Sat 27 July, 2013. Kick Off: - 15:00
It feels as if it has been a long pre-season; a pre-season during which we have almost constantly been on the road.
Tomorrow, however, we return home for the final pre-season fixture, and it’s something a little bit different.
Cypriot First Division side AEL Limassol are our opponents and they are certain to provide us with a stern test; which is precisely what we want with the start of the competitive action just seven days away.
AEL Limassol were the Cypriot League Champions as recently as season 2011-2012; a title success that saw them compete in last season’s Champions League. After victories in the qualifying rounds over Linfield and FK Partizan they were narrowly eliminated over two legs by Anderlecht.
There was a still a berth for them in the Europa League but in a section alongside Marseille, Fenerbache and Borussia Monchengladbach they won just once, against Marseille, and finished bottom of the group.
In defence of their championship, AEL Limassol could only finish in fifth spot in the first round of matches last season which prevented them from defending their title in the second round of games, and a cup win for Apollon Limassol meant there would be no European football for them to enjoy this season. Which is lucky for us as it allows them to pay Firhill a visit.
It’s a match that manager Alan Archibald is looking forward to.
“It will be a real pleasure to get back playing at Firhill tomorrow. It’s been frustrating waiting until now to be able to get a game at Firhill but the work being done on the pitch hasn’t allowed us to play here before now. It’s work that had to be done and the pitch really is in fantastic condition because of that, and it just shows the hard work that the groundsman has put in over the summer.
Considering the number of games that were played on it, remember the Celtic under 20s were playing here last season, the Firhill was in good condition at the end of last season when, in comparison to other grounds, we still had grass on our pitch. A good playing surface helps the way that we like to play football and I’m pleased that the pitch is in such good condition.
I can’t say that I know too much about AEL Limassol but given that they had a wee run in last season’s Champions League then they are obviously a decent team.
It certainly presents us with something a little different pre-season and I think that is something that we all welcome; I certainly enjoyed a break from the norm when I was a player. They may well play the game a little differently from what we are used to and it will be interesting to see if they do anything different tactically.
One thing is sure is that it’s a break from playing the same teams like Dumbarton and Livingston. More and more clubs in Scotland have artificial pitches now and I was keen to try and play as many of our pre-season matches on a grass surface, which is becoming increasingly difficult especially when many grass pitches, like our own, weren’t ready for a game until very recently.
Both Stuart Bannigan and Sean Welsh should play part of tomorrow’s game. Sean trained Thursday and he trained again today without any reaction, although he did feel a bit of pain. We’re told that Sean can’t make his injury worse by training and playing so it’s really a case of pain management with him. We’ll see how he is after being involved tomorrow.
Of the two players it is Sean that has done most of pre-season. With Stuart it had a bit stop and start with him and might struggle a little fitness wise but it will be good to give him some game time. After tomorrow’s game both Sean and Stuart have the best part of a week to work on their fitness.
We’ll mix things up tomorrow. Just about everybody has had the right amount of game time over pre-season and really we can’t wait to get started.”
Saturday July 27th 2013
Partick Thistle v AEL Limassol
Concession (65+, Students, unemployed, disabled): £7
Under 16s: £5
Prices for Season Ticket holders, however, have been set at the following rates:
Season ticket holders will get a voucher in the post this week to redeem at the turnstile.
Referee – Willie Collum
Assistants – Derek Rose & Stephen Mitchell
Thistle completed their pre-season programme with a visit of Cypriot First Division side AEL Limassol and although neither side managed a goal it proved to be a reasonably entertaining fixture for the 1,261 crowd.
Thistle included new loan signing Gary Fraser in their starting line-up and there was also a slot for Mexican trialist Gabriel Rojo de la Vega Piccolo in the centre of the Thistle defence. Gabriel, as he is better known as, would sign a two year contract shortly after full-time.
It was the Cypriot side that would have the first chance of this game. Soares crossed from the left for Ohene who side footed a shot wide of target from 15 yards out.
Thistle though were playing some nice football on the beautiful Firhill playing surface and their first opportunity arrived in the 12th minute when Ross Forbes curled a free kick from the left to the back post. There was, however, just a little too much elevation of Forbes’ free kick and although Kris Doolan was able to meet the ball at the back post he was unable to keep his header down.
Three minutes later Thistle thought they had a penalty. Stephen O’Donnell sent over a cross from the right and in attempting to connect with it Kris Doolan was barged in the box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot only to overturn his decision when he saw the flag raised for offside.
AEL too were thwarted by an assistant referee’s raised flag when they had the ball in the back of the Thistle net in 18th minute.
Midway through the first half Thistle had another opportunity from a Ross Forbes free kick. He again aimed the ball for the back post but this time no Thistle player was able to gather the ball. Gabriel, however, was able to collect the loose ball and he sent over a cross that Forbes blazed high over the bar.
The Cypriot side were clearly a talented team and Bebe tested Scott Fox was a rasping shot from fully 35 yards that the Thistle keeper was happy to fist away from goal. AEL too came close when a wicked corner from the right struck the frame of the Thistle goal.
Although a friendly there were a few hefty challenges flying around from Thistle’s Cypriot guests with Stuart Bannigan, just returned from injury, feeling the full force of one. He quickly recovered, however, and just seconds later came the closest to scoring a first half Thistle goal with a shot from the edge of the box that just cleared the crossbar.
There was a steady stream of substitutions during the course of the second half which an obvious impact on the rhythm of the game. There was still some action in front of goal with Thistle having the clearer of the second half chances.
Their first opportunity came in just the 3rd minute of the second half. Kris Doolan was able to touch the ball back into the path of Steven Lawless who sent his shot over the bar.
In the 67th minute a lovely back heel from one of the many second half substitutes, James Craigen, gave Christie Elliott a shooting opportunity but his effort lacked power and Romero was able to save.
The AEL goalkeeper, however, was more severely tested by a free kick from Aaron Taylor-Sinclair that Romero did well to turn round the post for a corner.
John Baird shot over the bar from 25 yards with the game in its’ final ten minutes but the best chance of them all came with the final whistle just seconds away. Christie Elliott flicked the ball on for Henoc Mukendi who was able to lift the ball over the AEL keeper but only onto the roof of the net.
Yesterday’s fixture with AEL Limassol brought our pre-season fixtures to an end and manager Alan Archibald was happy with what he had witnessed against more than decent opponents.
“They were in the Europa League last season and they beat Marseille and they had a wee run in the Champions League. You could see right away that they had a bit of quality about them.”
“I felt like the game was a breath of fresh air compared to what we had been playing. I think when you play so many friendlies they become a little tedious. To be fair there was a wee competitive edge about Limassol today. They left their foot in a bit which I don’t mind as long as nobody gets injured because it gives the game a little edge.”
Alan went on;
“I thought that we looked good. I thought our shape was good and we moved the ball about well. I thought we looked sharp and I felt that we looked fit on a hot day. Overall I was delighted. I know the changes are frustrating for the fans; it is for us as well and it upsets the rhythm of the game but you’ve got half an eye on injuries and you need to give other players some game time as well. It was a good workout though.”
Both Stuart Bannigan and Sean Welsh made a welcome return from injury yesterday and the manager was delighted to report that they both came through the game without any problems.
“That was a really pleasing thing because they haven’t played much football. Stuart Bannigan has probably just trained for two weeks and played two halves of football so it was good to give him some game time. It was good too to see Sean back. He’s made something of a miracle recovery which I’m delighted about. He trained the last few days and obviously played today and I’m really happy about that.”
“We gave them that extra time at the start of the second half because the physio likes to see if there is any reaction after they’ve had a time to settle at half-time and the muscles seize up a little. It was good to see that there was no reaction and that they both felt good.”