Partick Thistle 4 Queen’s Park 3: Brian Graham nets stoppage time winner as Jags edge seven-goal play-off thriller
The Jags blew a two-goal lead but hit back right at the death with Graham’s 97th minute winner.
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Partick Thistle put themselves in the driving seat to advance to the Scottish Premiership play-off semi-final after edging an epic seven-goal first leg thriller against Queen’s Park at Firhill.
Clinical strikes from Kyle Turner and Jack McMillan put the Jags in control before Dom Thomas replied for the visitors. Aidan Fitzpatrick’s tap-in restored the hosts two-goal advantage before long-range efforts from Malachi Boateng and Thomas set up a grandstand finish. However, Graham’s close-range finish deep in stoppage time won it for Thistle.
Ayr United await the winner of the two-legged quarter-final tie after receiving a bye following their runners-up finish in the Championship on a dramatic final day.
Thistle manager Kris Doolan, who spoke of the disappointment at blowing their chance to finish second in the table and leaving them with two extra games to play pre-match, joked he felt himself ageing during the madcap 90 minutes.
He said: “I was 36 when the game started and I feel a lot older now! What a game it was. Matches like that we could have previously lost or drawn but we have won and that shows to me we have so much character in the team.
“That’s why you leave guys like Brian on the park in games like this for the big moments in big games. I thought we deserved to win and the big man got a well deserved goal. I feel with the squad we have, if we get half a chance we will take it.
“Aidan, Scott, Brian and Kyle are all dangerous and can take chances. There was a clear foul in the build-up to Queen’s Park second goal and I can’t believe it wasn’t given. The referee is five yards away and it isn’t a difficult one. Then look what happened, they got back in the game at 3-3 and felt they had the impetus.
“Luckily we scored so late for the winner. We played 97 minutes - and have the fitness and desire to keep going and get a winner. That shows our mental strength. It’s not finished yet. We know we need to go again on Friday, but we will go there and look to win the game, as we always do.”
Aiming to bounce back from their agonising 5-3 defeat to champions Dundee, which ultimately cost Owen Coyle’s men the title last Friday and saw them somehow finish in third spot, Queen’s Park appeared to show no ill-effects from that devastating setback and could easily have found themselves with a two-goal lead inside the opening five minutes.
After a sluggish start from the hosts, Grant Savoury curled an effort from the edge of the box inches wide of the target after controlling on loan Motherwell winger Connor Shields’ low cross. Moments later, Thistle keeper David Mitchell had to react smartly to deny Charlie Fox at his near post after a corner caused havoc in home defence.
That missed opportunity seemed to act as an early wake-up call for the Maryhill club and Kyle Turner drove a powerful strike narrowly over the bar in a frantic start to the match.
From there, Thistle managed to settle and find their rhythm, knocking the ball around with confidence. The deadlock was broken after 15 minutes when a clever pass in behind saw Turner hit the by-line under pressure before managing to evade his mark. He then proceeded to go it alone and fire a low strike from a tight angle, which took a slight deflection off Fox on route to finding the back of the net.
The Jags, who were unbeaten in six games coming into the match, thought they had a quickfire second just three minutes later when Scott Tiffoney drilled the ball to the back post where Brian Graham was lurking and the towering frontman tapped home from close range. However, the goal was chalked off for offside.
Just when it seemed Queen’s were starting to apply a bit of pressure, the home side doubled their advantage after 28 minutes. With the Spiders defence all at sea, Tiffoney was allowed time and space to drive into down the right-hand side. The playmaker then slipped the ball inside for Jack McMillan and the full-back took one touch before unleashing a fercious effort high into the roof of the net with Ferrie left helpless.
A thrilling first-half took another dramatic twist when Dom Thomas handed the visitors a crucial lifeline on 32 minutes when he broke through the middle and despite having options to his right, the ex-Kilmarnock midfielder decided to try his luck from the edge of the box. The ball fizzed through several red and yellow jerseys before creeping past the outstretched Mitchell.
It was Thistle who began the second half firmly on the front foot and they should have restored their two-goal cushion. Substitute Aidan Fitzpatrick dragged a shot wide of the far post before he turned provider for the lively Tiffoney, who stabbed an effort wide after finding himself one-on-one with Ferrie.
Both sides were extracting every last ounce of energy they had in their armoury and the Jags were ready to pounce again with a little over 20 minutes remaining. The Queen’s rearguard were caught napping once more and presented Tiffoney with time to knock the ball across for the unmarked Fitzpatrick to slot into an empty net.
That led to chants of “There’s only one team in Glasgow” from a jubilant home support as the clock ticked down towards full-time.
Queen’s were looking leg-weary and out of ideas but out of nowhere they managed to reduce the deficit with seven minutes left to play. Malachi Boateng was well positioned to pick up a loose ball on the edge of the box and the Crystal Palace loanee’s first-time strike took a wicked deflection before wrong-footing Mitchell and finding the net.
The Thistle dugout were furious with referee Kevin Clancy’s decision to allow the goal to stand after claiming there was a foul in the build-up. And the madness continued moments later when the Spiders levelled the tie after 87 minutes.
Thomas embarked on a mazy run unchallenged into the Thistle half before firing a long-range strike into the bottom left-hand corner, sparking wild celebrations from the travelling fans.
However, that wasn’t the end of the drama. In the SEVENTH minute of stoppage time, the impressive Graham latched onto a long ball in behind a tiring Queen’s backline and he drilled a shot across the face of goal into the far corner.
Queen’s Park boss Owen Coyle believes his side are more than capable of turning the tie around on Friday night at Ochilview.
He admitted: “We started brilliantly and should have been in front. We could have been 2-0 up in the first five minutes. Instead, we found ourselves 2-0 down but came back. The thing which was going to be tested here was our mentality, given what happened last Friday night when we had a chance of winning the league.
“At 2-1, we made a terrible error for their third goal. But we worked our way back into the game and got to 3-3 looking fresh and lively. To lose like that was disappointing but from what I’ve seen, we can win the game on Friday.
“We need to defend better but if we do, then we know we can score. We’ve shown this season we are capable of clean sheets. It’s a kick in the teeth but we will regroup and get ready for another big game. There is all to play for and that’s the nature of the play-offs.”
Partick Thistle (4-2-3-1): Mitchell, McMillan, Holt, Brownlie, Turner, Tiffoney, Bannigan (Fitzpatrick; 34), Graham, Lawless (Hodson; 75), Muirhead, Docherty
Unused: Sneddon (GK), Dowds, Smith, McKinnon, Mullen, Owens, Stevenson
Queen’s Park (4-2-3-1): Ferrie, Oakley (Kilday; 85), Robson, Fox, Longridge, Thomson, Thomas, Davidson (Robson 52), Savoury (Jarrett; 45), Bannon, Shields, Boateng
Unused: Heraghty (GK), Henderson McPake, Moore, Healy, Eze
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Attendance: 3,754 (315 away)
GlasgowWorld Man of the Match: Dom Thomas (Queen’s Park)