Wed 9 July, 2014
Thistle begin their pre-season fixture list in earnest this evening with a friendly against FC Pinatar Arena (KO 6pm UK time), a team that was recently promoted to the Spanish third division.
Having trained at the Pinatar Arena since Monday afternoon the players are beginning to acclimatise to the conditions. However, with temperatures consistently in the early 30s it promises to be a punishing workout ahead of the team’s second friendly of the week, against Brighton on Saturday.
Having trained well so far on their trip manager, Alan Archibald, insists that, at this stage, any games are more about training and fitness than the result.
“All the lads have trained well since they came back from the summer and the first few days in Spain have been quite tough.
“Obviously most of the boys just aren’t used to the heat but they’ve been doing ever so well and I’ve no doubt we’ll see the benefits of the hard work when we return to competitive action at the beginning of August.”
Although many teams returning for pre-season training won’t see a ball to begin with, the Thistle management team was keen to emphasise that the focus has been on football as much as fitness from the very start for the Jags.
“At the end of the day, we’re a football team and both myself and Scott were keen to get the boys back kicking a ball as soon as possible. Obviously fitness is important and we are keeping a very close eye on that too but it’s important not to lose track of the overall aim.
“The guys all returned in great shape so it was just a case of getting them back used to the intensity of top flight football and getting a bit of the sharpness back. We’ve worked closely with our sports scientist, Graeme Henderson, and our strength and conditioning coach, Barry Stephen, to get them back to the right level while, at the same time, not overworking them.”
Although the Spanish third division team are something of an unknown quantity for Thistle and come into this game off some great form last season, Archie insists that the result is not important.
He said: “I know people will be looking for us to get a victory and it certainly would be nice to get the pre-season off to a winning start but for us it’s all about the performance. The players have been looking really strong in training and I’m just looking for them to take that into the game this evening.
“A few of the guys will be wearing GPS monitors so we can analyse their performances including intensity, work rate, speed and distance covered. We’ve also got a few trialists with us so we’ll be looking to see how they get on in a game situation.”
Thistle marked their first pre-season game with a win in Spain against recently promoted FC Pinatar Arena. The Scots started the game well, dominating possession during the early stages of the first half.
Despite seeing a lot of the ball the team from Maryhill were unable to create more than a couple of clear chances and shortly before half time fell behind to a scrappy goal scored by striker Yago Castro. Following two great saves by Gallacher Yago was on hand to poke the ball into the net on 29 minutes.
Having started to link up well before the break, with Muirhead and Lawless combining to put Stevenson through on goal, the Jags would be justified in feeling a little hard done by as the half time whistle blew.
With FC Pinatar making several changes during the break the cracks soon began to show and it wasn’t long before the chances started to come.
First Gary Fraser hit a wicked free kick from fully 35 yards which was well saved by the keeper. Minutes later Thistle were awarded another free kick just outside the box. This time Higginbotham stood up to hit it but, in a move straight off the training ground, laid it off to Fraser who again smashed a shot only to see the ball ricochet off a defender’s legs.
Two yellow cards followed for FC Pinatar players before Fraser again stepped up and wasn’t to be denied a third time. Picking the ball up deep in the opposition half he lashed a shot from more then twenty yards low down to the keeper’s right.
With Thistle making several changes as the second half wore on it was one of their young players, Declan McDaid, that really made the difference. Picking up the ball shortly after having come on he went on a mazy run, beating three Pinatar players before putting the ball past the goalie via a defender’s deflection.
Having put Thistle into the lead it was McDaid again who gave them a two goal cushion. After a wonderfully weighted ball from Steven Lawless, who played the full 90 minutes, McDaid slotted home from close range.
Another youngster, Chris Duggan, also had a chance late on but couldn’t add to Thistle’s tally and the game finished in a 3-1 victory for Thistle.
A special thanks goes to the 40 or so Thistle fans who supported the team throughout the 90 minutes.
Following Thistle’s victory over FC Pinatar Arena last night, Alan Archibald reflected on the benefits of the game as well as the impact his younger players had on proceedings.
Alan said: “It has been a hard week of training and today was always going to be more about fitness than the result. The score really didn’t matter, obviously it’s good to get a win but the workout was more important.
“We’ve been working the boys hard this week and that certainly showed in the first half, I think we looked a bit leggy to be honest but things really picked up after the break and we played some good stuff at times.”
The temperature soared during the day on Wednesday and it wasn’t really until the second half that it began to cool down. The heat wasn’t a major issue for Archie though, even if the opposition were more adjusted to the conditions.
He said: “I think the other team were obviously more used to the conditions out there and perhaps that had something to do with our improvement in the second half when the temperature dropped. I don’t know though, it wasn’t a massive issue for us as we’ve trained in the heat all week.”
A series of substitutions in the second half brought new life to the game and a number of Thistle’s younger players really shone through.
“The young lads have trained ever so well, we brought them along with us and they’ve settled in brilliantly. Most of them have been training just as well as the regulars. I think that showed when we gave them a chance in the second half and they really did very well.”
Despite the result Archie knows there is more to come from his team but is confident that, by the time the season starts, they will be more than ready for the challenge.
“If I’m honest I think the guys have looked sharper but a lot of that is down to the dry surface we were playing on and also the temperature, both of which had a big impact on the game. Having said that the sharpness is coming, it will take a bit of time – there’s no doubt about that – but we still have a lot of time to work with them before the season starts. It’s looking good at this stage.”