IAN McCall was delighted to see Partick Thistle back in action as his side played their first competitive game in almost three months but the Thistle boss was left with a familiar feeling as his team spurned a late lead as they were held 1-1 by Cove Rangers.

A second-half goal from substitute Joe Cardle had nudged the hosts ahead and they were seemingly on track for a morale-boosting three points before Mitch Megginson made the most of some sloppy defending to ensure Paul Hartley’s men left with a share of the spoils.

“Their goal was a comedy of errors from our point of view and it was rustiness,” admitted McCall. “We felt we probably deserved to win the game.

“Two or three times at Firhill this season we haven’t seen games out. I look back at the Falkirk game, for example, when they scored six minutes from the end. We just need to see games out.

“Megginson has done really well – take nothing away from him, but it’s really preventable from us.

“We should be playing balls into corners or up to strikers and just seeing the game out. A 1-0 on our first game back would have been a fantastic result. It might not have been a good watch but it would have been a fantastic result.”

Thistle fans had been patiently biding their team to see their players turn up at Firhill, and they were made to wait another 45 minutes after the first half passed largely without incident.

The two sides exchanged limp blows that never looked like resulting in a goal; indeed Jags debutant Ross MacIver had the only chance of note as he screwed the ball over the bar on the turn on 41 minutes.

There were a few heart-in-mouth moments at the back – Darren Brownlie gifting the opposition the ball on the halfway line chief among them – but Cove couldn’t capitalise on them. Megginson always looked like the visitors’ most promising route to goal but despite the home side’s occasionally lax defending, he never made them pay.

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The ball was lumped aimlessly from one end of the park to the other during the first half but in the second, both sides decided to try and play a bit. Richard Foster had to react smartly to intercept Jamie Masson’s delightful cross to keep the scores level and with half an hour to go, Cardle entered the fray.

His impact was immediate. The veteran winger had barely been on the park for five minutes before James Penrice’s cross-field ball fell to his feet on the edge of the area. Cardle did well to shimmy past Adam Livingstone to create the angle, and the ball took a hefty deflection off the Cove left-back as it trundled in at the near post.

Chris Erskine clambered off the bench shortly afterwards to make his fourth debut for the Jags and within 60 seconds, he had offered a taste of both the sublime and the absurd. He showed great feet to nimbly dance his way past Livingstone out on the right wing then tripped up over those same feet just as the time arrived to get the cross away.

The Jags could smell blood and they went on the offensive to grab that all-important second goal that would wrap the game up. Cardle – who was excellent after coming on – received the ball on the right, shifted it past the bamboozled Livingstone and the winger’s delivery had to be hastily hooked off the Cove goal-line. The rebound fell invitingly for Sena but the defender scooped his shot from eight yards over the bar.

Within moments, he was made to pay for his profligacy. Fraser Fyvie nudged the ball forward to Megginson, who spun away from Brownlie and drifted left as he zeroed in on goal. The Thistle defenders couldn’t get across in time to deny the striker, who calmly struck the ball into the bottom corner at the far post.

Thistle threw players forward in the closing stages, desperately trying to nick an equaliser that would never arrive. Cardle went closest but his drilled shot was headed wide of the target by Ryan Strachan and an Erskine pot-shot was held by Cove keeper Stuart McKenzie as the Jags were made to settle for a point.

The result leaves Thistle fifth in the standings after 11 games; eight shy of Falkirk in first, albeit having played a game less.

The gap between the Bairns and McCall's side may have grown - the league leaders returned with a 2-0 win over Montrose - but the 56-year-old insisted that the Jags are still in the title race.

"I think the top four or five clubs are all within distance [of catching Falkirk]," he said. "We know it's a shortened season so we'll need to win a few games but I think we're capable of doing that."