St Mirren returned to winning ways in the League Cup, a late flurry of goals handing them a 4-1 victory over Partick Thistle in Paisley.
Richard Tait had St Mirren in front at the break after a pulsating half of chances but the Saints were pegged back after 66 minutes through Jags debutant Blair Spittal. Seven minutes of goals from Jon Obika, a Joe Shaughnessy effort from a botched Thistle clearance and a Dylan Connolly strike between the 74th and 81st minutes of the match ended the home side’s 6-game losing run.
Thistle had looked strong in their pre-season encounters ahead of the competitive season. Jim Goodwin’s side were under no illusions this would be a hard test despite the Jags’ League One status.
It was a wide open game in the first half. Chances started flying after three minutes, an error at the back from the away team allowing Obika to get a free shot at goal, Jamie Sneddon doing enough to stop it hitting the net.
Shea Gordon would have a big opening for Thistle four minutes later, Jak Alnwick doing well to spread himself and stop the Northern Irishman’s effort. Next it was Lee Erwin who came close before Brian Graham thought he’d scored for Ian McCall’s side, wheeling away in celebration but his shot had been cleared off the line.
With how many opportunities and openings each side had, this could have had four or five goals inside the opening 30 minutes as both teams showed attacking intent. It was the League One outfit who were having the best of them, Stuart Bannigan denied by an outstanding Tait slide tackle.
And the former Motherwell defender’s biggest contribution was yet to come in the first 45. Diving low to get on the end of a Jamie McGrath header, the full-back guided his cool header past Sneddon with literally the last touch of the first half.
It was cruel on McCall’s side who at least merited going in at the break level but it wasn’t to be. That didn’t dent their confidence, starting on the front foot and mustering another couple of good chances.
Connor Murray should have had Thistle level but his header was straight at Alnwick. The Jags may not have played competitively since March but they were showing no signs of fatigue as they pressed and pressed their hosts.
And a debut goal was to come from Spittal. Signed from Ross County on loan just hours before the League Cup match, the ball broke to him around 14 yards out and he curled a fine effort past Alnwick after 66 minutes.
It was a merited effort as Thistle impressed in the first 21 minutes of the second half. Kyle McAllister’s ball into Obika was the catalyst for putting the Firhill men behind again, the lovely threaded pass finished well by the Englishman.
14 minutes were left by this point as Saints looked to hold on to a much-needed victory. Not only did they hold on, they completely killed this game as a contest, first of all adding a third as Shaughnessy scored from a failed corner clearance from Thistle.
Then almost immediately, Connolly added a fourth Saints goal, racing behind the defence and beating Sneddon with ease. 4-1 might not tell the whole story of the match but it’ll be a confidence-booster all the same for Goodwin’s side. Here are three things we learned.
This was an enthralling encounter in Paisley. Both teams had chances to go one or two goals ahead in the first, the half-time scoreline of 1-0 surprising given the amount of clear openings.
Thistle perhaps missed a slight bit of ruthlessness in attack whilst St Mirren found that necessary piece of quality. Overall though, very little split these sides up until the last 15 minutes where McCall’s men were punished for taking their eye off the ball.
It’s been a rough few years for everyone associated with Thistle but there should be optimism ahead of the shortened new season. McCall has worked hard on building a squad capable of returning to the Championship at the first time of asking.
In their first competitive match since March, they looked at home facing Premiership opposition. The blend of experience from Brian Graham and Stuart Bannigan to the youthfulness of Gordon and Rhys Breen provides Thistle with great balance, albeit McCall will be disappointed with how the game finished.
Much-needed for Saints
After a run of six-straight defeats in the league, St Mirren badly needed a win in this one. At times in this contest they had to ride waves of Thistle attack’s, holding on until they eventually broke away from their opponents.
This was a battle for most of the game and Goodwin will be relieved no cup banana skins were slipped on in Paisley.