Partick Thistle 1, Dundee United 3

DUNDEE United defender Brian Welsh made his farewell appearance of the

season at Firhill last night and, in the process, may have helped his

club to safety in the premier division.

For Welsh, turned striker for the night, scored two goals to hoist

United four points clear of bottom side Aberdeen and just one point

behind last night's opponents and Hearts in the battle against


Welsh had been thrust into a striker's role in a gamble by new manager

Billy Kirkwood.

Afterwards, the player admitted: ''I have never played there before

from the start of a game. Obviously, there have been times when I have

been pushed forward late in a match when we are maybe trying to salvage

a result.

''But that's the first time I have started off up front. The manager

only told me before the game but I had played there in training with

Scott Crabbe yesterday.

''I was just delighted to get the goals because I start a four-game

suspension now and won't be able to help the team any more.

''I will be cheering them on from the stand but I wanted to go out

with some kind of gesture. This was perfect.''

Welsh's goals came in the second half when United had the best of this

relegation battle.

His first arrived after 66 minutes when a ball was played into the

Thistle penalty area. It was partially cleared and broke towards the

18-yard line. Billy McKinlay -- another Tannadice player who will miss

the rest of the season through suspension -- won a tackle and stabbed

the ball towards Welsh, who hit a low shot past Nicky Walker and into

the net.

That gave United the lead for the second time in the match. They had

gone in front as early as the sixth minute when David Hannah had headed

a cross from David Bowman into the net at the far post.

Thirteen minutes later Thistle had hit back. A cross from Alan Dinnie

was half cleared by Jim McInally. It dropped to Steve Pittman just

outside the United penalty box and the Thistle full back hammered a shot

into the net.

It had remained that way until Welsh's first strike. Then, 11 minutes

from the end, Welsh put the game beyond Thistle's reach.

This time it was a more typical goal from the big United player. A

corner from second-half substitute Andy McLaren reached him and he sent

his header past Walker for his own second goal, and United's third.

Welsh left the field a minute from the end to be replaced by Sergio

but, by then, his job had been done.

Kirkwood, celebrating his first victory since taking over at

Tannadice, admitted: ''When you are in this kind of situation then you

have to try something different, you have to gamble.

''We did that by playing Brian up front. We had discussed it

previously and decided it would be right and it paid off for us.

''Obviously, the other result went in our favour but we know that

there is still some hard work to be done in the three remaining games.''

The battling qualities which have pushed Thistle towards safety over

the past few weeks deserted them in a match which might have guaranteed

their place in the top flight next season.

Manager John Lambie said: ''This was a match which could have meant so

much to us. We could have left United and Aberdeen stranded -- but we

lost the opportunity.

''To be honest, United deserved to win as they always looked the

hungrier side. I don't know what happened to us but I've told the

players what I think and also what is needed from them in the remaining


There was just one booking in a match, Gordan Petric for barging

Thistle substitute Rod McDonald late in the game.

PARTICK THISTLE -- Walker, Dinnie, Pittman, Watson, Welsh, Turner,

Grant, Craig, McWilliams, Cameron, Taylor. Substitutes -- McDonald,

Milne, Cairns.

DUNDEE UNITED -- O'Hanlon, Perry, Malpas, Petric, Welsh, McInally,

Bowman, McKinlay, Crabbe, Hannah, Dailly. Substitutes -- McLaren, Gomes,


Referee -- G A Evans (Bishopbriggs).

* EAST Stirlingshire leap-frogged Ross County into the second top spot

in the third division last night with a 3-2 victory over Queen's Park at

Firs Park.

* RANGERS last night retained the BP Youth Cup with a 2-0 victory over

St Johnstone at Hampden, with Brian McGinty and Paul McShane scoring the

goals for the Ibrox side.