Late Danny Mullen goal secures vital win for Partick Thistle against Morton as Championship promotion battle heats up

Ian McCall’s side moved above the Cappielow side into fourth spot the table

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Partick Thistle ended Morton’s 10-match unbeaten Championship run and leapfrogged their opponents into fourth spot in the table after substitute Danny Mullen’s acrobatic late winner at Firhill.

Following an uneventful first-half, Stevie Lawless had given the hosts a 50th minute lead from the penalty spot before Jack Baird equalised from close range following a goalmouth scramble to set up a grandstand finish.

The match seemed destined to end in a draw until substitute Mullen latched on to Kyle Turner’s corner to snatch an important victory for the Maryhill club.

There was confusion surrounding who got the final touch, but Jags boss Ian McCall confirmed former Dundee and Livingston striker Mullen was claiming it.

He said: “I wasn’t sure at the time who scored the winner but it was Danny Mullen. I didn’t even claim for the penalty either but we’ve seen it again and, these days, it probably is a penalty. His arms were up and it hit his hand. I’d have been disappointed if it was given against my team but with the rules these days, it’s a penalty.

“We deserved to win today and it was a big win for us. I think Dundee are the team most teams want to finish above and we are only two points behind them now. There’s a long way to go but now is the time to be hitting form and ours is pretty good.

“It was great to get (Scott) Tiffoney back. He gives the crowd a lift and will certainly have a big part to play. He’s still nowhere near full fitness yet but we’ll be working him really hard in training. We were inches from a full squad until Harry Milne came in with a sore calf.

“Morton are very hard to play against, they’re a mirror image of their manager, who as player was wanting to prove himself every week which I really admire him for. It was a really hard fought three points.”

Morton, playing their first match of 2023 after their fixture against Ayr United was postponed last week, hadn’t tasted defeat since their previous visit to Firhill at the start of October, embarking on an impressive run which yielded seven wins and five draws in all competitions.

The Cappielow outfit were looking to carry that momentum on and January signing Calvin Miller - drafted straight into the starting line-up - almost got off to a dream start for his new club but was unable to get sufficient contact on the ball after Jai Quitongo’s terrific driving run and cut back inside the opening 10 minutes.

Little could separate the sides as the first-half wore on. Aidan Fitzpatrick clipping the top of the crossbar with a cross-cum-shot just after the half hour mark before a the winger headed narrowly over after meeting Stuart Bannigan’s flighted delivery from the right-hand side of the box.

As temperatures plumeted, the match eventually sprung into life early in the second half when referee Alan Muir awarded the home side a spot-kick after Grant Gillespie was penalised for handball inside the penalty area. Stevie Lawless made no mistake, rifling high into the top left-hand corner, giving Schwake no chance.

Moments later, Morton boss Dougie Imrie was shown two yellow cards in quick succession after a disagreement and heated exchange with Muir before being sent to the stands.

Morton boss Dougie Imrie was sent to the stands after being shown two yellow cards in quick succession at Firhill (Image: SNS Group)Morton boss Dougie Imrie was sent to the stands after being shown two yellow cards in quick succession at Firhill (Image: SNS Group)
Morton boss Dougie Imrie was sent to the stands after being shown two yellow cards in quick succession at Firhill (Image: SNS Group)

The visitors, however, didn’t let that setback effect them and were back on level terms after 57 minutes. Darragh O’Connor’s acrobatic effort was blocked, leading to a stramash and centre-half Jack Baird found himself in the right place to prod home the follow up from close range.

With the game finely poised, both sides went in search of a winner and the introduction of substitutes Scott Tiffoney and Anton Dowds added more creativity in the final third for McCall’s men.

A clever passage of play on 72 minutes saw Tiffoney spray a brilliant pass out to Bannigan on the left and the midfielder’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Kyle Turner. Dowds found himself in space but his header lacked the necessary power to trouble the visiting keeper.

Thistle claimed maximum points in the 88th minute when Morton failed to clear Turner’s inswinging corner from the right. The ball fell to substitute Danny Mullen who produced an overhead kick which sailed past the outstretched Schwake into the bottom corner.

A disappointed Ton boss Imrie felt his side merited something from the game. He stated: “I’ve got to take my hat off to the guys, I think they’ve been different class since the last time we were here. We’re playing a team that is expected to win the league and I thought for large parts of that game we were by far the better team.

“Obviously the penalty changes the game but it shows you the character we got back into the game and score within five minutes. Before that we should have had a penalty and potentially would have gone 2-1 up, but I’m not going to be critical of the boys, I’m really proud of them.”

Partick Thistle (4-2-3-1): Sneddon, McMillan, Holt, Turner, Bannigan, Graham (Dowds; 67), Lawless (Tiffoney; 67), Hodson, FItzpatrick (Mullen; 77), Muirhead, Docherty

Unused: Mitchell (GK), Brownlie, Smith, McKinnon, Lyon, Mackenzie

Greenock Morton (4-2-3-1): Schwake, Strapp, Baird, Blues, Muirhead, Quitongo (Garritty; 89), Miller (McGrattan; 76), Ambrose (O’Connor; 45), Crawford, Gillespie, Grimshaw

Unused: Green (GK), Pignatiello, King, Lithgow

Referee: Alan Muir

Attendance: 3,640 (474 away)

GlasgowWorld Man of the Match: Kyle Turner (Partick Thistle)