Sun 27 July, 2014
Thistle’s pre-season fixture calendar continues today with a trip to Belfast to play Glentoran. The game is the Jags’ fourth friendly and follows a win against Spanish side FC Pinatar Arena, defeat to Brighton and a draw with Dumbarton.
Thistle gaffer, Alan Archibald, is happy with how the pre-season has been going and is keen to see more from his team in today’s run-out.
Alan said: “I’ve said it before but these pre-season fixtures are all about fitness and the players regaining their match sharpness. I’ve definitely seen an improvement since the first game in Spain and I expect to see further progress in the match today.”
Archie is fairly content with where his team is at the moment and had been pleased with the friendly performances so far.
“We’ve had some tough run-outs and some good work outs so far, which is exactly what you want at this time of year. It also gives us a chance to take a look at a few more players in a game situation.
“All in all I’m quite happy with where the team is at the moment in terms of preparation for the season. We had a few knocks in the first couple of weeks but we’re just about back to our full complement of players now. The injuries gave some of the young boys a real chance to shine and I think you definitely saw that, especially in Spain.”
Thistle unveiled their second summer signing, Abdul Osman, earlier in the week and Archibald is well aware of the need to strengthen in other areas.
“We’re still a bit light in certain areas but everyone is working hard to get the bodies in that we need. I’ve no doubt that come the first game of the season we’ll be ready to go.”
Thistle travelled to Belfast for their fourth full pre-season fixture and it was to prove an eventful match to say the least.
With the first half starting in entertaining fashion it’s fair to say that Glentoran probably had the better of the early exchanges. It was Thistle though that arguably carved out the first real chance.
Ryan Stevenson shaped to blast a free kick from all of 40 yards but instead produced a clever chipped free kick that found Christie Elliott who battled with the Glentoran keeper, Elliott Morris, and ultimately got the better of him. Elliott managed to get a shot away and might have opened the scoring had it not been for a brave bit of last minute defending.
Glentoran continued to press as the game went on though and, on nine minutes, a great cross from Miskimmin brought a brave save from Gallacher as he went down to collect at the feet of the onrushing striker.
This was followed by another Glentoran chance five minutes later when the home team again broke in numbers after a missed challenge from Balatoni. However, the resulting shot was well over the bar.
As the half went on Thistle began to find their feet in the game and, on 35 minutes, the break came. The Glentoran defence got themselves into a muddle and, after their initial clearance bounced off one of their own defenders, Kris Doolan was there to slot the ball into the back of the net.
As the half drew to a close Glentoran were given the opportunity to draw level as they were awarded a dubious looking penalty for a handball by McMillan. Jordan Stewart stepped up for Glentoran and placed the ball to Gallacher’s left to even up the score.
If the first half was good for footballing reasons the second will be remembered for anything but the football.
An early chance came for the Glasgow team as Stevenson put a cross in. Balatoni connected with it but, if anything got too much on it and the ball ended up over the bar.
That was probably the best of the chances before tempers began to fray. A very late challenge on Gary Fraser which, on another day might have seen a straight red, was what sparked things off.
Five minutes later Fra McCaffery took exception to Higginbotham’s challenge and went to start some afters with him. For a few minutes the ref struggled to maintain control but things duly settled down and play resumed.
After the handbags were cleared away the two teams played out an uneventful 10 minutes before Gary Fraser picked up the ball deep into the opposition half and hit a shot from 25 yards. Although not of the same calibre as his strike against Hearts last season a deflection guided the ball into the bottom corner.
Kallum Higginbotham rounded off the scoring converting a late penalty with a cheeky dinked effort into the bottom corner after Duggan was tripped just inside the Glentoran area.
After the game Alan Archibald reflected on a hard fought win in the friendly match against Glentoran and gave ptfc.co.uk an update on how pre-season training was progressing:
“It was a good work out against a very physical team. When you come to Ireland you know what you’re going to get in that respect. In a lot of ways it’s very similar to the Scottish game so it’s good preparation for the boys and it was good for us to get the result in the end.
“When you come to Ireland you always get a very good workout and, while I thought some of the challenges were a bit over the top, I thought our lads conducted themselves well and thankfully nobody got injured.”
“Fitness in the team is good and the match sharpness is starting to return. I’m not a big fan of pre-season games to be honest. I always think there’s a chance you can worry too much about getting everyone enough game time and often the matches get a bit disjointed and it stops the team getting into a pattern.”
Having focussed on fitness up until this point the gaffer will be changing things a bit over the next couple of weeks to focus more on the team’s technical levels.
“The training schedule will change a bit now and we’ll start concentrating on different things. That’s us at the end of a four week period of concentrating on fitness and we’ll now go into two weeks of more technical stuff, all very football based.”
“We’ll be ready for the start of the season and that’s the main thing.”