to get in at half-time 1-0," admitted Archibald. "They dominated before we eventually got a bit of life about us. The ball just wasn't dropping for us but it's been like that all season."

Despite Kilmarnock and Ross County both coming from behind recently to draw 1-1 and 3-3 respectively - providing a bleak backdrop to this Firhill tragedy - home hopes had been raised that this could be the night by the addition of two members to the Glasgow side's squad. Defender Lee Mair made his debut at centre-half after joining from St Mirren while the creative influence of Chris Erskine was reintroduced to the Thistle ranks in a loan switch back to his old club from Dundee United.

Erskine was part of the Thistle team which defeated Morton back in April, yet his inclusion failed to trigger an immediate reaction as St Johnstone started brightly. Firstly, stand-in goalkeeper Paul Gallacher did well to divert Paddy Cregg's dipping shot from the edge of the area over the bar on 12 minutes, while Gary McDonald's close-range effort was flagged for offside as the Thistle defence began to creak.

May went close not long after as Lee Croft's rampaging run down the right flank finished with a bullet delivery across the six-yard box, only for the flailing locks of the Perth striker to narrowly miss the ball. Yet it took less than 60 seconds for May to make sure with his next effort.

David Wotherspoon's jinking run from the left took out three Thistle defenders, leaving May unmarked on the penalty spot. Wotherspoon eventually managed to steer a cutback in the striker's direction and May had plenty of time to calmly pass the ball neatly underneath Gallacher.

"David's been a dream for us this year," said Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager. "He's been playing in so many positions for us this season. But we've been encouraging him to come in off the line and get shots in. It was a great assist and of course Stevie tucked it away nicely."

From then on, it was all about Thistle. Kallum Higginbotham's driven free-kick whistled by the post for almost an immediate reply, while a similar attempt from Lyle Taylor forced Banks to defy his 41 years and leap low to his right to claw the ball away. Following the break it was more of the same but with more intensity as Thistle came flying out of the blocks. Within five minutes of the restart Banks was called upon again, smothering a Gary Fraser half-volley from range before watching on helplessly as Taylor's shot into the turf looped inches over the bar.

Archibald threw caution to the wind in the final stages as Christie Elliot and Kris Doolan were brought on to assist Taylor and Erskine upfront, with the latter three all guilty of wasting clear opportunities in the last 10 minutes. Taylor skimmed the post from 18 yards, Erskine poked the ball over inside the area with an outstretched leg while Doolan's turn and shot saw the ball trickle across goal and by the far post.

That miss triggered a scream from the stands of "How long are you all going to do this?" The question may have come from a lone voice, but it was a thought shared by many.

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