Peter MacDonald scored twice for Morton Photograph: SNS
With Celtic, Rangers and Queen of the South all heading off into their respective horizons, Scotland's World Cup hopes forlorn, and parochial interest in Europe likely to last just a couple of weeks more, at least our second tier still has a distance to travel.
Victory for Morton yesterday would have meant another double figures advantage being accrued at the summit of a Scottish league, but when the dust had settled around a breathless Cappielow, the only thing anyone knew for certain was that we were one match closer to a conclusion. A second-half double from Peter MacDonald, the second from a penalty cancelled out strikes from Chris Erskine and Steven Craig to keep Partick staring at an eight-point disadvantage, balanced by three games in hand, starting with Hamilton on Tuesday.
That elusive quality known as fighting spirit will be crucial, and for Allan Moore this match showed his team have it in abundance. While Hugh Murray, a cartoon villain here for his past life in Paisley, found himself sent off at this venue for the second time this season late on, earning a second booking for aiming his head at MacDonald, the only angry words Morton exchanged were among themselves in the home dressing room at half-time.
"If we had gone on to win it 3-2, Thistle would have been moaning but that is their discipline problem," Moore said. "Instead I had to break up a bit of a barney in our dressing room at half time because our boys were angry about losing the first goal. That is good, it shows there is a bit of fight in them."
Fully 21 days had elapsed since Thistle last played, and new boss Alan Archibald named himself as a sub and largely stuck to predecessor Jackie McNamara's game plan. Meanwhile, Moore went with the same personnel and 4-4-2 formation which routed Airdrie last week, risking the wrath of Martin Hardie by leaving him on the bench. "He didn't shake my hand so I think he's in a bit of a huff," said Moore.
A quarter of a century is a long time to go without top-flight football, so the pre-match tension was building even before Morton chairman Douglas Rae made one of his periodic on-field ventures, Delia Smith style, with Morton legends Andy Ritchie and Jim Holmes in tow. A healthy contingent among the 5647 fans had travelled from Glasgow for the privilege of being drenched on the open terracing.
But the rain went off and they didn't have to wait long for something to celebrate. The initial incursion was made down the left by Aaron Sinclair and, after a deflection off Scott Taggart, the ball arrived at Erskine, who guided it beyond Derek Gaston. There was an instant reaction from the hosts as MacDonald struck the bar with a free-kick, Colin McMenamin passed up a glorious chance, then Scott Fox saved with his feet from David O'Brien.
Thistle were sensing their first away league win since September, not least when Steven Craig doubled their advantage just after the break when he nodded in Ross Forbes' cross. However Hardie had now arrived and soon the hosts had a lifeline when MacDonald sent a free- kick into the bottom corner.
Erskine could have settled the game when his header went straight at Gaston, but when Murray used an arm to repel a Michael Tidser shot, a penalty was awarded and dispatched by MacDonald. Suddenly shorthanded, Thistle clung on for the point which leaves the title race as intriguing as ever.
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