Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Scottish Premiership match between Partick Thistle
. Let's get straight down to business!
We'll start by looking at our newly-promoted hosts, and what a start they have made to life in the top flight of Scottish football. They recorded a solid 0-0 draw against Dundee United in their opening match and followed that up with a 3-1 win over Ross County on Saturday.
That impressive start leaves them third in the table going in to this match, and they have a chance to go top with a win tonight. That position may only last one day as the likes of Inverness and Aberdeen play tomorrow, but what a story it would be. You can be sure that the Partick players would enjoy being top of the table while it lasts too!
Manager Alan Archibald will be keen to keep his side's feet on the ground, but a win tonight would be a massive boost as they look to open a big gap between themselves and Hearts. Archibald will be fully aware that his side are still second favourites to go down, but it is Hearts who have all the hard work to do having started 15 points behind everyone else.
That 15-point deduction was imposed because the club went into administration, and Hearts are certainly going through a bit of a crisis at the moment. They recorded a morale-boosting 1-0 win in the Edinburgh derby against Hibernian last week to put them on -12 points going in to this match, but it will take a huge effort for them to avoid the drop this season.
The playing staff of Hearts were hit hard due to the administration as well, leaving the club with only two outfield players aged above 21. They are a very inexperienced side, which is a big plus point for Partick Thistle due to their own lack of experience at this level.
TEAM NEWS: The team news is in from both sides, and the most notable omission from Partick's lineup is Kallum Higginbotham, who was expected to make his home debut today. He has to settle for a place on the bench, while Jordan McMillan remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Hearts, meanwhile, are without Ryan Stevenson, who damaged his medial ligament in the win over Hibernian and faces up to three months on the sidelines. Full team news coming up.
PARTICK THISTLE STARTING XI: Fox; O'Donnell, Taylor-Sinclair, Balatoni, Muirhead; Welsh, Bannigan, Craigen; Fraser, Lawless, Doolan
PARTICK THISTLE SUBS: Gallacher, Baird, Kerr, Forbes, Osbourne, Elliott, Higginbotham
HEARTS STARTING XI: MacDonald; Hamill, McHattie, Wilson, McGowan; Robinson, Walker, Holt, McKay, Smith; Paterson
HEARTS SUBS: Ridgers, Carrick, King, Tapping, Nicholson, Oliver, McGhee
For Partick, the men to look out for today are Kris Doolan and Steven Lawless. Both have made scoring starts to their time in the top flight, with the latter netting twice in their two games so far.
Hearts, meanwhile, will be looking to Callum Paterson to provide the goals this evening. The 18-year-old bagged their solitary goal this season in last Sunday's win over Hibernian and he will be looking to build on that tonight.
As far as Hearts are concerned, every match is a vital one this season. Usually a club can have a couple of bad performances or a slow start and still do alright, but with Hearts' point deduction they can't afford that. They will want to eat away at what is now a 12-point disadvantage as early in the season as possible, and a win tonight could be the start of a little run for them.
PREDICTION: We are five minutes from kickoff now, which means that it is time for my match prediction! This is a tough one to call as Partick's confidence will be sky high at the moment. They could be buoyed in front of their own fans and continue their fine start to the season. Hearts, meanwhile, could be forgiven for being a little flat, even after their Edinburgh derby win last week. All in all, I think these two could cancel each other out tonight. I'm going for a 1-1 draw.
We're nearing kickoff here and it is a huge match for both teams. A win, you'd have to say, would be more important for Hearts, but don't expect Partick to make it easy for them. The newly-promoted side will fancy their chances today.
KICKOFF: We're underway at Firhill Stadium, and the home fans are certainly up for this match. They greet the kickoff with an almighty roar.
Hearts are dominating the ball early on but Partick's sole attack has been the most threatening so far. A fine ball from Muirhead eventually draws a corner, which comes to nothing.
The hosts are now enjoying most of the ball as they begin to take control of the match. Already Paterson is looking very isolated in attack for Hearts, who are being forced to defend in numbers at the moment.
Partick's kit is very similar to Barcelona's away strip this season and, while it isn't quite Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and co out there at the moment, the hosts are playing some decent football. They look sharp and bright and could raise a few eyebrows in the Premiership this season.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Doolan wheels away having swept in a loose ball from close range, but his celebrations are cut short by the linesman's flag. It was a messy piece of defending as Hearts failed to clear a deflected free kick, resulting in the ball eventually falling to Doolan. On first viewing that looked like a correct decision, but it would have been tight.
Great desire shown from Hearts as three players hound two Partick defenders, almost stealing the ball in a promising position. O'Donnell just manages to hack it clear at the second time of asking, though.
We're still waiting for the first real chance in this game but it has been a lively opening 10 minutes or so. The noise from the crowd is incessant and there is a good buzz about the place.
SHOT! Our first shot on target of the evening comes courtesy of Lawless. His effort from the edge of the area lacked power, however, and it was easy for the keeper.
SHOT! Doolan didn't really make the most of this chance. He is released behind the Hearts defence and a good first touch would present him with a one-on-one chance, but his control is poor and allows the defence to get back. Doolan still manages to get a shot away, taking it early to try to catch the keeper out, but it ends up quite a way wide.
A very patient build up from Partick Thistle ends with Lawless going down inside the box. There are brief shouts for a penalty but only from the stands. No moaning from Lawless, who gets straight back up only to see Wilson get the ball clear.
CHANCE! That is the best chance we've had today and, unsurprisingly, it has fallen the hosts' way. O'Donnell clipped a lovely cross in to the middle and Balatoni comes storming in at the back post, but he mis-times his jump and can only head it wide. That was a decent opening.
It is all Partick Thistle at the moment. They are pretty much camped in the Hearts half and the visitors don't look capable of launching any sort of attack. They don't even look capable of getting out of their own half. All 11 men are behind the ball as they looked to stem the tide.
Most of the hosts' joy is coming from the wings so far as they pepper the Hearts box with crosses. They are winning a fair amount of the aerial battles too, but Hearts are just doing enough to stop them at the moment.
CLOSE! Right on cue, Partick come close to breaking the deadlock with a header. Welsh sent a fine diagonal ball to Craigen down the right flank, and the winger's cross was met by a glancing header from Doolan at the near post. The idea is right, but he just doesn't get enough on it and the keeper is able to see it out.
The way this opening half an hour has gone I really can't see Hearts holding on for 90 minutes. They have limited chances but Partick are just dominating possession and that will surely begin to show on the scoreboard sooner rather than later.
For their part, Hearts are still not looking like scoring whatsoever. Every time they manage to clear the ball they find themselves with no-one in the opposition half. It has been very easy for the Partick defence so far.
The final ball is just lacking for the hosts. Another very good move breaks down when a cross is cleared by the first man, although it was a smart delivery, fizzed in low and fast towards the near post.
Hearts finally get some productive possession in the final third, but Balatoni makes a crucial interception to deny Paterson a good chance.
Partick have two penalty shouts in quick succession, but both are turned down by the ref. The first appeal came after the ball struck Danny Wilson inside the box, with the fans claiming handball, while the second came after a heavy challenge on Doolan.
CLOSE! Very, very close from Welsh and, to be honest, he probably should have done better there. He gets the ball just inside the box and controls it with a good first touch before lining up his effort. He has plenty of time to pick a spot and drills it towards the top corner, only to see it rise too high and fly narrowly over the bar.
CLOSE! The hosts come close again, and once more Welsh is involved. This time it is in a supporting role as he sends a long ball to Doolan, who takes a good first touch before firing a powerful shot goalwards from a tight angle. The keeper is taken slightly by surprise at how early Doolan shoots, but he needn't have worried as it is off target.
I must say that I have been very impressed by Partick in this first half. They were among the favourites to go down before the season but if they play like this week in, week out then they won't be in any danger of that.
Lawless has been heavily involved in this match so far, and he is the latest to trouble MacDonald's goal with a shot. As has been the case with most of the shots this evening, though, it isn't too taxing for the keeper to deal with.
HALF TIME: Partick Thistle 0-0 Hearts
The referee brings an end to a lively and entertaining first half. Partick Thistle have dominated possession and have had all of the best chances, but they haven't managed to breach the Hearts defence just yet.
The hosts have had the ball in the back of the net, but it was disallowed for offside. Doolan was the man who scrambled the ball home, but his celebrations were correctly cut short by the linesman's flag.
Since that disallowed goal, Partick haven't really looked like breaking the deadlock for all of their possession. They keep getting in to shooting positions, but the efforts that they have managed to get on target have been comfortable for MacDonald to deal with. Welsh has come the closest with a powerful drive that rose just over the crossbar, a chance that he perhaps should have done better with.
Hearts, meanwhile, have not posed an attacking threat whatsoever. Paterson has been isolated up front on the few occasions when he hasn't been back behind the ball. There was a spell in the first half where Hearts just couldn't get out of their own half, and something will certainly need to change if they are to win this one in the second half.
After the first half you'd have to say that Partick are favourites to go on and win this one. They may not have had the amount of chances that they should have considering how much possession they've enjoyed, but as the Hearts defence gets more tired as the match goes on then holes will begin to open.
KICKOFF: Partick Thistle get us back underway at Firhill. Can either side break the deadlock in the coming 45 minutes?
PARTICK THISTLE SUB: The hosts made a change at the break, and it is a home debut for Kallum Higginbotham, who comes on for Welsh. The Thistle skipper picked up an injury towards the end of the first half.
CLOSE! Almost the perfect start to the second half for Partick Thistle. A long ball over the top sees Craigen get behind the defence, and his first-time effort skims just past the far post. It was the right idea and a decent attempt, but he was just lacking that vital bit of accuracy.
Bannigan sends a good through ball inside the full-back and Taylor-Sinclair is there to get on the end of it. He does well to dig a fierce first-time cross out, but MacDonald is alert to the danger and plucks it out of the air.
Craigan sends another cross towards Doolan, but the striker can't get any power on his header as it loops harmlessly wide.
Very little has changed from the first half, it must be said. The emphasis for Hearts is still very much on defence and Partick are dominating the ball again. Surely it is only a matter of time before they turn this possession into goals?
Ooh nobody likes it when this happens - Higginbotham has just sliced a shot out for a throw in! He did well to create the space to shoot, but he focused more on power than accuracy and was left to watch the ball fly out.
HEARTS SUB: Hearts finally choose to bring more support in for Paterson as King replaces Smith. It remains to be seen whether they will change formation, but King should pose more of an attacking threat.
Hearts get away with this one as a goalmouth scramble falls to three different Partick players without ever really sitting up right for any of them. Eventually Hearts can scramble it clear, but that was a good opening for the hosts.
CHANCE! We've waited an hour, but finally Hearts have a decent sight of goal! A cross is not fully cleared and falls to the feet of Hammill inside the box. He takes a touch before drilling a low shot goalwards, but it is well blocked. That was a vital block as well as I'm not sure the keeper would have stopped that one.
Partick's main problem in this one is summed up by one simple statistic - both sides have had two shots on target in this match. For all of their possession, the hosts have still only tested the opposition keeper twice while Hearts, who have only just had their first sight of goal, have had the same amount.
Having said that, Hearts have seen more of the ball in the last five minutes or so. They have just had a header tipped over the bar, although the linesman has adjudged that the keeper's touch occurred when the ball was already out of play so a goal kick is given. Hearts are beginning to ease into this match, though. Better late than never I suppose!
For the first time in the match, the Partick defence is coming under sustained pressure from Hearts. It will be interesting to see if they can withstand the pressure as successfully as the Hearts defence has managed so far.
PARTICK SUB: A like-for-like change up front for Partick sees John Baird replace Doolan.
Suddenly Hearts players are queueing up to shoot. Three of them go for the same ball from a corner, resulting in the ball skewing wide.
SHOT! Hearts only clear a cross as far as Fraser, who takes the ball down, beats a man and fires a powerful shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
The speculative shots are beginning to come more common now. Paterson is the latest to go for goal from range, but his shot ends up a long way over the bar.
SAVE! Fox has certainly been busier in this half than he was in the first. The Partick keeper is called into action again here as Hamill goes for goal from the edge of the box. It is a decent enough effort and certainly worth a go, but it is never really troubling the keeper.
SAVE! It is an unorthodox stop from MacDonald, but the important thing is that he kept it out. Baird peels off his man and is found by a sweeping ball upfield. His first touch brings it nicely under control and his second is a fierce, swerving half volley that the keeper eventually shovels behind with his shoulder.
Every point counts for Hearts in their current predicament, and this would be a good point considering how this match has gone. The visitors have been on the back foot for the vast majority of the match and have only started to look capable of creating a chance in the last 15 minutes or so.
HEARTS SUB: Straight swap in the middle of the park for Hearts as Robinson makes way to be replaced by Callum Tapping.
Walker creates space to shoot from the corner of the box, but it is an ambitious effort considering the angle. He doesn't help his chances by leaning back when shooting either, resulting in the ball flying over the top.
SAVE! A cracking save from MacDonald has just kept the scores level! Higginbotham did well down the left before pulling the ball back to Lawless on the edge of the box, but his low show was tipped behind very well by the keeper.
PENALTY TO PARTICK THISTLE!
GOAL! Partick Thistle 1-0 Hearts (Aaron Muirhead)
gives away a clumsy penalty with a tackle from behind on Baird inside the area. Hearts aren't happy with the decision, but it was probably the right one. Aaron Muirhead
steps to take the spot kick and hammers it straight down the middle to give Thistle a late lead. As things stand, Partick Thistle will be top of the Premiership tonight!
GOAL! Partick Thistle 1-1 Hearts (Jamie Walker)
Big late drama here as Walker makes up for giving away a penalty by grabbing an equaliser just minutes later! It is a brilliant goal as well as he swerves past three tackles before steering the ball just inside the post from the edge of the box. Very good goal, and it could be a very important one too.
There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this match. Will we see even more late drama?
YELLOW CARD! I don't know about drama, but we've got handbags! Higginbotham squares up to McHattie and both players put their heads together before a number of players race in to break them up. There isn't much in it and the ref is right to only produce a yellow for both players - the first cards of the evening.
FULL TIME: Partick Thistle 1-1 Hearts
So ends a thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of football, and the main talking points were all saved for the end. A late penalty appeared to have given the hosts all three points and sent them top of the table, but Jamie Walker had other ideas and came up with a fine solo effort to rescue a point for his beleaguered side.
The hosts could feel hard done by having only come away with a point. They dominated the entire first half and much of the second too, with Hearts only really coming in to the game in the final half an hour or so. Their finishing wasn't quite up to standard, but manager Alan Archibald will be delighted by the all-round performance.
The Scottish Premiership newcomers remain in third place and remain unbeaten at the start of the season, though, so any gripes that Archibald may have about not winning this match will be tempered by those facts. They have made a very bright start to life in the top flight and Firhill Park will not be an easy place to go for any team this season.
Hearts, meanwhile, will be happy with a point considering how the match went. Every point is crucial for them so to rescue one from the jaws of defeat at the end there will almost feel like a win. Their deficit at the bottom of the league is now -11 as they continue to eat away at that 15-point deduction.
Right, that's it from me tonight! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for what was a very entertaining match in Glasgow. Be sure to check back in for more Scottish Premiership action tomorrow, as well as the return of the Premier League and La Liga. We have plenty of live commentaries going on! From me, though, it is good night!