THE champagne remained on ice as Partick Thistle had a goalless draw against Raith Rovers at Firhill on Tueday night.
Three times previously this season Raith Rovers had proven to be very tough opponents – and they did so again at Firhill as Thistle desperately looked for a win to crown themselves First Division champions and secure a place in the SPL for the first time in nine years.
If there were any nerves present in the Thistle ranks they weren’t eased when Rovers found themselves with a gilt-edged opportunity inside the game’s first 30 seconds.
Three minutes later and Rovers again went close when Greig Spence spurned an excellent opportunity, though in truth it was a fine save from Scott Fox that prevented him from scoring.
It took Thistle a bit of time to recover and they were just starting to show signs of settling when Rovers had another opportunity.
Thistle gave away possession in midfield following a free kick and that allowed Spence a clear run at goal. The Rovers striker, however, was again thwarted by an excellent Scott Fox save.
After 15 minutes Rovers’ threat subsided and Thistle were glad not to be a goal down.
The rest of the first half was dominated by Thistle, with McGurn by far the busier of the two goalkeepers. James Craigen was the first Thistle player to truly test him, but the flag went up for offside as the rebound fell to Kris Doolan.
Chris Erskine then shot wide as Thistle stepped up the pressure and a Kris Doolan header from a Sean Welsh cross went over the bar.
Erskine saw another effort go over the bar before just past the half-hour mark.
In the 33rd minute, Thistle came the closest yet to carving a lead. Doolan did tremendously well to turn inside the Rovers box, but he saw his shot saved by McGurn at his right post.
Thistle’s dominance continued after the break. Steven Lawless was introduced for Ross Forbes in the 58th minute and he seemed to inject new life into the Thistle attack.
Just four minutes after coming on, Lawless produced Thistle’s clearest scoring opportunity of the second half with a pass to Erskine, who – despite a clear look at goal – couldn’t hit the target.
The longer the game went on without a goal the more it became apparent it wasn’t going to be Thistle’s night.
Lawless dragged a shot wide and Elliott saw an effort from the edge of the box fly straight into the arms of the waiting McGurn as the 90-minute mark approached.
There was a sense of real disappointment at the end among Thistle fans and staff that the league hadn’t been won.
However, with a nine-point lead with three games to play and a vastly superior goal difference, surely it is only a matter of time.
Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Sinclair, Bannigan, Dowie, Balatoni, Welsh, Craigen (Elliott 75 mins), Doolan (Steven Craig 80 mins), Forbes (Lawless 58 mins), Erskine.