SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 22 February, 2014. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
A week after the disappointment of a late defeat at Fir Park Thistle are once again gearing up to face one of the league’s high fliers, Aberdeen, this time at Firhill. [link:HOME] caught up with manager, Alan Archibald, after training today to see how the players responded after Saturday’s defeat as well as to get that all important team news.
“The lads, and even myself, were a bit down at the beginning of the week and there was definitely a bit of disbelief about how we didn’t at least take something from the match on Saturday. We just have to look at the positives and to go to Fir Park, score three goals and create numerous other chances shows that we were at least doing something right. They’re a good group of lads and they’re hungry to learn so we just need to take that into the game against Aberdeen on Saturday.”
When asked about the new signings and how they were settling in Alan said: “As the new boys get to know the team and settle in they are just getting better and better. I think it’s always good getting new signings in, it brings a bit of vibrancy to the dressing room. I think that the players like to see new signings coming in and it certainly gives us something different for the second half of the season.”
Looking ahead to Aberdeen, Alan said: “We’re looking forward to it, there’s a lot of similarities between them and Motherwell, similar experience, similar quality and they know how to grind out results. They’ve got an experienced back line and they don’t give much away but, as I said we did it against Motherwell last week and we’ve got to do it again this week – especially as we’re the home team.
“We can take a lot of belief from last week and we know that we can hurt the teams, even if they are at the top end of the table. If we just show belief and confidence in our ability and play in the way I know we can, then there’s no reason why we can’t take something from the game on Saturday.
On the all-important team news Archie said: “Aaron Muirhead took a knock in the under 20s game on Tuesday, Sean Welsh is still out with his groin and obviously Osbourne is out until the end of the season, but apart from that we should be at full strength.”
Kick off at Firhill is 3pm and tickets will be available from the Jackie Husband Stand ticket office as usual.
Under 16s: FREE
It was, almost, worth the long wait; Thistle recording their first home league win of the season in scintillating style against second placed Aberdeen.
Although defeated in heart breaking seven days earlier at Motherwell there was enough in that performance for Alan Archibald to select the same starting eleven; the only changes coming on the bench where Gabriel Piccolo and George Moncur replaced Aaron Muirhead and James Craigen.
In three previous meetings this season with Aberdeen, The Dons had won all three scoring eight goals without reply and they looked set to take a 17th minute lead in this match; albeit in fairly controversial circumstances. Paul Gallacher, much to his obvious fury, was adjudged to have pulled down Adam Rooney with the result that the visitors were awarded a penalty. After being booked though, Gallacher simply dusted himself down and blocked Barry Robson’s spot kick with, for once, Thistle receiving a break when the rebound was fired off target.
Aberdeen were, however, starting to take a grip on proceedings at this point and Thistle hearts were in mouths when Rooney again appealed for a penalty under a challenge from Gallacher after Conrad Balatoni had been short with a headed pass back. Referee Muir though this time elected not to point to the spot.
Paul Gallacher has been in excellent form since coming into the starting eleven and he further underlined that with an excellent save low down to keep out a Rooney header in the 36th minute.
As much as Aberdeen had the better of the opening 45 minutes it wasn’t all one way traffic and Thistle showed enough in the final third in the first half to suggest that they were capable of troubling the Aberdeen defence. Kallum Higginbotrham was out of luck when he saw a well struck volley hit the back of Lyle Taylor and Prince Buaben also saw a shot blocked, though this time by an Aberdeen defender.
Thistle’s best chance of the first half though fell to Lyle Taylor. With half-time just a couple of minutes away Thistle nearly caught Aberdeen on the break. Chris Erskine was able to send Taylor clear but the Thistle striker didn’t make clean contact with the ball and his shot went wide of Langfield’s right hand post when he really should have hit target.
The first chance of the second half fell to Aberdeen with Chris Erskine having to make an important clearance from deep inside the Thistle penalty box but the initiative in this game quickly shifted to a Thistle side that was growing in confidence and belief all the time.
Play started to open up in front of Prince Buaben in the 48th minute but his final shot lacked any real power and Langfield was able to make a comfortable save.
Two minutes later loud Thistle appeals for handball and a penalty kick fell on deaf ears before, as Thistle remained firmly on the offensive, Kallum Higginbotham forced Langfield into an excellent save with Chris Erskine seeing his effort from the rebound blocked.
Thistle continued to press and some sublime skill in the middle of the park from Stuart Bannigan set up another attack that finished with Buaben’s effort, after he had turned inside the box, creeping wide of the Aberdeen goal.
The opening goal though arrived in the 58th minute and few could claim that it was an undeserved goal on the balance of play. Aberdeen had only been able to partially clear a corner kick and when the ball was returned to the Aberdeen box Conrad Balatoni was able to gather the ball, turn and send a low show past Langfield and into the corner of the net.
As Thistle looked to press home that advantage there were appeals for a penalty as Aaron Taylor-Sinclair found his route towards the Aberdeen goal blocked as he entered the Aberdeen box; the referee again unimpressed by Thistle’s protestations.
Thistle though were celebrating a second goal in the 64th minute. Kallum Higginbotham crossed from the Thistle right and Lyle Taylor was in precisely the right spot to bullet home a shot to put Thistle 2-0 ahead.
The comfort of a two goal lead though was something that Thistle were only able to enjoy for just over a minute. Barry Robson sent over a free kick from the left and Adam Rooney was able to find the back of the Thistle net with a header from inside the Thistle six yard box.
Thistle, however, was back to being two goals in front with 18 minutes of the game remaining with Lyle Taylor once again the scorer. Left with just Langfield to beat he angled a shot across the Aberdeen keeper and into the far corner of the net; an excellent finish from the on loan Jags striker.
Two minutes later Taylor missed an excellent chance to complete a memorable hat-trick as he scooped a shot over the bar from six yards out. A further two minutes later he was again denied a hat-trick, this time by the outstretched foot of Langfield and, as Thistle at times tore the Aberdeen defence apart, Taylor hit the side netting in the 79th minute.
Aberdeen tried to find a way back into the game in the closing stages but only once were they able to trouble the impressive Paul Gallacher in the Thistle goal; Gallacher doing well to push away a fiercely struck effort from Hayes with just a minute of the 90 remaining.
Football managers can be hard to please at times. Yesterday a sparkling second half display saw Thistle see of Aberdeen to the tune of 3-1, with the final score flattering only Aberdeen. However, when speaking to [link:HOME] after the game Alan Archibald wasn’t entirely satisfied by what he had seen from his players in the opening 45 minutes?
“I thought that first we were very poor by our standards. I think you could tell that we hadn’t won at home and that psychologically that has been affecting us. It was a great save from Paul Gallacher at the penalty and that proved to be a turning point for us. Once we got the players in at half-time you saw the real Partick Thistle in the second half. “We were delighted to get in at half-time at 0-0 Aberdeen had another great save from a header. I felt that we were lucky to get in at half-time at 0-0.”
We wondered what Alan had made of the penalty decision?
“I think you are always going to get that against us when the striker goes down. There wouldn’t have been much contact, I wouldn’t imagine, but it always tends to favour the striker in those kind of situations. We were delighted when Paul saved the penalty and we got a bit of luck at the rebound when against Kilmarnock we didn’t.”
Was the manager concerned when Aberdeen had a second penalty appeal not long after the first one?
“I was a bit worried. There were a few contentious decisions about five or ten minutes after the penalty. The referee had some decisions to make and your heart is always in your mouth because you are never quite sure what you are going to get but luckily for us it went in our favour today.”
The manager, although unhappy with the first half display was anything but unhappy with the performance of his players in the second half.
“It wasn’t just the chances that we created. I felt that there was a whole change in their personality. It was the old Partick Thistle, the Partick Thistle that we’ve seen for most of the season. I thought in the first half that they looked a bit scared and afraid of Aberdeen but they didn’t in the second half. In the second half they took the game to Aberdeen and I thought that we deserved the win.”
Alan went on;
“We knew that we could hurt Aberdeen. We said to them last week against Motherwell that we could hurt them if we stayed in the game long enough. We kept our shape today which we needed to because they are a good side. We’ve got players at the top end of the pitch with quality and creativity and we brought them into the game and that was the difference.”
Did running Motherwell so close the week before, albeit in defeat, give the players the confidence and belief that they can beat the better sides in the league?
“You wouldn’t have thought so on the basis of the first half performance but certainly in the second half. They started to realise then that they can hurt teams like this. Yes, they are experienced and organised but we have enough there, enough energy and quality, to hurt these teams.”
Finally in beating Aberdeen that elusive first home league win of the season was recorded. Alan, like all of us, will be delighted that he will no longer have to answer questions about not winning at home.
“Hopefully that helps us mentally and psychologically and we can go and build on that now. The fans have backed us all the way and today I thought they really helped us, especially in the last five or ten minutes.”