Gavin McCafferty at Firhill
Motherwell slipped to eleventh in the table with a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Firhill this afternoon.
The Jags were largely comfortable after Stuart Bannigan gave them a 16th-minute lead, although the game might have been different had Henrik Ojamaa’s early header been a inches lower rather than hitting the underside of the bar.
O’Donnell fed Kris Doolan for the second after the break and took advantage of a absent Motherwell defence to score a late clincher on the counter-attack.
Motherwell had briefly threatened a comeback following a sensational 35-yard strike from substitute Lionel Ainsworth, but they were again lacking in confidence as an attacking side, despite signs that Ojamaa is regaining his sharpness.
Both sides rang the changes as they looked to bounce back from heavy defeats, Thistle at Kilmarnock and Motherwell against Hamilton.
Thistle made three switches, with one enforced after Kallum Higginbotham was forced to undergo knee surgery. O’Donnell, James Craigen and Christie Elliott came in.
Steven Hammell made his first league appearance of the season for Motherwell following a groin tear while Keith Lasley, Mark O’Brien and Iain Vigurs returned from injury too and both John Sutton and Josh Law were recalled.
Motherwell came close to the lead in the 11th minute when Law made a loose ball his and burst to the bye-line where he crossed to the near post. Henrik Ojamaa got his head to it but saw his effort crash off the bar and bounce down off the line, with goalkeeper Scott Fox getting a decisive touch.
A goal soon came at the other end though. Steven Lawless had not long shot just wide following good skill when he collected the ball in the centre circle after Motherwell right-back Fraser Kerr’s run down the wing was thwarted.
Lawless exploited the space by playing the ball inside Vigurs into the path of Bannigan, who streaked away from his marker and guided a shot high into the net past Dan Twardzik.
Twardzik held a 20-yard volley from Doolan before Motherwell had a couple of half-chances from corners, Fox saving from Sutton’s close-range header before McManus sent a free header well over from a difficult angle.
Thistle were posing sporadic threats and an ambitious Lawless snap-shot flew wide before Elliott shot straight at Twardzik.
Motherwell pressed before half-time but the best effort they could muster saw Law curl just over from 20 yards.
There was little sign of a Motherwell comeback in the early stages of the second half and Stuart McCall brought on Ainsworth for Vigurs on the right wing 11 minutes in.
But Thistle’s second goal followed from their right wing in the 62nd minute. O’Donnell got on to Conrad Balatoni’s ball and held off Law before getting to the bye-line and cutting it back for Doolan, who got in front of O’Brien to fire a shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
Law soon made way for Lee Erwin but Thistle came close again when Twardzik beat away Craigen’s near-post strike.
The Jags looked completely in control but there was nothing any team could have done about Ainsworth’s 72nd-minute strike.
Motherwell won the ball back in midfield and Erwin fed Ainsworth almost 40 yards out. The winger took one touch and fired a magnificent strike across Fox and right in the top corner.
Ainsworth threatened again moments later when Fox turned his 20-yard strike past his near post.
Suddenly Thistle were under pressure but Motherwell were undone on the break in the 82nd minute after the hosts cleared a corner.
Nathan Eccleston, on moments earlier for Doolan, got to the ball just in front of Stuart Carswell on the touchline 15 yards inside his own half. But Motherwell sub Zaine Francis-Angol charged forward from his position on the halfway line to leave Twardzik unprotected and Eccleston managed to turn the ball forward for O’Donnell to run on to.
The right-back ran from his own half unchallenged and kept his composure to slot through the legs of Twardzik, and Fox saved well from Erwin in injury-time to complete the 3-1 triumph.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Firhill
FT: Partick Thistle 3 – 1 Motherwell #PTFCvMFC
91mins: Great save by Fox to tip Erwin’s close-range effort over the bar #PTFCvMFC
82mins: GOAL! O’Donnell breaks away and kills the game with a finish under Twardzik. 3-1 #PTFCvMFC
80mins: Partick Thistle sub, Eccleston on for Doolan #PTFCvMFC
79mins: Craigen is booked for a clumsy tackle on Lasley #PTFCvMFC
76mins: Partick Thistle sub, Carroll on for Lawless #PTFCvMFC
73mins: Motherwell sub, Francis-Angol on for Hammell #PTFCvMFC
What a goal by Ainsworth!! Must have been all of 30 yards and it absolutely flew into the top corner!!! 2-1 now. #PTFCvMFC
66mins: Great save from Twardzik, beating away Craigen’s effort as it looked like it was sailing into the top corner #PTFCvMFC
65mins: McMillan booked for time wasting #PTFCvMFC
64mins: Motherwell sub, Law off for Erwin #PTFCvMFC
62mins: GOAL! Doolan with a right footed shot from inside the box from a cut-back. 2-0 #PTFCvMFC
56mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth on for Vigurs #PTFCvMFC
53mins: Partick win a corner…which Carswell heads clear at the front post #PTFCvMFC
Neither side make any changes at the break and the second half gets underway #PTFCvMFC
HT: Partick Thistle 1 – 0 Motherwell #PTFCvMFC
43mins: Great spell of passing football there from ‘Well but Law can’t keep his curled shot down as he looked to finish it off #PTFCvMFC
38mins: Yellow card for Doolan after a late challenge on Vigurs #PTFCvMFC
32mins: O’Brien is booked for pulling down Doolan 30 yards from goal #PTFCvMFC
30mins: Half chance there for McManus who lost his marker at a corner but couldn’t get his header on target from an awkward angle #PTFCvMFC
27mins: Vigurs’ corner causes problems and as Sutton nods it goalwards, Ojamaa can’t quite do enough to nick it past Fox #PTFCvMFC
26mins: A loose ball falls to Doolan 25 yards out. A attempts a left-footed volley which is straight at Twardzik #PTFCvMFC
24mins: Ojamaa gathers a throw-in into his feet and spins Balatoni but his low front-post cross is gathered by Fox #PTFCvMFC
15mins: GOAL! Bannigan puts the Jags 1-0 up with a good finish from just inside the box. #PTFCvMFC
14mins: Lawless spins McManus 40 yards out, drives forward and has a strike that whistles just past Twardzik’s right hand post #PTFCvMFC
13mins: Thistle have a breakaway but thankfully O’Donnell’s superb cross has no takers. Still 0-0 #PTFCvMFC
11mins:Ojamaa hits the bar! Wonderful work from Law to get the cross in to Ojamaa whose header looked like it was tipped onto the bar by Fox
9mins: Great delivery from a Craigen corner finds the head of Seabourne who heads wide #PTFCvMFC
8mins: Carswell gets away with a late challenge in the middle of the park. Only a talking to, good refereeing #PTFCvMFC
3mins: First bit of attacking intent shown by ‘Well. Ojamaa gets to the byline but his volleyed cross is gathered by Fox #PTFCvMFC
Doolan and Craigen get the game underway #COYW #PTFCvMFC
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald:
“We touched on it last week, we lost Dan and Kallum last week at Kilmarnock at half-time and I thought other players have got to take responsibility as a team.
“I thought they did that as a team. They worked ever so hard at the ugly side of the game and they got their reward with goals, good footballing goals as well.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Obviously when you are not winning games it’s a worry. I’ve been through it as a player and a coach and there’s no hiding place. You have to stand up and be counted.
“I don’t think it was a lack of desire or effort, they scored at the right times and took their opportunities.
“Of course it’s a concern when you are losing games and near the bottom of the table. I think you could say for the last three and a half years we have punched above our weight, I think certainly at this moment we are punching below our weight.
“I don’t think there is much between teams. Confidence plays a big part in football and the only way we get that back is by winning games. It’s just hard work, no magic formula, it’s hard work, dedication, organisation and individuals playing as well as they possibly can.”