Sat 9 July, 2016. Kick Off: - 15:00
Cappielow Park, Greenock
Two months ago Thistle fans were looking forward to a fourth consecutive season in the Ladbrokes Premiership having secured safety with two games still to play. It is therefore strange to realise that tomorrow’s fixture with Morton is the last friendly game the side will play before the competitive action kicks off next Friday against Airdrieonians in the Betfred Cup. Ptfc.co.uk caught up with manager Alan Archibald ahead of the final friendly game of the summer.
“It’s been another quick pre-season for the boys. We’ve had a quick turn around with the Betfred Cup starting in mid-July, I think this time last year we were just getting ready to head down to Bisham Abbey for our week in England where we played Eastleigh. That gives you a bit of an indication how little time we’ve had between seasons this year.”
Thistle’s results during pre-season have been mixed but Archie is focussing on fitness rather than results.
“We don’t really look at the results during pre-season, it’s all about getting the minutes in the legs for the players. We’ve tried hard to rotate the sides during pre-season and I think Danny Devine is the only player to play significant minutes in each game for us so far. That’s slightly out of necessity as we’ve had defensive injuries throughout pre-season and he’s been the one constant while playing alongside a number of trialists.
“It’d be nice to get a win against Morton to go into the Betfred Cup with a winning feeling but our priority is to make sure we come through the game with a number of players having another 60 to 70 minutes in their legs.”
Alan was missing nine players from the midweek goalless draw with Raith Rovers and we asked the impact it was having on his ability to field a team.
“It’s obviously disappointing to have these players sitting in the stands for whatever reason. We’re just trying to get them back in time for the competitive action starting and making sure they will be ready for the opening league game against Inverness. Having so many players out has presented an opportunity to a number of younger players. I thought James Penrice and Andy McCarthy did well on Tuesday and they had their chance to show me what they can do alongside the first team players.
The young players in our squad know that I will give them a chance in the first team so it is up to those that I pick, to give me a selection headache ahead of the Betfred Cup games.
Thistle rounded off their pre-season campaign with a short trip to Cappielow to take on Morton as the build up to the big competitive kick off next Friday evening begins to take focus. After a largely forgettable match against Raith Rovers on Tuesday, manager Alan Archibald was looking for his team to lay down a marker for a starting place against Airdrieonians.
There was a first start of the pre-season for Callum Booth as he completed his recovery from injury and he performed well for the 45 minutes he was on the pitch.
Thistle performed their first ever solo kick off, under the new laws introduced over the season, and got the game underway shooting towards the Wee Dublin End. Thistle’s tempo was noticeably higher than Tuesday night’s straight from kick off and the side, wearing their new all white away kit, came straight out the traps against the Championship side.
Booth was heavily involved in the first opportunity of goal when Lawless flicked the ball in his path. As he rampaged down the wing, his low cross missed the winger but landed at the feet of Amoo who forced a great save from McNeil to win the Jags a corner. After Thistle’s trialist goalkeeper made a tremendous save after 10 minutes, Thistle took the lead.
A deflected cross from David Amoo fell perfectly at the feet of Chris Erskine and he swept home, completely unmarked, from a few yards out. Thistle continued to look menacing with slick attacking play and a very late flag denied Erskine a second goal when he linked up with Lawless. A look at the footage after the game showed this to be an incorrect, but very tight, call by the linesman.
Both sides were trying to play attacking football but Morton weren’t seriously testing the Jags goal. Oliver’s low cross slid across the six yard line but no home player gambled to connect with the ball deep in Jags territory.
With just over 30 minutes played, Thistle doubled their lead and what a goal it was. David Wilson’s defence splitting pass sent Booth away down the left. His cross was met by a flying Erskine who volleyed home powerfully to double the Jags lead.
Azeez was looking lively in attack for Thistle and he showed his pace to close down the home goalkeeper, tackling him as he delayed his clearance with the ball spinning out for a throw in. The powerful striker picked the pocket of a Morton defender and advanced into the box. His shot drilled across goal and was met by Amoo who could only direct the ball off the post, before colliding with the goalframe himself.
With the winger needing medical treatment, Thistle conceded on the stroke of half time. Thistle’s trialist 6 tried to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick only to find himself robbed. A cut back was cleared off the line by Erskine before Michael Tidser drilled the ball into the net.
The second half wasn’t as action packed as the first with a number of substitutes being utilised during the course of the 45 minutes. Thistle still looked lively in attack but the final ball wasn’t quite good enough on a number of occasions.
On 55 minutes, Morton had a chance to level the game. Devine challenged Oliver for the ball, appearing to win it with a toe. The referee pointed to the spot and ex-jag Ross Forbes was entrusted with spot kick duties. His powerful effort was saved by Thistle’s trialist goalkeeper and justice was, maybe, done.
Thistle continued to attack the Morton goal but there were no real saves for either goalkeeper to make in the remaining 30 minutes. There was introductions for a number of young players as the manager made as many changes as possible in order to get minutes into the legs of as many players as possible.
Thistle began this pre-season schedule with a 6-0 win over Cirencester and conclude it with a 2-1 success over Morton. With nine first team players sitting out on Saturday afternoon, manager Alan Archibald will be hoping a number of them will return to the squad for the first Betfred Cup fixture against Airdrieonians on Friday night.
A 2-1 victory against Greenock Morton rounded off Thistle’s pre-season fixtures and, with the new style Betfred Cup now on the horizon, Jags boss, Alan Archibald, now turns his mind to the start of the competitive action. Archie was on hand to speak to PTFC.co.uk pitchside at Cappielow and let us know his post-match thoughts.
Archibald said: “I thought the boys really shifted the ball well today and that showed in the early stages of the game when some of the moves we put together were really nice. The pitch here is really good which helped the game but I was generally pleased with what I saw.
“It was a couple of really nice goals from Erskine. That’s what you get from Chris, he wasn’t at his best on Tuesday night but today he showed his real quality and the finish for the second was superb. In truth we had a good few chances in the first half which was great to see and hopefully that is something we will carry into the season proper once it starts.”
There were a couple of knocks sustained to Thistle players in the first half which could have proved problematic for an already stretched squad, but Archie is confident neither will pose any long term issues.
“Sean Welsh and David Amoo both picked up wee knocks in the first half. Sean just caught an elbow to the mouth and David tackled the post trying to score but both should be fine for Friday. I certainly hope there aren’t any long term issues as we are really down to the bare bones at the moment.
The main concern for us is the goalkeeping situation as Ryan Scully is out with a thigh strain and Tomas Cerny is still coming back from last season’s injury. We’ll assess the options next week and if we need to get someone in short term to cover then that’s what we’ll need to do. On the plus side Callum Booth got 45 minutes to day and looked fit and raring to go which is a real boost ahead of Friday night.