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Partick Thistle 4 Ross County 0: Thistle shine brightly after visitors are polished off

Partick Thistle were kept in cold storage for an extra couple of days this summer but it was to prove a welcome return to SPFL Premiership action last night.

Stuart Bannigan reacts after opening the scoring on an impressive night for his Thistle side. Picture: SNS
Stuart Bannigan reacts after opening the scoring on an impressive night for his Thistle side. Picture: SNS

Just a few months after a defeat by Ross County rounded off their first campaign back in the top flight, Alan Archibald's side kicked off their second against the same opponents, reversing the result and catching the eye as they got off to a winning start with a 4-0 triumph.

A 10th-place finish last season was not a true reflection of the performances which Thistle put in and the aim this time around is not just to survive among Scotland's top-ranked clubs but become one of the more established teams in the league. One game in, they have their first four goals, three points on the board and have set themselves a high standard to go with their lofty ambitions.

Victory over County was more than deserved as the Highland side suffered a second straight Premiership defeat. "We had a few performances like that last year but didn't score the goals," said Archibald, whose side had been scheduled to open their campaign against Celtic last weekend.

"The difference tonight was that we put the ball in the box and made them defend and we got the goals from that. We completed the perfect performance from ourselves."

It took Thistle, complete with summer arrivals Daniel Seaborne, Abdul Osman and Ryan Stevenson, 20 minutes to find their feet but when they finally got going, there was to prove little let-up for the Dingwall defence as the hosts knocked the ball about the pristine Firhill pitch with speed and precision.

Kallum Higginbotham was one of County's main tormentors but he got himself booked needlessly when, after collecting a slack pass from Tim Dreesen, he was penalised for diving after attempting to round goalkeeper Antonio Reguero. It was the first of several let-offs for Derek Adams' side as Stephen O'Donnell and Gary Fraser both came close to scoring, the latter hitting the near post from a tight angle.

With Thistle well into their stride, the pressure continued to grow and Stevenson and Stuart Bannigan were both denied by Reguero before Jake Jervis spurned County's first chance. He fired a shot across Scott Fox's goal after breaking clear of the Thistle backline.

Thistle made the most of their reprieve. It was a goal typical of the style of play Archibald has drilled into his squad - Higginbotham's neat pass on the edge of the area collected by Bannigan, whose cool dink over Reguero got Thistle off and running and gave them a deserved lead.

It was an advantage they were more than worthy of but one they almost let slip as the half drew to a close. Scott Fox saved well from Rocco Quinn before Graham Carey's superb strike rattled the crossbar as Archibald and Firhill breathed a sigh of relief.

When the play resumed after the interval, Thistle picked up where they left off as they went in search of the second goal to take a huge step towards the three points. They did not have to wait long.

With 54 minutes on the clock, O'Donnell collected Fraser's slide-rule pass and his cross struck County substitute Ben Frempah and looped over Reguero as the home crowd rose to their feet once again, but not for the last time. Victory was in sight.

Once again, County came back into it after Thistle scored, Fox denying Jervis at point-blank range, but the home side were too good, too clinical. Their third goal of the night was the best of the lot, Steven Lawless jinking his way into the area before Christie Elliott teed up the on-rushing Fraser, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner to put a shine on an already polished performance.

There was still time for an added sheen, however. O'Donnell ensured his name was definitely on the scoresheet as a low strike in the dying stages helped Thistle get off to the perfect start.

"It was a bad night for us," said Adams. "But you can take nothing away from Partick Thistle. They deserved to win. We could have scored a couple of goals, we hit the bar and Scott Fox pulled off a couple of good saves. The best team won."

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