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Scorer: Elliott (87)

A CHRISTIE Elliott strike just three minutes from time proved just enough to see Partick Thistle squeeze by plucky Stranraer.

The Blues made three changes in what, on paper, was the hardest game of Stranraer's four Betfred Cup games.

Two divisions separate the Jags and Stevie Farrell's men but for large chunks of the game a neutral would have struggled to believe the gap.

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Ryan Wallace missed out through suspension while Paul Woods and Scott Agnew dropped to the bench. In came Stephen Okoh - making his second start for the club - as well as former Partick Thistle man David Barron and Steven Bell.

While Barron and Bell would likely be known to Thistle management, Okoh was something of a wild card and he stung the palms of Tomas Cerny after just two minutes.

The hosts were looking the more assured and more composed side on the ball. They were able to spread the play well and find room on the flanks but at the same time, Max Currie was rarely tested in the first half.

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Stranraer were chasing and pressurising and on occasions that paid off and saw the Firhill side stretched, with Kyle Turner doing well to support Okoh up front.

Thistle's best chance in the opening stages came from a set piece, as winger Blair Spittal curled a good free kick over the wall, but Currie was equal to it and put it round the post for a corner.

The visitors were threatening, too, and Turner's whipped in delivery was accurate, but neither Anderson's head nor Okoh's leg could send it towards goal.

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Okoh was proving a real nuisance to the Thistle defence, as the Englishman headed one over and was then denied by a last ditch block.

Both sides were presented with good chances just before the break as again Stranraer's high pressing paid off.

Okoh won a corner after Turner's through ball but Stranraer failed to take advantage of a scramble in the box before the hosts hit them on the counter-attack.

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This time it was Steven Lawless who cut in from the left but his shot was always rising and flew over the crossbar.

One hundred and thirty five Stranraer fans clapped off their team at the break - more than happy with not only an impressive defensive showing, particularly given the 11 goals conceded in the previous three games, but also a determined performance further up the park.

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Jamie Hamill tested Cerny soon after the restart with a fierce drive from outside the box, and Thistle made the first change as they replaced youngster Kevin Nisbet with a more seasoned striker in Kris Doolan.

The Firhill men were again enjoying plenty of possession outside the Stranraer box.

Currie was equal to Spittal's shot for a second time before Chris Erskine blazed high and wide when he should have done better.

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However, Stranraer had the best chance of the second half just after the hour mark.

Again, the visitors' pressing was the key as they stole possession and found themselves three on one. Okoh probably could have picked out Turner or substitute Woods but elected to go it alone and pulled his shot wide of the post.

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Away fans could have been forgiven for expecting more of a siege on Currie's goal as the second half wore on.

Thistle were still enjoying the bulk of the possession and the goalkeeper was more worked than the first half but it was certainly not a case of Stranraer clinging on for a penalty shootout.

Unfortunately for the Blues, Thistle got their goal with just three minutes to play.

The ball bobbled round in the box and it was Elliott who was in the right place at the right time to slam the ball home.

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It was a real sickener, but Thistle could have doubled that advantage through another Spittal free kick moments later.

This time he had the beating of Currie but - with a sizeable chunk of the home support celebrating - it hit the side netting.

There would be one last chance for Stranraer before referee John Beaton blew the final whistle.

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Bell did well to wriggle his way into the box and to the byline and cut the ball back.

Unfortunately, none of the three Stranraer men in the box had gambled and burst into the six yard box and Thistle smashed the ball clear.

No football fan, manager or player likes to lose a game but it was one where Stranraer could hold their heads high having matched their opposition.

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Thistle were ahead in terms of possession but it took until late on for them to turn that into a goal.

Now, Farrell's attention can firmly turn to this weekend's visitors to Stair Park, East Fife.

Last season came to a close with a 2-1 Stranraer win against the Fifers, and the manager would likely take a repeat of that in seven days time.

Partick Thistle: Cerny, Booth, Barton, Elliott, Devine, Osman, Spittal, Bannigan (Edwards 69), Erskine, Lawless (McLaughlin 80), Nisbet (Doolan 53).
Not used: Keown, Penrice, McCarthy and Scully.

Stranraer: Currie, Robertson, Dick, Barron, Neill, Bell, Anderson (Woods 61), Turner (Stoney 83), Hamill, Thomson, Okoh (Agnew 74).
Not used: McGowan, Holland, Simpson and McLaren

Referee: John Beaton
HT: 0-0
Attendance: 2,185

Photos: Stranraer FC, Bill McCandlish

SPFL 3L1 6474

 Pos  Team  Pld   Pts 
1 Ayr United 12 26
2 Raith Rovers 11 26
3 Alloa Athletic 13 21
4 Arbroath 13 20
5 East Fife 13 18
6 STRANRAER 12 17
7 Albion Rovers 13 16
8 Airdrieonians 13 15
9 Forfar Athletic 13 12
10 Queen's Park 13 8