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Partick Thistle 3 Aberdeen 1: First home win is a tale of the unexpected

ALL season long Partick Thistle fans have traipsed to Firhill in hope rather than expectation.

Partick Thistle's Conrad Balatoni scores his side's opening goal Photograph:SNS
Partick Thistle's Conrad Balatoni scores his side's opening goal Photograph:SNS

That unstinting dedication was finally rewarded as they witnessed their heroes win a league game at home for the first time in 14 attempts.

If they could bottle that feeling of euphoria evident among the Thistle fans as they strode jauntily out the ground at full-time, beaming smiles on faces, it would surely sell for a fortune.

This being Thistle, that most unpredictable of institutions, the milestone victory was achieved not against a fellow play-off candidate but against Aberdeen, the second-best team in the country. In a neat coincidence, when Thistle last won a top-flight home match - back in May 2004 - Aberdeen were the vanquished opponents that day too.

The victory lifts Alan Archibald's side out of the relegation play-off spot and was thoroughly merited. Thistle barely threatened in the first half but came alive after the break, scoring three times and threatening to bash in several more. It was quite the transformation. Lyle Taylor was again the hero, the January recruit scoring twice and passing up a further three good chances.

Such has been Thistle's misfortune at home this season a sense of anxiety was still tangible as they entered injury time guarding a two-goal lead but there would be no agonising collapse this time. The roar that greeted the full-time whistle could have taken the roof off the Jackie Husband stand. "I didn't celebrate until the fourth official said there were three seconds left," admitted Archibald.

"It's been like that - hard to celebrate a goal because you'd know what was round the corner. There has been stick, deservedly so, for not winning here until now, so credit is due to the lads."

Thistle had been accused in the first half of the season of lacking a cutting edge but Taylor may well have provided the solution.

His first goal after 64 minutes to put Thistle 2-0 up was simplicity itself, the on-loan Sheffield United striker barely having to move to redirect Kallum Higginbotham's cross from the right. There was a bit more to do for his second as he fastened on to Gary Fraser's long pass, eased past Russell Anderson before shooting across the goalkeeper and in off the post.

He will be kicking himself that he didn't go on to claim a hat-trick, thudding one effort over the crossbar, another into the side netting, while a third was saved by Jamie Langfield.

Those misses could have proved costly on another afternoon but not this time. The striker shuffled off six minutes from time to a rousing round of applause.

He was not the only Thistle player reinvigorated by Archibald's half-time team talk. They hollered for a penalty when Mark Reynolds appeared to handle, Higginbotham had an effort blocked and Prince Buaben turned and shot wide.

Eventually Thistle got the goal their efforts deserved after 58 minutes, with Lee Mair's shot reaching Conrad Balatoni who fizzed it into the corner.

Taylor's first goal shortly after gave Thistle a two-goal cushion but that advantage would last less than two minutes as Adam Rooney pulled a goal back with a header from Niall McGinn's free kick. In previous games that would have signalled the start of a desperate Thistle rearguard but this time they continued on the front foot, which was rewarded with a third goal.

There was a sign after 17 minutes that this maybe wasn't going to be Aberdeen's day when they missed a penalty. It was Paul Gallacher who conceded it, the goalkeeper bundling down Rooney as the striker veered across the box but Barry Robson's kick was saved by Gallacher and Rooney's rebound attempt was deflected for a corner.

Minutes later Rooney and Gallacher became entangled again in the Thistle area but referee Alan Muir chose not to act for a second time.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes felt his side failed to recover from the setbacks of Thistle's early second-half strikes.

He said: "Credit to Thistle. They deserved the win and were much more clever than us in the last half-hour. The players are used to winning, but we have no divine right to win all the time."

Thistle's second-half resurgence meant it would, finally, be their day. They would have been dancing in the streets of Maryhill last night.

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