SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 15 February, 2014. Kick Off: - 15:00
FIR PARK, MOTHERWELL
GAME ON AFTER PITCH INSPECTION
Nearly a fortnight has passed since Thistle were last in action, drawing 1-1 with Dundee United, and when manager Alan Archibald spoke to [link:HOME] early on Friday afternoon he admitted that it has been a long wait to get back into action.
“The time has dragged by and we are really looking forward to tomorrow’s game. The break was good in the respect that it has given Prince Buaben and George Moncur, both of whom were deadline day signings, the chance to get to know the group a bit better.”
A trip to Fir Park to face Motherwell is as tough a return to action as we could have got especially in view of the result the last time the two teams met.
“I think we need to use the last result as motivation for tomorrow both to make amends for the final score and to show that the game was close for quite some time. We scored first in that game and were close to going 2-0 up and were doing very well. To have gone in at half-time losing wasn’t a true reflection on how the game had gone. In the end though it could easily have finished 6 or 7-1 to Motherwell. They are a really experienced team and they showed that that afternoon. We made a number of individual errors that afternoon and Motherwell were extremely ruthless in picking us off. I thought though that we showed great character in our next match away to Celtic and hopefully we will have learned from the experience of the Firhill game.”
The manager has virtually a full squad to select from for tomorrow’s game.
“The only two that are out are Isaac Osbourne and Sean Welsh, otherwise everyone is fine and really looking forward to the game.”
Alan went on;
“George Moncur played for the under 20s during the week and scored a good goal and impressed me. George isn’t as fit as the other players not having played as much football as he would have liked but we are building up his match fitness.”
One other player that featured for the under 20s through the week that definitely won’t be playing tomorrow is Alan Archibald himself.
“To be honest I had been dreading playing as St Johnstone have a very good under 20 side and my legs are still suffering after playing but I really enjoyed the experience. I don’t always get that much of a chance to work with the under 20s and this gave me the chance to see them in action first hand. The players were able to help me through the game and hopefully I was able to help them. It says much about how the team go about their business that their two centre halves are out on loan with First Division teams; Scott McKenzie is doing an excellent job with them. I would play again for the under 20s just so long as I wasn’t stopping someone else from playing.”
Partick Thistle Stats
Current Form – Last Five Games
W D L F A
0 4 1 4 5
Scorers Season 2013-2014
Kris Doolan 7
Steven Lawless 5
Aaron Muirhead 4
Lyle Taylor 3
Christie Elliott 2
Kallum Higginbotham 2
Conrad Balatoni 1
Ross Forbes 1
Gary Fraser 1
Stephen O’Donnell 1
Aaron Taylor-Sinclair 1
Saturday February 1st 2014
Partick Thistle 1, Dundee United 1
Current Form – Last Five Games
W D L F A
3 1 1 12 6
Scorers Season 2013-2014
John Sutton 11
Henri Anier 7
Lionel Ainsworth 5
James McFadden 3
Zaine Farncis-Angol 2
Robert McHugh 2
Stephen McManus 2
Shaun Hutchinson 1
Keith Lasley 1
Craig Moore 1
Iain Vigurs 1
Saturday February 1st 2014
Motherwell 2, Aberdeen 2
Sunday December 29th 2013
Partick Thistle 1, Motherwell 5
Thistle: Fox, O’Donnell, Taylor-Sinclair, Balatoni, Craigen, Bannigan, Doolan, Lawless (Baird), Piccolo, Elliott (Forbes), Higginbotham.
Motherwell: Twardzik, Hammell, Ramsden, McManus, McFadden (McHugh), Lasley, Francis-Angol, Carswell (Lawson), Vigurs, Anier (Sutton), Ainsworth.
Thistle: Lawless (8)
Motherwell: Lasley (15), Francis-Angol (21), McFadden (36), Ainsworth (57), Sutton (66)
Saturday February 15th 2014
Motherwell v Partick Thistle
Referee: Euan Norris
Assistant Referees: Derek Rose and Ross Haswell
Fourth Official: George Salmond
Celtic v St Johnstone (Sunday)
Dundee United v Kilmarnock
Hibs v Ross County
Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Kilmarnock
St Mirren v Aberdeen
A remarkable game at Fir Park ended in defeat for Thistle who with just six minutes of the match remaining led by three goals to two.
After a fortnight’s absence from competitive action Thistle manager Alan Archibald made just the one change to the side that had drawn with Dundee United. Chris Erskine had been ineligible for that match and he returned at the expense of Christie Elliott who dropped to the bench.
After heavy rain in the 24 hours prior to the match there had been some doubt in the morning that this game would take place. The Motherwell groundstaff, however, worked tirelessly to get the game to go ahead with the pitch, although very stodgy, perfectly playable. It wasn’t though going to be easy going for either set of players.
That was reflected in an opening half of football that never really took off. Motherwell had the better of the opening exchanges; McFadden sending a Francis-Angol cross over the bar in the 5th minute and Lee Mair halting John Sutton’s progress towards goal with a perfectly timed challenge 9 minutes later.
Thistle’s first chance didn’t arrive until the 29th minute when Conrad Balatoni was able to get his head to a Kallum Higginbotham corner but his header dropped the wrong side of the post.
Thistle though took the lead seven minutes later. Kallum Higginbotham was able to find himself in a promising position at the edge of the Motherwell box where he, after ignoring Jordan McMillan to his right, threaded through a pass to Chris Erskine. Erskine took a touch to control the ball before steering it past Nielsen and into the back of the net.
Thistle took a noticeable lift from that goal and they threatened a second just four minutes later. Higginbotham was able to gather Gary Fraser’s superb crossfield pass before squaring the ball to Prince Buaben whose effort at goal was blocked by a Motherwell defender.
The scores, however, were level again with half-time just three minutes away. It was a cruel equaliser for Thistle to lose with Keith Lasley’s deflected shot looping over a helpless Paul Gallacher and into the net.
Seven minutes into the second half and the home side took the lead for the first time. Thistle gave Lionel Ainsworth far too much time and space inside their own penalty area and the Motherwell player was able to shoot confidently past Gallacher.
Thistle’s response to falling a goal behind was very positive. A Kallum Higginbotham free kick from wide on the right fell to Lyle Taylor who saw his shot deflected wide of goal and there were loud appeals for handball and a Thistle penalty when a Taylor-Sinclair shot struck a Motherwell defender.
Prince Buaben was close to netting his first Thistle goal in the 61st minute but saw his effort smothered by Nielsen at close range.
Only a further four minutes would pass before Thistle were back on level terms. After scoring Thistle’s first goal Chris Erskine also had a big hand in the second Thistle goal as welll. His excellent pass picked out Taylor-Sinclair and when he was fouled by Ainsworth, Thistle were awarded a clear and obvious penalty kick.
Kallum Higginbotham was the player entrusted with taking the kick and he made no mistake from the spot.
Belief surged through Thistle at this point as they saw this as a game that was potentially there for the winning. Chris Erskine saw a low drive saved by Nielsen and Higginbotham burst into the Motherwell box with Taylor unable to divert his cutback into the back of the Motherwell net.
With 19 minutes of what was now a pulsating encounter Thistle were in front thanks to some magic from Higginbotham. His run took him past a couple of defenders and deep into the Motherwell box where he found the back of the net with a low drive from a tight angle.
The Thistle defence were immediately under intense pressure as Motherwell fought back. A McFadden effort, when he looked set to score, was deflected into the side netting and from the corner that followed Gallacher produced an excellent save to deny McManus.
There were 6 minutes of the game when Motherwell drew level. A cross from the Motherwell right found the head of John Sutton and the Motherwell leading goalscorer found the back of the net with a powerful header.
There was worse to follow for Thistle when 3 minutes later what had been just a short time ago a 3-2 lead was turned into a 4-3 deficit. Stephen McManus was able to climb above Jordan McMillan to plant a header firmly past Paul Gallacher in the Thistle goal.
Could Thistle find an equaliser in the time that remained? Well they did have one opportunity before the end. James Craigen was fouled close to the left touchline in line with the 18 yard box. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair was able to get a touch to Gary Fraser’s free kick that followed but that touch took the ball over the bar.
Just six minutes separated Thistle from what would have been a vitally important three points. However, two late Motherwell goals consigned Thistle to a heart breaking 4-3 defeat; the pain of that defeat being all too clear on the manager’s face when he spoke after the game.
“I thought that we deserved at least a point. I thought our play in the second half would have merited that but it was our Achilles heel all season that came back to haunt us. It’s very, very frustrating. I thought that they had dealt well with Motherwell all day. I thought that the back four did extremely well against the threat of John Sutton, up until the last five minutes.”
A scintillating second half display from Kallum Higginbotham looked set to bring Thistle maximum points and there was praise for Kallum, who scored twice, from his manager.
“Kallum was very good. He was playing against his old team and sometimes it can be a bit hit or miss when that happens. Today Kallum was a hit. I thought that he took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and had a right go at them and I thought that he was outstanding.”
The fact that the sides immediately around Thistle in the league also lost was of scant consolation to a deeply disappointed Thistle manager.
“It isn’t really any comfort to us that the teams around us all lost as with five minutes to go we were on course to make up three points on them all. Scoring three goals at Fir Park should be enough to win the game; not many sides have done that this season.”
“The players just have to man up; we’ve said that to them. They’re not young boys any more, they are experienced enough now. We’re now in the middle of February, nearing the end of the season, and the young naive thing that we have been tagged with doesn’t apply anymore. Yes, they are young but they need to start learning. This can’t keep on happening. We go over this with them, we tell them about it all the time and that they have jobs to do. They need to learn to manage the game. At 3-2 up they need to manage the game and see it out. Motherwell are a very good team and we knew that they would come strongly at us. It was a shame that we had to make subs as we had a couple of knocks and that probably did affect us in the last five minutes.”