Job complete as spot-on Muirhead eases pressure

ONE down, two to go.

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  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
    Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty
  • Action from the Thistle v Accies clash at Firhill last night. Picture Nick Ponty

They are the three most talked about fixtures in the Irn-Bru First Division and Partick Thistle know their importance.

Win them all, and they are back to the top of the table. Slip up and it is advantage Morton in the title race.

Thistle say it is better to have the games in hand, while Ton are confident because they have the wins on the board.

Only time will tell who will have the advantage in the push for an SPL berth.

With an eight-point deficit to make up to their main title rivals, the Jags will look to their matches with Hamilton, Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers as the ideal chance to gain ground.

They got off to the perfect start last night, a 1-0 victory over Accies cutting the gap ahead of this weekend's action when they face Airdrie and Allan Moore's side take on Dunfermline.

"I am delighted with the win, it is great," said Jags interim boss Alan Archibald.

"It is a good pressure when you are at the top of the league. It could be worse, you could be at the bottom.

"We have to use it as a positive, go and claw the points back and put Morton under pressure.

"It was probably more satisfying than winning 4-0 or 5-0 because we managed to grind a 1-0 win out against a well organised Hamilton team."

The Jags attack was bolstered by the return of Steven Lawless to a starting berth after his recent facial injury.

But it was Accies who had the first attempt of the evening, Scott Fox diving to his right to turn a Grant Gillespie effort wide.

It was one of few moments the Thistle keeper was called into action.

On 18 minutes, the visitors had Kevin Cuthbert to thank for still being level, the keeper producing a terrific save to block an Aaron Muirhead header.

Thistle continued to press but there was no way through the black-and-blue wall Accies had assembled.

Stephen Hendrie cleared effort off the line but all to often the Jags couldn't get their shots away, with forward trio of Lawless, Chris Erskine and Steven Craig not clicking in the fashion they have done for much of the campaign.

The home crowd did rise to their feet before the half was out, but it wasn't to celebrate the net bulging.

It was in condemnation of a late lunge on Muirhead, with referee John McKendrick attracting the ire of the home fans by only issuing a yellow card to Darian MacKinnon.

Just 10 minutes into the second half, they did have something to cheer.

As Erskine jinked in the area, Martin Canning stuck out a leg and sent the Thistle forward tumbling.

It was left to defender Muirhead to calmly slot home from 12 yards, sending Cuthbert the wrong way.

After MacKinnon and Gillespie had spurned half chances, Bannigan tried his luck with no success, Cuthbert producing a close-range block after Lawless allowed Sean Welsh's centre to roll across the Accies area.

In the end, one goal was all they needed. It was the three points that they really required.

Accies boss Billy Reid said: "Thistle were the better side, I can't have any complaints.

"We came here with a game plan and that was to make sure we kept ourselves in the game for a long spell and we did that.

"Our keeper has pulled off some outstanding saves."

Elsewhere last night, Clyde suffered a heavy defeat, going down 3-0 away at East Stirling.

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