Dominant Partick Thistle breeze past Kelty Hearts into Scottish Cup fourth round but fan boycott takes centre stage

The Jags comfortably disposed of their League One opponents in front an all-time low attendance at Firhill.

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Partick Thistle advanced safely into the Scottish Cup fourth round draw after breezing past Kelty Hearts 3-0 in front of an all-time low attendance of under 1,500 at Firhill.

A large group of around 100 supporters decided to boycott the match in protest amid the ongoing fan ownership dispute which continues to rumble on behind the scenes at the Championship club. Fans gathered at the canal bridge outside the John Lambie Stand before making their way down past the stadium to vent their anger towards the club’s board and PTFC Trust before kick-off and carried on their protests from afar after the final whistle.

Goals from Brian Graham, Anton Dowds and Tony Weston on the park booked Thistle’s spot in the last 32 of the competition, with both sides playing out the second half with ten men after Jags skipper Ross Docherty and former Thistle player Joe Cardle were sent off by referee Craig Napier following a heated altercation.

Jags manager Ian McCall admitted: “The bottom line is that we won the game and we’re into the next round. We were the better team in the first half but didn’t really create much. I thought we improved in the second half and there was a lot of pace when the subs came on.

“We looked a real threat, we created chances and their only attempt was when the boy (Nicky) Low hit the bar with an unbelievable free-kick. It was a comfortable win but it didn’t really feel like it during the game.

“We’ve been on a bad run and have now won our last two games, scored six goals and conceded none. I was pleased with the way the players focused on the game. We couldn’t really see or hear the people who were up there (protesting). It was strange not having the atmosphere.

“I’ve looked at the red card back and I felt it was really soft. I’ll speak to Gerry Britton and we will decide whether to appeal it. It didn’t look like an out and out stamp. I hate to say it but he (Joe Cardle) was a little bit high with a tackle and went over the ball. They could both have been booked and we could have got on with it.”

Asked if he had a preference on which team he would like to face in the next round, McCall replied: “I see Drumchapel United also won - I used to take their training when I was out of the game. I would take anyone in the next round and I’d love Drumchapel, just to see wee John Black (chairman).”

The visitors arrived at Firhill aiming to spring a cup upset after reaching the last-16 of the competition for the first time in their history last season. Their starting line-up included four ex-Jags players with Cardle, Kallum Higginbotham, Jamie Barjonas and Thomas O’Ware all facing their former side.

It took the visitors a while to settle into the tie and they conceded an early goal after just seven minutes. Kyle Turner’s low cross from the left was flicked home at the front post by the unmarked Brian Graham who was allowed to wriggle free of his marker far too easily.

The Fifers eventually managed to test Jags goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon on 21 minutes when Alfredo Agyeman latched onto Reis Peggie’s through ball, but the striker’s effort was comfortably held by Thistle’s No.1.

Tempers flared after 38 minues when Cardle was involved in a stramash with Docherty and Stevie Lawless. Both Thistle players reacting angrily towards the 35-year-old’s challenge on Docherty and a melee ensued before referee Napier brandished straight red cards but failed to caution Lawless for his involvement in the incident.

Moments later, Brian Graham came to blows with O’Ware on the halfway line after exchanging words following another aggressive challenge but this time Napier allowed both players to escape with just a booking.

The second half sparked into life just shy of the hour mark when Kelty Hearts midfielder Barjonas flashed a long-range attempt narrowly wide of Sneddon’s right-hand post. Thistle responded by breaking up the park and half-time substitute Anton Dowds outpaced O’Ware before firing low into the net from 12 yards out.

Youngster James Lyon then rattled the frame of the post with a powerful strike. John Potter’s side had a mountain to climb but they almost pulled a goal back through Nicky Low’s thunderous 30-yard free-kick which cracked off the underside of the crossbar with Sneddon beaten.

Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson, who has spent the week in London speaking to potential candidates to become the club’s next manager, was an interested spectator as he cast his eyes over two Gers loanees Cole McKinnon and Tony Weston.

The latter stepped off the bench to replace Dowds, who was forced off after sustaining a head knock, and Wilson will have been impressed by the youngster’s impact. Within six minutes of entering the fray, Weston coolly slotted past visiting keeper Liam Campbell into the bottom corner after being slipped through one-on-one by Cammy Smith to kill off the tie.

Smith almost got on the scoresheet himself minutes later after pouncing on an error from Campbell but the former Aberdeen youth star fluffed his lines from close range with the goal at his mercy as Jordan Forster hooked the ball clear to safety.

Partick Thistle (4-3-2-1): Sneddon, McMillan, Milne (Lyon; 65), Brownlie, Turner, Bannigan (Akinola; 81), Graham (Dowds; 45) (Weston; 72), Lawless (Hodson; 45), McKinnon (Smith; 56), Muirhead, Docherty

Unused: Mitchell (GK), Mullen, Fitzpatrick

Kelty Hearts (4-4-2): Campbell, Peggie (Austin; 66), O’Ware, Martin, Forster, Cardle, Barjonas, Higginbotham, Tidser (Low; 66), Agyeman (Doherty; 78), Lyon (McGill; 80)

Unused: Jamieson (GK), Logan, McNab, Cameron, Kamgna Junior

Referee: Craig Napier

Attendance: 1,484 (90 away)

GlasgowWorld Man of the Match: Stuart Bannigan (Partick Thistle)