SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 4 April, 2015. Kick Off: - 15:00
Having had a weekend with no fixture Thistle boss, Alan Archibald, is ready and raring to go ahead of Saturday’s match against Aberdeen, a team experiencing something of a resurgence under Derek McInnes.
“It’s a massive game for us and a great opportunity to build on the period of good form we have had in recent weeks. Aberdeen are doing very well this season and Derek has them playing some good stuff.
“The last time we were at Pittodrie I thought we were disappointing and didn’t produce anywhere near what we are capable of. We’ll be looking to improve on that this time around and I know that if the boys do their jobs right there’s no reason why we can’t come back down the road with the points.”
Thistle haven’t won at Pittodrie since 2003 but that isn’t a stat that bothers Archibald.
“I think people do have a tendency to write us off against the bigger teams but we’ve shown recently how well we can play against sides in the top six.
“Games against Aberdeen are always going to be hard, especially given the form they are showing this season, but there’s never going to be a better time for us to play them than right now. The squad is full of confidence and we’ve been playing some good stuff.”
In the wake of the win over Inverness there was a wave of people suggesting that Thistle had pulled themselves clear of the relegation dog fight, but Archie knows there are still plenty of point up for grabs.
“There’s a long way to go yet and we need to make sure we push to the very end and finish as high up the table as possible. The bottom of the table is still vey tight and it looks like it will go right down to the wire. We were involved in the stramash at the bottom last season and we want to make sure we aren’t there this time.
“Securing safety as early as possible is massive for any team as it allows you to plan for the next season. Our aim isn’t just to get safe though we want to finish as high in the league as possible.”
Following the victory against Inverness Archibald will have pretty much the same squad to choose from this week.
“It’s pretty much the same as last time out. Dan Seaborne and Christie Elliott both miss out. Sean Welsh started jogging again this week but there’s still a way for him to go before he’ll be back in contention. The good news is the Kallum Higginbotham returns from suspension which gives us something different going forward.”
Thistle travelled north to Aberdeen for what has proved this season to be a very difficult place to get points for any team. With the international break coming after the Jags had achieved back to back wins, there was a quiet air of confidence within the camp. Manager, Alan Archibald, was able to name an unchanged side for the third game in a row. Kallum Higginbotham returned to the bench after serving his two match suspension in place of Declan McDaid.
The home side were quick out of the traps and, after just 18 seconds, O’Donnell had to look sharp after Rooney had escaped the attentions of Frans. In the second minute Hayes collected a pass wide and drove forward, unchallenged, his right foot cross finding Shankland who shot just over from twelve yards. A Logan cross then found Consodine unmarked at the back post in the fifth minute but Fox gathered his header comfortably.
Despite early pressure, in the eighth minute, Thistle came close with a sweeping move. Stevenson collected the ball deep in his own half and found Doolan who returned the pass, Stevenson then skipped past a desperate challenge and found Lawless at the back post but his acrobatic volley went well wide of the post.
As the first half progressed, Consodine saw another header, this time from a Logan cross, saved easily by Fox as the home side continued to press. The chances kept coming for the Dons as Rooney headed wide and Shankland also headed over from ten yards as the Jags defence remained resolute. Lawless then won the ball in midfield and his pass found Stevenson but his shot went wide from 25 yards.
Mid way through he first 45 there was a blow for Thistle when Kris Doolan limped off injured with a tight hamstring. Dools was replaced by our recently capped international striker, Lyle Taylor, who found himself in the thick of the action almost immediately. Lawless’ pass in behind the Dons defence sent Taylor through on Langfield but the home keeper did well to stand strong and make the save. Taylor had another great chance minutes later when Craigen’s magnificent through ball left him one on one again with Langfield. This time the on loan forward dinked the ball over the keeper only to see it go agonisingly wide. It seemed that Thistle had weathered the early Aberdeen storm as half time approached and the pace of Taylor was causing havoc amongst the Dons defence but the teams ultimately went in level at half time.
It was Thistle who created the second half’s first chance when, immediately after the restart, Craigen found space in the Dons rearguard and his powerful shot from 20 yards was magnificently tipped over the bar by Langfield. Craigen then collected a pass wide on the right after excellent work from Lawless and cut inside only to see his shot go high and wide.
With the second half ticking on, a Stevenson back heel nearly let in O’Donnell but the home defence were alert to the danger and managed to clear. Thistle were enjoying a good spell of possession and although the Dons did occassionally break forward the Jags rearguard defended stoutly. Craigen and Bannigan were in control of the midfield battle and a couple of crosses from the former caused problems for the home defence, the second cannoning off Logan and going inches wide.
At the other end, McGinn sent a near post corner which was met by the head of Rooney but the effort only hit the side netting. Taylor did have the ball in the net for Thistle but the whistle had already gone for offside. There were howls of derision from the home fans, directed towards the referee, when a mistake just inside the Thistle half saw Hayes take the ball away from Frans leaving the Belgian on the floor. With Freddie in some distress the referee pulled up play just as Hayes got to the box. It was an excellent decision by the referee as Hayes had studs showing and raised his boot to win the initial ball.
With three minutes remaining Hayes fired a thunderous effort from thirty yards out which stung the hands of Fox who gathered well at the second attempt. McGinn then tried his luck from 25 yards but Fox saw his shot all the way and gathered comfortably.
There was one last half chance but Hayes slashed his shot high and wide before the referee brought proceedings to a close with Thistle having gained an excellent and thoroughly deserved point in a 0-0 draw.
After watching a terrific grafting performance from his team, Alan Archibald spoke to ptfc.co.uk and it was clear how proud he was of his players.
“I thought we worked hard all over the pitch today and showed our quality at times as well. We created a few really good chances and took the game to them at times. A draw was probably just about a fair result but we certainly showed we can hurt them today.
“We played really well as a unit and all the lads worked hard for each other, when we do that we are a hard team to beat. It gives us great confidence going into Wednesday night’s game against Celtic and a real belief that we can go there and take something.”
Consistency, or lack there of, has been a buzz word at Firhill this season but Archie believes he is starting to see a more resolute side to his squad.
“That’s our third clean sheet on the bounce and we’re starting to see a bit of consistency from the lads. A lot of it comes from hard work and we need to keep going and get as many points on the board as we can.
“We know we aren’t safe yet but, at the same time, we are now only three points off Kilmarnock so we have a target above us too. We just have to concentrate on our own game and get as many results as we can between now and the end of the season.”
Lyle Taylor, a first half replacement for Kris Doolan who was struggling with a hamstring injury, twice went through on goal and, after seeing his first effort saved by Jamie Langfield, saw a dinked shot bounce just wide of the post. Archibald wasn’t too hard on his striker though.
“I think I would normally expect to see the net bulge when Lyle has chances like that but it obviously wasn’t his day today. To be fair to the lad, he only got back from the Caribbean on Thursday and he’s had something like 12 flights in that time. It would have been tremendous to take all three points but, as I say, a draw is probably about right.”