FOOTBALL: DICK QUICK ON THE DRAW; Partick 0 Hearts 0; No complaints from bosses as they get set for Tynecastle rematch.
IT'S not often cup matches end to the satisfaction of both parties - but that's what happened at Firhill on Saturday.
New Thistle boss Dick Campbell got a battling performance, a clean sheet and another pay day in the replay.
For Hearts boss John Robertson there was unmistakable relief at avoiding what could have been a soul-destroying cup exit.
Even in their uncertain form his side should be strong enough to see off Thistle on their own patch in the replay.
Everyone a winner then? Not exactly - the punters got little bang for their 15 bucks, other than an afternoon away from the wife and a dose of hypothermia.
Still, when your defence has been as watertight as a bashed sieve all season, 0-0 against a decent SPL side must feel like a moral victory.
The rearguard has been Campbell's priority since he took over early last week, and Jags' training sessions were restructured to that effect.
It would be churlish then to begrudge Campbell the satisfaction he felt at his back line's new-found competence.
He said: "There is a base there to work with, in that we didn't lose any goals. That's good when you think how many we've leaked this season.
"We restricted Hearts to a free-kick from 40 yards, which produced the only save our keeper made.
"One or two players lacked confidence, but the team can take hope from the clean sheet. We've worked on defence for the last three days in training and a lot of it paid off.
"We had chances, particularly in the first half, but I wouldn't say that we deserved to win."
Central defender Adrian Madaschi, who with his partner Grant Murray did well to neutralise the aerial threat of Kevin McKenna, echoed his manager's sentiments.
He took care, though, to sound a note of caution and direct thoughts back to the bread-and-butter business of Division One survival.
He said: "It was great to get a good start for the new manager. We had been working on the defence so this gives us something to build on.
"We worked well together and formed a good, solid unit. But we won't go over the top about it.
"We have to turn our attentions to our next league game, against Queen of the South."
Robertson's triumphant return to his spiritual home of Tynecastle took place only recently, but he is already beginning to realise that it ain't easy being the Messiah.
Indifferent form, defecting stars and financial uncertainty have eroded the all-too-brief feelgood factor.
So much so that many onlookers had given the dreaded "banana skin" tag to the Firhill fixture.
All things considered, then, Robbo was not too disheartened by his side's failure to reach the fourth round at the first time of asking.
He said: "When I look at some of the other results around the country, I am just thankful to be given a second chance. For sheer guts and effort Partick thoroughly deserved a draw.
"We dominated territorially, especially in the second half, but our forwards didn't get into areas where they could hurt the opposition.
"Those are the problems that have been there all season.
"I'll try to get some players in, but cash constraints might make that difficult."
As Jags boss Campbell pointed out, his keeper Kenny Arthur was only called into urgent action once - and that was in the last minute of regulation time.
To be fair, it was a superb effort from Phil Stamp, who thumped in a free-kick from 40 yards. It was hard, straight and true, and Arthur had to look sharp to tip over.
Prior to that the only real threat came from McKenna, but his best efforts - one header and two shots - all finished wide. It was Thistle's Juan Escalas who came closest of all to scoring, his neat turn and shot on 35 minutes catching the outside of Craig Gordon's right-hand post.
Jags striker Armand One managed to find space in the danger zone on at least three occasions, but each time he elected to cut the ball back to a team-mate, and each time there was a Hearts man there to intercept.
All eyes are now on Tynecastle for the replay a week on Wednesday.
KEVIN AND HELL: Agony for Hearts' McKenna as he goes close
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jan 10, 2005|
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