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Partick Thistle 3 Hibernian 1: Archie's awfully big adventure brings home the points

While a discomfited Terry Butcher could do little but mutter dire warnings, his opposite number's embarrassment of earlier in the week was forgotten as he was rewarded for an adventurous approach to the bid to avoid the Premiership play-offs.

Lee Mair rises above the Hibernian defence to head home Thistle's second goal Photograph: SNS
Lee Mair rises above the Hibernian defence to head home Thistle's second goal Photograph: SNS

One of the great defenders of his generation, the Hibernian manager takes pride in knowing how to stop other teams scoring so is clearly squirming at the way his team is leaking goals.

Exonerating only youngsters Sam Stanton and Duncan Watmore, not for the first time, Butcher threatened afterwards that sweeping changes could be on the cards ahead of next week's meeting with St Johnstone and that more youngsters may be given opportunities.

In fairness, Alan Archibald's front men could hardly have had made life any more difficult for the Hibs defenders and the Thistle boss, who suffered the ignominy of being sent off in front of his own club's youngsters a few days earlier for back chat during an under-20s match, praised them warmly.

"It's the first time we've had all four of Kris Doolan, Lyle Taylor, Chris Erskine and Kallum Higginbotham on the park from the very start," he observed. "To get them all on the pitch they've all got to work very hard and as a management team we were pleased with the way they worked off the ball as well."

Archibald noted that the opening goal had summed up the quality of their collaboration, Higginbotham beating two men then nudging the ball into the penalty box wide on the right for Taylor to run onto before his inviting cutback was made even more so by Doolan's dummy.

Momentarily, it seemed the only problem with the manoeuvre might be that Erskine, whom it had released into open space 16 yards out, squarely in front of goal, had bought it as much as the Hibs defenders.

He seemed to be looking the other way but he reacted well, gathering the ball then lashing a left-footed shot that gave Ben Williams no chance.

For all Hibs had enjoyed much more of the game in the first half hour or so, winning a string of corners but rarely threatening, it was Williams who had kept the scores level, diving high to parry a powerful Higginbotham shot.

Arriving a minute before the break, though, the goal set the tone for an excellent second half.

Thistle extended their lead from a free kick on 59 minutes. Higginbotham slung it in at a trajectory that made it relatively straightforward for Lee Mair to flick a header into Williams' bottom left corner.

Hibs' reaction was rapid this time, their two bright young things combining as Stanton got away on the left then cut the ball back to Watmore who miscued at his first attempt from just inside the box but pirouetted and then slotted the ball to the left of Paul Gallacher.

The Thistle keeper subsequently had to respond sharply to stop a Stephen O'Donnell own goal as the ball bounced off the retreating defender from a cross from the right by Gary Heffernan.

But as the match moved into injury-time, Thistle secured a deserved win when Christie spotted Higginbotham isolated wide on the left and found him with a cross-field ball.

He raced goalward then showed composure in getting into the box to slip past the covering Paul Hanlon and Jordon Forster.

He stepped sideways away from the out-rushing Williams and claim a goal to cap a fine effort by the forward and his colleagues.

When asked what disappointed him most about his side's performance, Butcher said: "Lots of things. I think Hibs fans have seen this performance so many times. Performances like that have happened all too often for Hibs in the past.

"It will be an interesting team selection next week. I'd rather go with kids and lose if we're going to lose, but let's go with kids. At least they're honest.

"Today Watmore and Sam Stanton were excellent for us and they tried their socks off, but they are being let down by other players."

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