I went to this match expecting Partick Thistle to be beaten in a typically scrappy, frustrating game. I expected little to set, a mostly empty, Firhill alight. The game would probably be won, if at all, by a goal in injury time, a scrappy finish, shamelessly allowed by some pathetic defending. A few half hearted boos would ring out and that would that. I went to the match expecting an excellent anecdote to show the difference between the 'Maryhill Magyars' and their esteemed neighbours.
What I got was a game those esteemed neighbours would be proud of. My first Thistle match in a long while and what a match it was. A 6-1 demolition of Stirling Albion.
|Thistle fans in the Jackie Husband Stand.|
Thistle are wearing their centenary kit. It's not actually their centenary year as they were founded in 1876 but, if I remember rightly, it represents 100 years at Firhill. A Firhill that, on my arrival, doesn't appear to have any away fans.
I soon spot them. A small, hardy bunch of Albion fans occupy the other end of the stand I'm sitting in. Two sides of the ground are empty and all fans are seated in the one. The Jackie Husband Stand, oddly enough named after Jackie Husband a centre half who played for Thistle between 1938 and 1950, amassing 371 appearances.
I'm let into the ground for nothing today as under 16s go free to league games this season. Despite some debate with a steward about my age I am reluctantly shepherded in, arriving at my seat just in time for kick off.
The match starts with my expectations still intact; scrappy frustrating football from both sides played out on a pitch that's considerably worse for wear. Thistle ground-share with rugby union side Glasgow Warriors and it's certainly taking it's toll on the pitch. I begin to dread coming here, it doesn't look like it'll be that exciting a contest and I'm soon considering getting my half-time pie early.
|The packed away end and immaculate playing surface.|
However it doesn't take long before skinny striker Kris Doolan, in response to my "Doolan's crap isn't he? Doesn't have any strength or pace!" pushes his way through the Albion defence to net the first for Thistle. I later learn that he's the top scorer so far this season with 7 goals.
The short moment of elation is quickly diminished when the game resorts back to the scrappy, mistake-ridden football we saw before.
'It won't be long,' I think, 'before they equalise. I'll give it 5 minutes.' Then, when a goal kick is beautifully headed into the empty Main Stand I decide that now is the time for a pie.
I somehow manage to miss the second goal. It was shown on a TV screen above my head but, as luck would have it, I took that very moment to ask how much the crisps were.
The goal was scored by Iain Flanagan. A midfielder signed at the start of the season from Kilmarnock. I'm afraid that's as much as I know about him, and the goal. Never mind, there's plenty more to come.
With the score at 2-0 the halftime whistle went. I began to contemplate the changes that are apparent at Thistle since I was last here, several months ago.
There's a new goalkeeper, Scott Fox, a casualty of the Dundee nightmare, signed in November. He looks decent. A couple of smart saves in the first half and his kicking seems alright. Could turn out to be a very astute signing by McCall.
Notoriously one-footed winger Chris Erskine started today, yet, annoyingly, it's only his 6th start of the season. This has pleased me anyway. I always liked Erskine, despite only ever using his left foot, he can beat people and he adds a bit of excitement to Thistle's play. I think he looks magnificently old fashioned, especially in the way he runs, lanky legs scampering up and down the pitch, head down. Great to watch.
Perhaps the most pleasing of all changes to this team is striker Liam Buchanan's return to form. He scored last Tuesday against Falkirk in the cup and today he's looking good. Last time I was here (a 2-0 defeat to Ross County in October) he looked disinterested and wouldn't run for anything. Today he's back to what we saw last season; he puts pressure on the defenders, and despite his height, he's a tenacious tackler. Entertaining to watch and with a good finish he was last season's shining light.
|Buchanan netting the penalty, Thistle's first in over a year.|
'Maybe things aren't actually that bad, maybe things will start going our way,' I begin to think, 'Alternatively I could be about to witness an incredible comeback from newly promoted Stirling Albion.'
Thistle began to try for more goals (behaviour that is rarely seen and that lack of it has often been their downfall) and the Albion keeper saved well from Buchanan and twice more from Doolan. And still, I thought, they'd get one back and put us under real pressure.
I needn't have worried as minutes later Buchanan doubled his tally with a well taken from a corner.
Unsurprisingly Stirling looked awful all day. However bad Thistle had been Stirling were always that bit worse. There was so much space for the Jags to exploit and the defending was appalling. Schoolboy errors were abound and they made Thistle look a lot better than they actually were.
|The heavens open.|
And five minutes later it was a dream start to his Firhill career, receiving a pass from Rowson and calmly finishing inside the box.
'5-0!?! It can't really be 5-0 can it?!?!'
It wasn't for much longer.
A second young sub, Jamie Campbell, volleying in the rebound from Fraser's saved shot.
Only now did the 1,749 come into full voice;
How do you do?
We hate the boys in royal blue
We hate the Bhoys in emerald green
So f**k the pope
And f**k the Queen!"
On a day when both the Old Firm won, by considerably lesser margins than Thistle, I'd imagine that this game will go largely unnoticed in the Glasgow sports press this evening. Besides, it's not like it's made an enormous difference to the table. Thistle remain in 6th and Albion are only off the bottom thanks to Dundee's 25 point deduction.
The match wasn't over yet though, an Albion red card was followed by an Albion penalty, duely dispatched, if not exactly celebrated, by Chris Aitken. Incredibly it was followed by a barrage of boos from the Jackie Husband stand that seconds later turned into cheers of elation. This mental game was over. We'll see if normality is restored here this Tuesday in the replay against Falkirk.