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Partick Thistle FC
Partick Thistle FC

SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Wed 8 April, 2015. Kick Off: - 19:45
Celtic Park

Match Preview

Celtic v Partick Thistle – 8th April 2015

Alan Archibald was in a positive mood as he spoke to ptfc.co.uk ahead of Wednesday night’s clash with Celtic and he insists the team are in a positive mindset for the game having kept three clean sheets in a row.

“The boys are all in good spirits after a tough and hard fought draw in Aberdeen on Saturday. We picked up a couple of knocks up north but hopefully it won’t affect us too much tonight.

“I think everyone is aware that we hit a horrendous run earlier in the season but we have put that behind us now and we’re getting the results at the best possible time. Ever since the result and performance at Tannadice we’ve turned things around and that gives us a great deal of confidence going into this game. Having said that we know we aren’t clear yet and there is still a lot of work to do, we just need to make sure we take that into the rest of the fixtures.”

For the Jags gaffer there was one distinct turning point and that was the poor performance at home to Ross County.

“I do think that was a turning point. We were very poor against them at Firhill and we made it clear to the players that that level of performance wasn’t acceptable. To be fair I feel they reacted well to it and, ever since then, we have performed much much better and played as a team rather than a group of individuals.

“We know where we are in terms of safety but the important thing is that it is still very much in our own hands. We just need to concentrate on our games and our performances and make sure we take the most number of points that we can. The other teams will look after themselves and there is nothing we can do about them. We need to keep our focus on ourselves and make sure we don’t leave ourselves in any danger of getting dragged back into the scrap.”

With the trip to Celtic Park coming hot on the heels of a tough journey to Aberdeen, Archie is acutely aware of the fact that nobody expects his team to come away with anything tonight.

“I think everyone expects Celtic to turn us over tonight but we will be going out with a different game plan. If we can keep things quiet for the first 15 or 20 minutes then the crowd can turn on the home team – you saw that on Saturday at Pittodrie – if that happens then it can really change the game. The fact that nobody expects us to take anything from the game is a real motivator for us and it would be brilliant to go out and surprise a few people by proving them wrong.”

Although Thistle came away from Aberdeen with a couple of fresh injury concerns Archibald should have something approaching the same squad to select from.

“As I said, Dools and Lawless both picked up knocks but we’ll give them every chance to get themselves back into contention. Dan Seaborne, Sean Welsh and Christie Elliott will all miss out but other than that we should have a full squad to call on which is what you want going into a game like this.”

Match Report

Celtic v Partick Thistle – 8th April 2015

Thistle made the short trip across the city to the east end to face a Celtic side looking to extend their lead at the top of the table as they march towards another SPFL Premiership title. Thistle themselves were in great form going into the game with a settled side being key to recent results.

Manager, Alan Archibald had to make one change to the starting eleven which had gained an excellent point up at Pittodrie on Saturday, with the injured Kris Doolan being replaced by Kallum Higginbotham while Declan McDaid returned to the bench.

Celtic were straight on the attack as the game began and, from an Armstrong cross, Van Dijk poked a foot out and the ball cannoned back off the bar. It took a last ditch block to stop Guidetti from scoring just seconds later after the Jags had given the ball away cheaply in the second minute.

Thistle created their first real chance after eight minutes when a terrific cross field pass from Craigen found Lawless who cut inside across the box, going past three defenders in the process. Unfortunately the ‘Wee Man’s’ right footed shot had no power and trickled wide. At the other end only a magnificent headed clearance by Balatoni stopped Guidetti heading into an open goal as the home side continued to press forward.

Thistle gradually got a foothold in the game and Gordon saved comfortably from Stevenson’s shot from distance before producing a world class one handed stop to keep out Higginbotham’s acrobatic volley. As half time approached, Thistle were looking good to go in level but, in the 44th minute, just seconds before the ref was due to blow his whistle, Thistle were cut open as Guidetti found Armstrong who found himself in on goal. Craigen’s threw himself into a last ditch tackle which proved to be just slightly miss-timed. Bringing the onrushing Celtic man down, the referee had no option but to point to the spot and, as last man, send Craigen off. Commons despatched the penalty past Fox to give the home side a 1-0 lead at half time. A cruel end to a half in which Thistle had certainly held their own.

Into the second half and the home side were straight on the attack, Fox making an excellent save from a powerful Commons 25 yarder. A neat one-two between Izaguirre and Johansen then saw the former’s effort on goal go out for a throw in.

Despite early Celtic pressure Thistle were still trying to create chances, and Celtic’s defence slashed a couple of clearances that could have gone anywhere. Osman too was in on the action as he fired wide from a central position around 18 yards out.

Thistle’s resistance wasn’t to last though and the home side doubled their lead after 63 minutes with what was undoubtedly an excellent goal. Neat and intricate passing involving Mackay-Steven, Guidetti and Johansen ended with the latter firing past Fox from the angle eight yards out. His shot nestling into the far corner. That made it 2-0 and Thistle now had a mountain to climb.

Fox kept the score from becoming anything more than Celtic deserved making a great save from Forrest, although referee, Willie Collum, saw fit to give a goal kick – much to the amusement of the noisy Jags support. Balatoni made another terrific block from an Armstrong effort as tired legs kicked in for the Thistle boys who had worked their socks off and thrown their bodies in front of everything from the first minute of the game.

Griffiths then missed a sitter from no more than five yards and, at the other end, substitute Lyle Taylor linked up well with O’Donnell to set up a chance for another sub, Gary Fraser, who saw his low powerful 20 yard shot brilliantly saved again by Gordon before the final whistle blew.

So, it was not to be Thistle’s night, however the support that travelled recognised the effort and guts of the team throughout the game, fully appreciative of a side that had given everything against a very good team.

Thistle: Fox, Booth, Balatoni, Frans, O’Donnell, Lawless (McDaid), Osman, Bannigan (Fraser), Craigen (sent off, 43), Stevenson (Taylor), Higginbotham.

Subs: Gallacher, Taylor (55), Fraser (77), Richards-Everton, Wilson, McDaid (57), Keenan

Match Reaction

Celtic v Partick Thistle – 8th April 2015

Despite the defeat it was a proud Alan Archibald who spoke with ptfc.co.uk shortly after full time, having seen his side put in a brave, battling performance at Celtic Park.

“I was proud of the lads for the way they organised themselves. Their shape was as good as it has been for the last three or four weeks with a lot of clean sheets. I thought you could see that tonight. We kept our shape and discipline, even though we were down to 10 men, and limited the number of chances Celtic had.”

“I’m just disappointed because I thought we’d done the hard bit in the first half. We’d got over the first 10 to 15 minutes where they had a fair few chances. They had started taking shots from 25 yards so I thought we’d got over the hard bit.”

The game turned on a penalty decision that saw James Craigen sent off for a last man challenge on Stuart Armstrong. We asked Alan for his thoughts.

“I thought it was a penalty at the time but I haven’t watched it back yet. James has gone in thinking he’s going to get a foot on the ball. In hindsight you’d either let the striker score or give Foxy the chance to save the shot but in the heat of the moment you always think you’re going to get there. “

“It’s a hard one for James. He’s been very good in recent weeks, got himself back in the team and worked every so hard so it’s going to be a sore one for him to take.”

Thistle face Motherwell next in a vital game that could help ease playoff nerves with the split looming.

“We’ve been on a good run ourselves but Motherwell and Ross County have also been on good runs so we’ve never really been away from it. The other two teams have been in very good form, hats off to them for that, and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”

Despite defeat Alan was able to take plenty of positives from the game.

“I thought we showed good character and organisation. Our discipline was good tonight and we came to Celtic Park and created chances. There are lots of positives to take from it and we look forward to playing Motherwell on Saturday.”

 

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