Azeez for­gets shoot­ing boots as grate­ful Steel­men steal a point

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP - PARTICK THIS­TLE MOTHER­WELL GRAEME MCGARRY

IT isn’t clear if there is an of­fi­cial point in the sea­son where man­agers change their stance from it be­ing too early to look at the ta­ble to say­ing that said stand­ings do not lie, but for all Partick This­tle’s feel­ings of be­ing in a false po­si­tion at the foot of the Lad­brokes Premier­ship, the 90 min­utes they pro­duced against Mother­well on Satur­day pro­vided one big clue as to why they find them­selves there.

Put sim­ply, for all that is to be ad­mired about their play, they do not con­vert nearly enough of the chances that they cre­ate dur­ing a game. And one player who was the em­bod­i­ment of that par­tic­u­lar fail­ing at the week­end was their striker, Ade Azeez.

There is no doubt that Azeez is an up­grade on Mathias Pogba, who – lovely man that he was – brought lit­tle more to Partick This­tle than the nov­elty of his con­nec­tion to the world’s most ex­pen­sive player. For­mer Wim­ble­don man Azeez is mo­bile, in­dus­tri­ous and strong. In short, a real hand­ful.

He is still look­ing for his first league goal in a This­tle jer­sey, though, and when the big chances to bury Mother­well fell his way on Satur­day, it was easy to see why.

Af­ter his side took a de­served firsthalf lead through Chris Ersk­ine, Azeez had nu­mer­ous chances to leave them home and hosed. Three times he raced in on goal­keeper Craig Sam­son, and on all three oc­ca­sions nei­ther the Mother­well net nor their keeper was trou­bled.

They should have been fur­ther out of sight than a rec­on­cil­ia­tory pint be­tween Chris Sut­ton and Derek John­stone but, as the old adage goes, when a team is only one be­hind they al­ways have a chance. So it proved, as a be­lated rally from the vis­i­tors pro­duced an equaliser via the head of Scott Mc­Don­ald with less than 10 min­utes left on the clock.

That soured an im­pres­sive de­but show­ing from an­other re­cent ar­rival at Firhill, Adam Bar­ton, but dis­play­ing a char­ac­ter­is­tic that was ev­i­dent in his play all af­ter­noon, he was think­ing more of his team­mate af­ter the match.

“[Ade]’s done bril­liant to get into the po­si­tions and make the runs and do what he had to do, it’s just not click­ing for him at the mo­ment,” Bar­ton said.

“His con­fi­dence is prob­a­bly a bit low, but as team­mates we’ve got to be be­hind him. We can’t be neg­a­tive, we’ve got to be pos­i­tive to­wards him and keep him up for the next game.”

For 70 min­utes of this match, the home side were by far the sharper, quicker and more ag­gres­sive unit against a dis­jointed Mother­well out­fit.

Ersk­ine, un­like Azeez, was com­posed when his chance came, al­though it was in­ex­pli­ca­bly gifted to him in un­char­ac­ter­is­tic fash­ion by vet­eran Mother­well left back Ste­vie Ham­mell. Quite who he was try­ing to find with a mind-bog­gling square ball across the edge of his own box only he could say, but it only served to put the in-from This­tle man clean through on goal to fin­ish calmly un­der Sam­son for his fifth of the sea­son.

They main­tained their up­per hand un­til around 20 min­utes from the end, when a tac­ti­cal reshuf­fle from Mother­well man­ager Mark McGhee, forced upon him rather by Louis Moult run­ning out of puff, saw Mc­Don­ald moved to his favoured striker role and James McFad­den come on to the left wing where he brought some much­needed craft and com­po­sure to the vis­i­tors in pos­ses­sion.

Sud­denly, This­tle started to re­treat slightly and Mother­well fi­nally man­aged to trou­ble a de­fence who to this point had the cigars out.

In­deed, Mother­well thought that they had lev­elled as Keith Lasley floated a free kick to the back post where cen­tre half Ben Heneghan got up to nod across goal. Mc­Don­ald was there to head into the empty net but his cel­e­bra­tions were cut short by the flag of the as­sis­tant ref­eree.

The diminu­tive Aus­tralian is hardly known for his re­straint when de­ci­sions go against him but this time his re­mon- stra­tions ap­peared jus­ti­fied, and his team­mate Richard Tait agreed.

“I don’t know how Scott’s goal was ruled off­side,” Tait said. “I’ve seen it on the com­puter and he’s miles on­side.

“Ev­ery­one makes mis­takes and the lines­man’s made one there. You hope that, dur­ing the sea­son, that lev­els it­self out and, in a few weeks’ time, we’re given a goal when it’s bla­tantly off­side.”

The equaliser did come with seven min­utes re­main­ing though, and it was Tait that pro­vided a mo­ment of qual­ity that was far re­moved from most of what his side had pro­duced dur­ing the af­ter­noon.

Re­ceiv­ing a pass from McFad­den, the right back cut in­side on to his left foot and curled an in-swing­ing cross to the heart of the This­tle area that was just beg­ging to be headed home. Mc­Don­ald duly obliged – and this time he wasn’t to be de­nied by the of­fi­cials.

Amaz­ingly, Mother­well might have won it, as first Lionel Ainsworth hung a ball up for Ryan Bow­man to head down to­wards goal with Ryan Scully palm­ing the ball to safety, be­fore the keeper ad­justed his feet well to get down to a de­flected ef­fort from Chris Cad­den.

As it was, they were for­tu­nate to re­turn to Fir Park with the point they did re­ceive, al­though Tait was per­haps the only man in Mary­hill with an op­pos­ing view.

“The first half was dif­fi­cult for us but we came back af­ter the break and showed what we’re all about,” he said.

“I thought we were the bet­ter team by quite a way. Sammy’s made a few good saves but, look­ing at what we did on the ball and the chances we cre­ated, I thought we played well.”

TAKE THAT: Chris Ersk­ine puts This­tle in front on Satur­day. Pic­tures: SNS

MAK­ING HIS POINT: Scott Mc­Don­ald equalises for Mother­well.

PUTTING IN A SHIFT: But Ade Azeez is still chas­ing his first goal for This­tle.

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