Fri 15 July, 2016. Kick Off: - 19:30
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
After a short pre-season campaign, the competitive football returns this evening with Thistle’s first Betfred Cup tie against Airdrieonians. Ptfc.co.uk caught up with manager Alan Archibald after training on Thursday to gather his thoughts on the start of a long season ahead.
“It’s been a really quick turn around with the introduction of the Betfred Cup group stages this summer. When we look at it in terms of where we were a year ago, then we’d be down at Bisham Abbey and have just played Eastleigh. That shows how quickly this summer has flown in for us.
“I was a fan of bringing in the group stages when they were announced. I thought they would be a good thing to change up the tournament, but since we’ve had trouble with injuries this pre-season I’m wishing that we had a couple of extra weeks to get everyone back fit.”
Thistle’s League cup record in recent years has been pretty poor and the gaffer is keen to have a cup run this time round.
“The great thing with the Betfred Cup this season is that by the end of November, the trophy will be decided. There is no long wait for the semi-finals or final to come round. Firstly, we want to progress from the group. We know it will be tough as only the top side will be guaranteed a place in the last 16, so we want to get off to a flying start by picking up all three points at Airdrie.”
With penalties potentially looming at the end of 90 minutes we asked Archie if he had been practising spot kicks.
“We’ve been practicing them in training for the whole week. We know you can’t simulate the pressure of a real scenario but we’re hoping it will help prepare the players in the event that they need to take part in a shoot-out.”
Finally we asked the gaffer to give us an update on his team news.
“Tomas Cerny and Ryan Scully are currently struggling with injury, which is why we have brought in David Crawford on a short term deal. No clubs can play trialists in this competition so we’ve had to sign him in order to have two fit goalkeepers in the squad for tonight.
“With regards to the rest of the squad, Liam Lindsay has been training for the full week. Ryan Edwards is also back into training with the squad but we’re waiting on the fitness of David Amoo after the injury he picked up last week. Ziggy Gordon is fit and will be available for selection this evening.”
Thistle travelled to the Excelsior Stadium for their first competitive fixture of the 2016/17 season taking on League One Airdrieonians as the Betfred Cup group stages got underway. Despite the mid-July date, the weather wasn’t glorious sun shine as the rain tumbled down before kick off, with the poor weather contributing to a slick artificial surface.
Manager Alan Archibald didn’t have his injury issues to seek with a number of first team regulars missing the match. David Crawford, signed early on Friday went straight into the starting line up while Danny Devine and Ziggy Gordon also made their competitive debuts for the club.
Thistle got the game underway after a moments silence for the victims of the terror attacks in Nice yesterday and immediately went on the front foot. The high pressing game was forcing Airdrie into giving away the ball inside their half, but the Jags didn’t display a cutting edge in front of goal during the early period of the game. Ziggy Gordon looked to have picked out Steven Lawless with an excellent through ball but a vital Airdrie boot deflected the ball away to safety.
Airdrie had their first glimpse of goal in the 11th minute when a long free kick wasn’t dealt with in the Jags box, the defence eventually hacked clear after a couple of Diamonds attackers had fresh air kicks at the attempt on goal. As play surged down the other end, Doolan mis-timed his jump and couldn’t steer his header on target from 10 yards out.
Thistle were still demonstrating good play and the attacking players were having neat interplay without seriously testing the Airdrie goalkeeper. Sean Welsh was next to have an attempt but from 25 yards he fired high over the bar.
Airdrie weren’t posing a threat in the Thistle defence but from a long ball Andy Ryan forced a terrific one handed save from David Crawford with a powerful low effort. Ziggy Gordon managed to scoop the loose ball away from danger.
After 25 minutes, Thistle had the ball in the back of the net through Kris Doolan. The striker just strayed offside from Chris Erskine’s excellent through ball. It was Erskine who passed up the next Jags opportunity when, with just the goalkeeper to beat, he opted to head David Wilson’s cross into the turf rather than firing a left footed effort beyond the goalkeeper.
Despite all the possession, Thistle didn’t win a corner until the 42nd minute. McDaid’s delivery was met by Ziggy Gordon at the near post, but his header was off target. McDaid had the next opportunity, forcing a great save from the goalkeeper before Steven Lawless fired the rebound off the post.
With the game delicately poised at half time there was a feeling amongst the stands that a Thistle goal was only a matter of time.
Thistle started the second half strongly and won a corner in the first couple of minutes. McDaid again found a Jags head with his delivery but Lindsay’s header was cleared off the line. Chris Erskine sent the rebound high over the bar from 10 yards out.
Thistle continued to press and Erskine picked the pocket of a defender but was unable to find Kris Doolan with his chipped pass. Moments later, a similar combination produced the only goal of the game. A back pass from Iain Russell remained at the feet of his goalkeeper for far too long and he was rushed into a short pass to his defender. Chris Erskine closed down the defender, robbing him of the ball before McDaid instinctively played the ball into the path of Kris Doolan. He took a touch before guiding the ball into the corner of the net, beyond the reach of the despairing goalkeeper.
Azeez was introduced as a substitute and showed Thistle fans the first glimpse of his electrifying pace with a strong showing. He provided an instant outlet to hold up the ball as Thistle looked to hold on to the goal they so richly deserved.
Airdrie brought on a number of attackers to drag themselves level as they looked to grab a draw which would bring about a penalty shoot out, but despite a number of corners and set pieces, David Crawford never had a save to make.
Thistle were professional in their performance and saw out the remainder of the clean to secure a thoroughly merited 1-0 victory and get the Betfred Cup campaign off to a winning start. Next up in the group stages is a home fixture with Queen of the South, a tie Jags Season ticket holders will get in for free.
Thistle returned to competitive action on Friday night with the opening fixture of the 2016/17 Betfair Cup. Alan Archibald’s side ran out 1-0 winners but it was a close competitive game with chances for both sides. The Thistle manager spoke to ptfc.co.uk on the way back from the Excelsior to give his thoughts on the contest and on the beginning of the season’s campaign.
First and foremost it is great to get the win and get three points on the board after the first round of fixtures. We want to qualify from this group as quickly as possible and give ourselves some extra preparation time for the start of the league campaign.
“We knew that Airdrie would be good opposition and they showed that tonight. They have just gone full time and looked fit and hungry. A good run about was exactly what we wanted to be fair and it was great to get minutes for a few of the lads who have missed some of pre-season.
“The other major positive to take was the clean sheet. That back four and goalie combination has never played together before so it will be a tremendous boost to them to have got the clean sheet under their belt.”
Airdrie created a number of chances of their own and Archie’s side certainly knew they were in a game.
“They really tested us at times and had a number of decent chances. I did think we maybe could have killed them off after half time as we had a couple of good chances but I’ll take the win and the clean sheet all day long.
“In the end it was Kris Doolan who scored the only goal of the game and that’s what’s great about Dools – he’s reliable. He only had a couple of chances today, one was ruled out for offside and the other was a goal so you can’t really ask for more than that. The link up between Lawless, Erskine and Doolan was great too and they really looked like they’ve never been apart.”
The Jags signed David Crawford as goalkeeping cover this week and the former Alloa man certainly earned his first wage packet with a couple of excellent saves, including one in the first half that arguably swung the balance of the game.
“David did well today as he did on Saturday against Morton. It’s been a difficult situation for us because we thought Ryan Scully would be fit by now. David has only trained a few days with us but he’s a personality and he talked all night tonight which is exactly what we needed.
Having David in as backup means we can be patient with Tomas and Ryan and we don’t need to rush either of them back which can only be a good thing long term.
Thistle resume their Betfred Cup campaign on July 23rd at home to Queen of the South, a game that season ticket holders get into for free. You can buy or renew your season ticket now at ptfctickets.