Maroon Memories: Partick Thistle 1-4 Hearts, October 25, 2003

HEARTS manager Craig Levein made drastic changes to the side which had capitulated so meekly when losing 5-0 to Celtic in glasgow tyhe previous weekend, as Hearts faced bottom club Partick Thistle.

Goalkeeper keeper Craig Gordon, Andy Kirk, Robbie Neilson, Kevin McKenna and Paul Hartley, were all favoured for the trip to Firhill, and Hearts created an unassailable three-goal lead within half an hour of a one-sided contest.

Happiest of all probably was Kirk, the striker making his first start of the season and celebrating by scoring two of Hearts’ goals.

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Kirk’s Tynecastle contract was due to expire at the end of the season, so he did his best here to remind his manager of his worth.

Hearts had this contest wrapped up within a third of the match unfolding. Kirk was first on the scoresheet in 13 minutes as Hearts took the direct approach. Gordon’s long kick out was knocked down by Mark de Vries and Kirk was on hand to sweep the ball low past the helpless Kenny Arthur.

De Vries himself put Hearts two ahead, though Paul Hartley can take credit for locating him with a precise centre. The Dutchman had time to drill his sweet angled drive over the line.

If things really do come in threes it was not particularly welcome for the now very much beleaguered hosts as Hearts extended their lead further from a corner kick. Hartley sent the ball in, McKenna got a touch and it was left for Kirk to sweep it home for his second of what was already proving to be a most productive afternoon.

Downbeat Thistle were finding it difficult to change anything about the worryingly one-way traffic and manager Gerry Collins was forced to make a change in personnel towards the end of the first half when the injured Andy Thomson was replaced by striker Gerry Britton.

Soon after the restart, Collins exhausted his substitution options by bringing on Emmanuel Panther and Ricky Waddell. Both were moments later involved in a Thistle attack that ended in bizarre circumstances and also summed up the paucity of their display.

Panther did well to get his threatening centre in from the right flank as Partick broke at pace, but what occurred was either comical or dispiriting, depending on your perspective.

Two Thistle players got there but, instead of one of them sweeping the ball into the Hearts net, Waddell and David Rowson merely collided with each other. If they hadn’t been in the same team, Thistle might have had a penalty.

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Then something went right for poor Partick. They hauled a goal back, sub Waddell pouncing on a half-clearance by the Hearts defence and striking a beautiful half volley from 20 yards on the angle. Gordon was left with no chance as the ball struck the top corner of the Hearts net.

The home team were by this stage playing markedly better, while Hearts seemed to fade, but the visitors still retained their threat, because Thistle had not improved the low standard of their defending. This eventually cost them dear when, after some confusion, the ball broke from Kirk and Hearts substitute Stephen Simmons ensured the ball ended in the Partick net. The young midfielder was surrounded by defenders in red and yellow shirts, but none of them could effect the clearance.