Azeez forgets shooting boots as grateful Steelmen steal a point
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.