Dundee controversially went down to their fourth successive home defeat at Dens today, in a game that hinged on two decisions by referee Steven McLean, who mistakenly red carded Rab Douglas after 24 minutes, then just after half time failed to send off Chris Erskine for a dangerous challenge with his elbow on Neil McGregor.
Thistle were able to capitalise on their numerical advantage and defend the winning goal they scored from the penalty that followed Douglas's sending off
However, the Jags had to ride their luck at times as Dundee were still able to create, and sadly miss, good chances as the Dee served up a far better performance than the nervous displays that we saw in the previous defeats.
Predictably Barry Smith chose exactly the same side that played in last week's excellent win at Ayr.
Thistle played an adventurous 3-5-2 formation that allowed them to break quickly, but meant that they were vulnerable down the wings, especially the Dundee right. Nicky Riley repeatedly exploited the space behind Sinclair who looked impressive coming forward but rather naïve about his positioning.
The first 20 minutes was finely balanced, though Thistle should have taken the lead when McGregor slipped, allowing Elliot to run through on Douglas who saved well.
A smart passing move released Erskine who took the ball round Douglas, before hitting the deck when Matt Lockwood challenged him for the ball. Controversially and mistakenly, referee Steven McLean decided that Rab Douglas had tripped Erskine and red-carded the furious keeper.
The film of the incident showed there was no contact by Douglas, and Erskine claimed after the match that it was Lockwood's challenge that caused him to go down, a claim that Matt had some issues with!
At only 18 years old Leighton McIntosh's experience cost him his place and he had to make way to let John Gibson come on in goal.
Paul CAIRNEY wasn't distracted by the delay and scored with a solid penalty.
Shortly afterwards Gibson turned an Elliot 20 yarder round the post, a good save that should have given him confidence.
Surprisingly Thistle lost some of their passing fluency in midfield after the sending off and failed to stretch Dundee with the extra man. Dundee had the better of the remainder of the half, and might have equalised but for two good saves by Scully in the away goal. First he saved well from Irvine's 18 yard shot, then pulled off an even better one to deny Gavin Rae after O'Donnell had nodded the ball down.
Mr McLean was infuriating the Dundee players and supporters with his erratic use of the cards, and when Archibald body-checked Nicky Riley it was the Dundee winger who was booked, the referee signalling that he disapproved of Riley waving his arms around in frustration. The defender, however, was not spoken to.
The second big moment of the game came just after half time. Chris Erskine, who'd already been booked for taking a dig at Gavin Rae, led recklessly with his elbow in an aerial challenge. He caught Neil McGregor in the face, leaving the Dee defender pole-axed and needing treatment. Astonishingly the referee waved play on.
Dundee had the better of the second half, and Nicky Riley was outstanding. Frustratingly, the need to support Milne meant he kept having to drift infield, instead of being able to concentrate on exploiting the space behind between Archibald and Sinclair on the Thistle left.
Dundee kept their heads and kept passing patiently. They were rewarded by creating good chances, but sadly got no reward in terms of goals.
Scully miskicked and half cleared a passback, but Milne couldn't get enough height into his return lob to worry the keeper.
Riley showed great skill on the right to get away from Cairney and Sinclair then cross, but Scully saved brilliantly, pawing Conroy's close range header away.
Hutton lost the ball to Riley who raced into the penalty area to shoot. Scully parried and Lockwood fired over the bar.
Next, Riley slotted the ball through for Gavin Rae, who clipped his shot just too high.
Thistle looked sporadically dangerous on the break and substitute Stewart shot just over from distance, then forced a good save from Gibson.
For the last 15 minutes Craig McKeown replaced Matt Lockwood. Dundee played three at the back, with Irvine and Conroy playing as wing backs and Riley playing more through the middle.
As the clock ran down Thistle were able to stretch Dundee for the first time as the Dee chased an equaliser. The Jags should have scored a second at the death when they managed to outnumber the Dundee defence on the break, but Gibson pulled off a great save from Cairney.
The visitors saw out the four minutes of injury time professionally, taking the ball into the corners when they had possession and working hard to close down Dundee when they didn't have the ball.
In previous defeats this season the Dundee players have looked nervous and short of confidence when they fell behind. It wasn't like that today. Dundee kept their composure after Thistle scored and deserved to avoid defeat.
Thistle were possibly the best side to come to Dens this season, but Dundee should still have got something from the game. That's scant consolation to the fans though, and the danger is that patience will run out before Dundee snap out of this tricky spell. I hope that today's launch of “It's all about the memories” the book about last season will remind the supporters just how important their contribution is in helping the players overcome obstacles, or run through them!
Blaming bad luck is an easy cop out, but maybe the players need a wee bit of good luck at home to turn the corner, and good luck is something that's been sadly missing at Dens so far this season
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Irvine, McGregor, Weston, Lockwood (McKeown 76)
Riley, Rae, O'Donnell, Conroy (McCluskey 88)
Milne, McIntosh (Gibson, 24, goalkeeper replacing Douglas)
Unused subs; Chisholm, Benedictus
Booked; Irvine (foul on Cairney), Riley (dissent), Weston (foul on Elliot), O'Donnell (foul on Sinclair)
Sent off; Douglas (denying a goal-scoring opportunity)
Partick Thistle FC 3-5-2
Paton, Balatoni, Archibald
O'Donnell (Stewart 63), Cairney, Hutton, Rowson, Sinclair
Erskine (Bannigan 80), Elliot (Doolan 76)
Unused subs; Wightman (gk), Lindsay
Goal; Cairney 25 (pen)
Booked; Sinclair (foul on Riley), Erskine (foul on Rae)
Referee; Steven McLean
Report; James Christie