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Partick Thistle 0 Inverness CT 0: Profligate hosts strike out again

HE approached with all the gravitas of the experienced physician.

Stuart Bannigan, left, tries to lift the ball over Graeme Shinnie. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Stuart Bannigan, left, tries to lift the ball over Graeme Shinnie. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

"This was symptomatic of our season," he told those taking the temperature of Partick Thistle at a chilly Firhill. He was a fan rather than a doctor but he was attuned to giving bad news.

This was the eighth attempt by Partick Thistle to win a home match in the SPFL Premier League. It was the eighth failure. Thistle have not won at home in the league in Scotland's top division since Rudolph did not have a red nose, being only a social drinker then.

However, the temptation for those of a Jags disposition is to reach for the bottle after another afternoon of disappointment sprinkled with despair. It being the season to be merry, it is incumbent upon the neutral observer to point out that Thistle supporters they can be partially consoled by the return of Stephen O'Donnell from injury and the realisation that another point takes them further from the doomed Hearts and also from Ross County, now favourites for the play-off spot.

The story of the match was familiar to the regulars at Firhill. Thistle had the better of the game but not of the awarding of spoils in terms of points. Their chances fell into two distinct categories. The first was the traditional sitter. Thus Kris Doolan headed over from two yards, Kallum Higginbotham volleyed over from six yards and hit the legs of Dean Brill from a similar distance and Steven Lawless sent a diving header past the post from close-in.

The second category of Thistle woe was conjured up by the hands of Brill who saved well from Christie Elliott and Ross Forbes.

No matter the category, the result was the same. Missed chances cost points. Thistle were excellent against Kilmarnock last week and were the more enterprising side yesterday but instead of a possible six points, they have to be content with one.

There is, consequently, a feeling of restlessness even nervousness among both support and players. Thistle can move with a pleasing fluidity but their final pass was misplaced because of a frantic urgency or a simple lack of purpose. This was highlighted in the attitude to free-kicks which were taken hastily, even carelessly.

Shoved around in the early stages by a muscular Inverness, Thistle grew in stature in possession, in energy and drive, particularly after the excellent O'Donnell came on after the break, but they remained cowed by pressure in front of goal.

If the impotence of Thistle in the final third was hardly unexpected, then they were reprieved by profligacy from an unexpected source. The best chance for Inverness came when substitute Ben Greenhalgh headed wide from within the six-yard box, but the one most likely to be converted arrived after just 18 minutes when Conrad Balatoni's slipshod passback found Billy McKay.

The striker shot quickly and with certainty but the effort was diverted wide by the legs of Scott Fox. McKay, a target for Peterborough, Burnley, Bournemouth and Rotherham, was not to have another significant opportunity, though he constantly hovered on the shoulders of the Thistle central defence. His problem was that Graeme Shinnie could not quite find him from the flank and that Aaron Doran was unable to thread the ball into his path.

With Richie Foran missing because of a shoulder injury, Inverness lacked both a direction and drive at times, allowing Thistle to prosper until the serious business of converting chances into that invaluable currency of goals.

The result, thus, had enough to keep both managers from heading straight for the festive carry-out.

"The positive was that we got a clean sheet but I felt we deserved to win the game on chances created," said Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager.

It was as difficult to argue with this as it was comprehend his explanation for the lack of goals. "It's not happening, we're hitting things too well," he said, as if Doolan, Higginbotham and Lawless were guilty of misdirection and not of a surfeit of technique. It may be, though, that Archibald is simply weary of coming up for explanations for what appears to be inexplicable for those in the stands.

"We could do with a sclaff or an own goal," he added.

John Hughes, the Inverness manager, was typically sunny but could cast no light on the future of McKay beyond simply saying: "What will be will be."

This example of the philosophy of acceptance may have to be adopted by Thistle fans who will be hoping that Archibald succeeds in the loan move for Farid El Alagui from Brentford.

The diagnosis of Thistle as a victim of chronic disorder in front of goal remains. The signs, though, are that they will survive in the top flight.

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