Penalty Them, No!
see also: Every penalty (faced) →

by Jack Little & William Sheridan


Second Hampden Park
● Inventor, Wm. McCrum.
The penalty-kick was invented by William McCrum who kept goal for Milford of Armagh, and was unhappy at seeing so many professional fouls go unpunished. Himself a member of the Irish Football Association, he proposed the introduction of penalty kicks to curb this practice, and, in June 1890, a delegate took it to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in London. The resolve to fully introduce the law was half-hearted, and the cause of much heated debate. Shortly thereafter, it seems to have been filtered in to lesser matches in England only, with reports that Scotsman Frank McGinnes of Burslem Port Vale scored the world's first penalty in September 1890 (see The Strawplaiters external-link.png).

During that 'season of doubt' two high profile incidents swung the pendulum heavily in favour of a more widespread implementation. On 20th December, 1890, Jimmy Adams of Hearts blatantly punched the ball away from underneath the bar, denying East Stirlingshire a certain goal in their Scottish Cup quarter final tie. Just a couple of months later, a Notts County player committed the same blatant offence, denying Stoke City in their FA Cup quarter final tie. The meeting of the IFAB in Glasgow on 2nd June 1891 finally ratified McCrum's earlier proposal, universally impacting the beautiful game forever.

In Scotland, the first award of a penalty took place just four days later, on 6 June 1891, at Mavisbank Park in Airdrie, James McLuggage scoring, as Royal Albert defeated Airdrieonians 2-0 to lift the Airdrie Charity Cup. (see Scottish Sport History external-link.png). Looking back at it now, the contemporary reporting which spoke of the award is at once fascinating and hilarious:

That the new law was a puzzle to the players was evident, all appeared think they could stand in front of the ball as of old, but imagine the astonishment of both players and spectators when Connor alone was left between the sticks, while his ten companions had to go six yards behind the ball along with the Royalists. In simple terms, the new law means that but two men settle such infringement, the kicker and opposing goalkeeper, and a goal is a moral certainty with half good management. The new penalty is most stringent, and referees will require to satisfy themselves that the law has been wilfully broken before bringing such penalty into force or we may hear of some ‘scenes’ during the incoming season when cup ties are in full swing, and partisanship red hot.


Second Hampden Park
● Second Hampden Park was the scene of the first-ever penalty in a Partick Thistle game.

In the world of the ardent Partick Thistle supporter, the first penalty seen was on 29th August, 1891, at the second Hampden Park i.e. the ground which went on to be known as Cathkin Park and currently lies eerily in a semi-conscious state southside. Thistle had actually beaten Queen's Park in the first two encounters way back in the early 1880s but, at that time, the elite force of the Scottish game tended to put forward their second eleven against those classified as “lesser lights”. From then on, the next 12 games were first eleven affairs on both sides, with Queen's Park winning each and every time, as they did against so many other clubs in the 1880s. We were starting to bridge the gap though - last season's two games had been lost only by 2 to 1 on both occasions - so there was hope that the desired scalp would soon come.

Hamilton vs. McCorkindale
● Hamilton vs. McCorkindale.

The game in question was the much-anticipated season-opener for the Spiders, and the Jags, playing their 4th game already, caught them cold. Watty Keay gave Thistle the lead after just 7 minutes, but soon after that, the first penalty kick in a Partick Thistle match was awarded, referee R. H. Harrison (Ayrshire) ratifying the Queen's Park claims for hand ball. As the Scottish Referee obliquely put it, “Hamilton, through a violation of rule 13, had an easy chance of opening the scoring for the Queens”. (What are the odds this reporter was a bureaucratic rulemaker?) In the first 12-yard battle of skill, wit and nerve, it was future internationalist (centre-forward) James Hamilton versus current internationalist (goalkeeper) JOHN McCORKINDALE. Our boy prevailed, and he made history as the first Thistle 'keeper to save a penalty! It turned out to be a sensational match actually; Thistle raced into a mind-boggling 4-0 lead after just 30 minutes, only to lose six without reply in the next 50 minutes of action. Our first win against the mighty QP proper would have to wait a little longer yet. Final score:- Queen's Park 6, Partick Thistle, 5. This remains the joint club-record for most goals scored in a defeat!

Later on that same season, the first-known penalty goal in a Thistle game was scored and, as you might have guessed by the fact that you're reading this piece, it went against us. Thistle were playing their first season of League football, and the award was made at Inchview, in the 18th game (of 22) in our inaugural Scottish Alliance campaign. In the second half, an unknown player of the Northern scored it against our JAMES MARSHALL, but it mattered not a jot; Thistle were 5-1 up at the time of the award, and won by 7 goals to 3 in the end, pleasing the majority of the 1,500 present.

In a new pavillion fundraiser at (and for) Renton's Tontine Park in August, 1906, 18-year-old LEE MASSEY became the first Jag to face a penalty on his debut. 3,000 were there to witness the goal, and Renton completed their comeback 15 minutes from time for the 2-2 draw.

On 6th January, 1912, 23-year-old ROBERT G. HOUSTON became the second Jags 'keeper to face a penalty on his debut, but he went one better than the aforementioned Lee Massey, saving the spot-kick of St Mirren's Archibald Kyle. Thistle were leading 2-0 at the time, and were spurred on to record the 3-0 win at Love Street, securing two valuable League points.

Robert made further history at Cappielow just seven days later, becoming the first 'keeper to face a penalty in his first TWO games! There was no joy for the Jags this time however, as Morton went two up in the first half, and that's how it stayed 'til the final whistle. The tough task of facing back-to-back penalties in your first two is a very rare one and has only been experienced by three others; BOBBY HENDERSON in 1937 (2/2 prevented!), ANDY MURDOCH in 1989 (1/2 prevented) and HARRY STONE in 2021 (0/2 prevented).

In all, 5 Jagsmen have registered the very special feat of saving a penalty on their debut; ROBERT G. HOUSTON (1912), BOBBY HENDERSON (1937), WILLIE SMITH (1953), GARY O'CONNOR (1997) and DAVID CRAWFORD (2016).

At Lancaster's Giant Axe stadium in July, 2006, JONNY TUFFEY became the only Thistle 'keeper in history to make his debut as a substitute and have to face a penalty. He had come on for Kenny Arthur at half-time with Thistle 1-0 up, but within just 8 minutes of his baptism he was called into the dreaded 12-yard face-off. City's Ryan Elderton converted, but Mark Roberts restored our advantage on 70 minutes and 2-1 was how it finished.


Archie McKenzie
● The bold Archie McKenzie.

Bo'ness-born full back ARCHIE McKENZIE made almost 300 appearances for the Jags, so he had much to remember about his time at Firhill. One memory in particular may have stood our for him; on 9th April 1910 he became the first outfield player to face a penalty, doing so in a 3-1 League defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road. Regular 'keeper Willie Howden had been injured in a goalmouth scramble early on (he was taken to hospital at half-time), so McKenzie went into goal. Trailing at the break, the penalty soon after the restart doubled the lead. Our Charles Lowrie scored with a drooping shot, but Hibs got their 3rd near the end.

Only two other outfield player have ever had to face penalty as a sub goalie, and we're still waiting to see the first glorious goal prevention in such circumstances! In a rather mental day at Victoria Park in December '99, Kevin Budinauckas was red-carded after just 22 minutes, for pulling down ex-JAG George Shaw, who duly converted the penalty against ALBERT CRAIG. The second half stoppage of 15 mins for floodlight failure summed up our day really, although Albert did well to leave the final score respectable at 1-2. From the very next season onwards, having a goalie on the subs bench became the new normal.

In what became a Halloween horror show in October, 2015, Ryan Scully became the first-ever Thistle goalkeeper to be sent off at Firhill, his rash tackle 5 minutes from time resulting in a penalty to Hearts, who, by that stage, were already 3 to nil ahead in the game. With Thistle having used up all three subs it was Ryan Stevenson who stepped up to don the gloves. He very nearly saved the penalty too, but nil-four was the final-score.


On 25th January, 1902, future-internationalist WILLIE HOWDEN, only 3 months in the door, became the first of our custodians to face two penalties in the same match. Arthurlie were the visitors to Meadowside, and Thistle were leading 5-0 at the time of the first award, which was unconverted. The 'Lie got a chance to atone and this they did to make it 5-1. It finished 5-2 in the end, so the double-award caused little angst.

Thistle's legendary internationalist JOHNNY JACKSON played a Scottish-record 313 competitive games straight for Thistle between 1926 and 1933. He'd really seen it all as a goalkeeper, but even he must have been shocked in January, 1933, when he became the first Thistle custodian to face THREE penalty kicks in the one match. All were converted by Hamilton's Alex Herd (father of Scottish Internationalist David), a unique feat never since repeated against the Jags. The 4-3 loss at Douglas Park was a sore one to take as Thistle had led three times and were better in all departments. Every penalty was hotly disputed. Our grandads are still raging!

We've seen the triple-award going against us twice since then. In an April 1938 League match at Muirton Park, only one of the three was converted v. BOBBY JOHNSTONE, but St Johnstone won 3-1 anyway. Would you believe it, it was Hamilton Academical who were awarded another three in a Southern League match at Douglas Park in December, 1941. This time, in complete contrast to 8 years earlier, they failed to convert all of them when facing up to BOBBY HENDERSON. 6-3 Thistle. Justice for the Jags!


From October '37 to February 1938, BOBBY JOHNSTONE's feat of saving 5 consecutive penalties which he faced (one of which came in a 3-1 League win at Ibrox) is quite possibly the most sensational of all our penalty goalie heroics, certainly in terms of first class action. We'll have more on Bobby later.

Whilst we're only really concerned with first team affairs in this overview, it would be remiss of us not to pass comment on a most notable achievement by reserve keeper ROBERT McFARLANE. The “Dumfries and Galloway Standard” reported that, in a match against Kilmarnock reserves at Rugby Park on 27-Oct-1945, the referee ordered a penalty to be re-taken SIX TIMES, deeming McFarlane to have moved too soon. He saved the 7th attempt with a “legitimate” save. This relatively obscure report does not mention if the first 6 kicks were saved, but it must be assumed that the referee would not have continued to penalise Kilmarnock if they had already found the net. The event is confirmed by a reply in a readers’ letters column in the “Daily Mail” (22-Jan-1992). It suggested Kilmarnock therefore hold the record for the number of re-taken penalty kicks. Difficult to disagree with that! The Kilmarnock “taker” was left-half Jock Whyte.

In terms of making physical saves, BILLY RITCHIE (1968-1970) failed to make any in the 10 kicks that he faced, although 2 of these were off-target and perhaps it's unfair to include them. Curiously, another ex-Ranger GEORGE NIVEN (1962-1968, a fine keeper) had only 1 physical save from his 28 known outcomes. One save from 38 for this ex-Ibrox duo is far from impressive. Perhaps they didn’t get enough practice when playing for Rangers! Ironically, Ritchie saved a penalty against his old club in the New Years day game of 1970, but the referee ordered a re-take (encroachment) so it didn’t count. It was subsequently shot wide anyway!


Glasgow Cup 1951
● Glasgow Cup winners, 1951.

Of all the 63 penalties faced by TOMMY LEDGERWOOD, none were more important than his 30th minute cup final save from Celtic's John McPhail in front of 56,500 @ Hampden Park in September, 1950. Thistle were leading 1-0 at the time, and the match finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. The replay was won by Davie Meiklejohn' Jags, 6 months later, giving Thistle just their second-ever Glasgow Cup trophy.

Alan Rough
● Roughie, ready to spring.

It's frustrating that so little film footage exists of Thistle in the ALAN ROUGH era, and the younger generation weaned on YouTube might be forgiven for thinking that he spent his entire Thistle career on his knees, the perpetual victim of a stramash in the mud against either of the Old Firm! Of course, this picture is far removed from the bread 'n' butter reality. Actually, 4 of Roughie's 19 penalty saves were against the Old Firm, and one in particular from 1979-80 stands out. In February, his 65th minute stop from future-Jag Murdo MacLeod kept the spirits up at a rain-lashed Firhill. Arthur Montford described the action brilliantly in real-time: “What a save by Rough, absolutely fabulous! McLeod thumped it solidly, right-footed, Rough took off, spun to his left. A save of incomparable quality, round the post for a corner.” Celtic took the lead 10 minutes later, but Jim Melrose earned an excellent point at the death.

On 11th September, 1993 (match day 6) Thistle were still searching for their first League win of the season. They didn't really expect to find it at Ibrox, but very nearly did, and ANDY MURDOCH played a key role. In the 51st minute, with the score at 1-1, his mad sliding tackle on Mark Hately resulted in the inevitable penalty. He atoned a minute later though, with an excellent save from Hately's kick. 1-1 was how it stayed, as Lambie's Jags jostled for position in their second season back in the top-flight. This propelled the Jags on to a run of just 1 loss in 10.

KENNY ARTHUR is remembered fondly for his whole-hearted commitment to the Jaggy cause, and he did very well in terms of making physical saves from spot-kicks. He's best remembered for his inspirational save in against St Mirren in the title-winning season of 2001-02, and we'll have more on that later! Whilst our penalty stats only relate to regular play, special mention must also be made of Kenny's save in the play-off shoot-out at Balmoor in May, 2006. With Thistle one-up, he magnificently saved Peterhead's first, getting down wide and low to his right, allowing Thistle to take an early 2 goal advantage, thus setting a winning tone. It was 4-2 in the final count, and the Jags were up. Pitchy! Scenes!

The experienced PAUL GALLACHER gave good service to the Jags as player/coach and was the consummate professional in dealing with his role as back-up to Scott Fox. When his (many) chances came, his commanding presence was clear for all to see, and he endeared himself to the Firhill faithful with his dependable performances. He's especially well remembered for his ability in the penalty-kick joust, physically saving 4 from 8. In February, 2014, his first half stop of Barry Robson's effort gave the Jags the platform to go and record an excellent 3-1 win against Aberdeen, their first home League win of the season. Paul's value to the squad was dramatically and emphatically underlined several months later at Dens Park. With Scott Fox having been dismissed on the hour mark, Paul came on and saved the resulting penalty splendidly. For added spice, it was taken by former Jag, Gary Harkins! This kept the scoreline at 1-1, and that's how it stayed 'til the end.

Tomáš Černý
● Tomáš Černý - what a save!

The popular TOMÁŠ ČERNÝ did well for Thistle in the top-flight, and his April 2017 penalty save at Celtic Park was truly one to savour. It was match day 31 and Celtic remained unbeaten in the League. Thistle had just equalised courtesy of an unforgettable goal from Ade Azeez, but the celebrations had barely died down when Celtic were awarded a penalty. Černý's magnificent save was greatness personified, requiring a strong arm and precise judgement to thwart Scott Sinclair's well-taken waist-high strike. It was a point-winner, and it could so easily have been three, but that's another story for another day.


In all, 95 men (plus 5 unknowns/trialists) have faced a spot-kick in the name of the Partick Thistle first team. Inevitably, with 631 appearances, ALAN ROUGH has faced the most (89, 1979-1982) and is followed by TOMMY LEDGERWOOD (63, 1947-1959), BOBBY HENDERSON (61, 1937-1950), WILLIE HOWDEN (46, 1902-1910) and BOBBY JOHNSTONE (41, 1933-1939). Between them, these five break the 300 mark and account for some 37% of all penalties faced.

In terms of physical saves, six keepers can boast a 100% record, albeit each of them faced only one kick in doing so; JOHN MCCORKINDALE (1891), GARY O'CONNOR (1997), JAMIE LANGFIELD (2004), STEVEN PINKOWSKI (2004), NEIL BENNETT (2005) and DAVID CRAWFORD (2016).

Of the 812 penalties awarded against Thistle, 108 have been to either Rangers or Celtic (54 each), a whopping 13.3% of the grand total. It may surprise you to know, however, that the Old Firm do account for a massive 10.9% of our fixture card from 1891-92 onwards! Clyde (44) and Hibernian (40) are next on the list. Making a surprise appearance in the 'Top 40' are Glentoran, who've been awarded 3 penalties against Thistle down throughout the years.

Working on a 'games-per-penalty' ratio, and limiting the query to the 30 clubs with whom we've met on at least 50 occasions since 1891-92, it's Hamilton Academical who sit atop the table. As noted earlier, twice they were awarded three penalties in a single game, and this luck seems to have continued down throughout the years; Accies have been awarded a penalty against Thistle once every 5.3 games! Next on the list are St Johnstone (5.74), Hibernian (6.05), Falkirk (6.08) and Rangers (6.13).


So, when it comes to facing penalties, just who are the three greatest Thistle goalies of all-time? The results are in from our two man jury…



pen-miss.png 22/41

In many ways, Bobby's rather mad penalty story is typical of “the great unpredictables” legend that is Partick Thistle FC. He physically saved just one of the first 15 penalties that he faced, but what happened next was surely one of the most extraordinary runs of any goalkeeper, anytime, anywhere in the world. From Nov '36 to Apr '38, a massive 14 of the 16 penalties against him resulted in no goals against. Two goalkeeping records were set during this period; 7-in-a-row penalties without concession and 5-in-a-row physical penalty saves. In the final tally-up, his 53.7% prevention ratio is truly remarkable, miles ahead of the club's historic ratio of around 29%.

Top Pen Save:

up.png Saving Alex Ventners last-minute penalty on 3rd January 1938, sealed a great 3-1 League win over Rangers. Johnstone was described as “first class” in the first half at foggy Ibrox where “the players flitted about in an atmosphere of gloom. Occasionally only the thump, thump as the ball was kicked made its presence certain.” It was Thistle's first win there in 22 years, and was the second penalty of Bobby's aforementioned record-runs.


pen-miss.png 8/25

When examining the goalie penalty stats one of the surprising finds was that 24 out of 25 takers hit the target when facing Kenny Arthur, so he had it all to do, with no wayward strikers to artificially boost his figures. Despite this, he still maintained an above-average penalty prevention ratio, due to his excellent physical save ratio (29.17% of the shots-on-target). We don't include penalty shoot-outs in our stats tallies, but Kenny's placement is boosted by the fond memory of the save at Peterhead which helped clinched promotion in the 2006 play-offs.

Top Pen Save:

up.png Against St Mirren in December, 2001, his 64th minute save from Steven McGarry's spot-kick spurred Thistle on, and Firhill was bedlam when Martin Hardie broke the deadlock, heading home the winner, 6 minutes from time. Lambie, in full highland dress, knew, and a confidence spread throughout the faithful that an unlikely second consecutive title just might be do-able.


pen-miss.png 9/20

Of all 20+ appearance 'keepers, William's overall goal prevention ratio of 45% is second only to Bobby Johnstone, and his physical saves to shots-on-target ratio (31.25%) is enough to clinch his 3rd place spot in our list.

Top Pen Save:

up.png A new Firhill record crowd (average estimates 32,500) was in attendance for the League game with Rangers on 3rd January, 1911. With the match in the balance at 2-2 in the second half, William saved Billy Hogg's penalty “cleverly”. Rangers strove desperately for the winning goal, but our hero baulked all attempts, saving magnifently on multiple occasions. The fighting point kept Thistle's amazing unbeaten home run going; the club-record of 23 competitive home games without defeat would soon be set, and the 4th placed finish in the Scottish Football League was a new record high. This really was the season which lifted Thistle out of their nomadic doldrum, and the club was re-born.

Thistle Archive Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 05-Nov-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 05-Nov-2021.

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