Sat 21 July, 2012. Kick Off: - 12:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
Pre-season fixtures can quite often be fairly low key affairs, but there is a growing sense of anticipation ahead of the first ever, four Club, pre-season Tournament to have been staged here at Firhill.
Airdrie United, Celtic XI and an Everton XI are the visitors to Firhill for what promises to be two days of top quality football action at Firhill.
Last season a Celtic XI provided the opposition in a pre-season curtain raiser, and it proved to be a hugely enjoyable experience. On a lovely sunny day a crowd in excess of 5,000 assembled at Firhill, delaying kick-off for over ten minutes, to watch Thistle run out 2-1 winners.
It’s Thistle and Celtic that kick-off the ARR Craib Cup at Firhill at noon tomorrow and it is an occasion that Thistle manager Jackie McNamara is looking forward to.
“There was a big crowd and a good atmosphere at our friendly match with Celtic last season and hopefully it will be something similar tomorrow. The opposition, over the course of the weekend, should be of a good standard and hopefully we will be able to show everyone that we are a good side, with a good squad of players.”
“I’m happy with how things have been shaping up. The new boys have all settled in much better than we perhaps could have expected, which is great.”
“Hugh Murray has been organising things really well in the middle of the park and Steven Lawless I think will have shown the fans that have the seen the games we’ve played that he has plenty of ability and talent.”
“Aaron Muirhead too has done well. He’s played in a couple of different roles, as have others, as we try things out and it is good to see that he is capable of playing in different positions.”
So what kind of Thistle team can we expect to see over the course of the tournament?
“It will naturally be our first time. Aaron Sinclair picked up a knock against Ayr United on Monday but we are hopeful that he will be able to play at the weekend. Aaron took a blow to the ankle that he injured last season and it is understandable that he is a little anxious when he takes a knock on the same ankle. Conrad Balatoni missed the Ayr game but he played 90 minutes of a close door game with Berwick Rangers during the week.”
Thistle fans should also get a first glimpse of James Craigen who signed a two year deal earlier in the week and James was at Firhill yesterday, alongside Celtic’s Marcus Fraser and Airdrie United’s Kenny Arthur to help promote the tournament.
Kenny, who made 287 appearances for Thistle between 1997 and 2006, only returned to Scotland after a number years in England earlier this summer and he is looking forward to returning to his old stamping ground at the weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to the tournament and hopefully there will be a decent turn out for it. Although I’ve been down in England for the last few years, I’ve tried to get to see Thistle when I’ve not been playing, but it will be nice to get back in touch with some old faces over the weekend.”
After a summer of some uncertainty, it was only in the last few days that it was confirmed that Airdrie United will be competing in next season’s First Division so the weekend’s ARR Craib Cup gives Thistle manager Jackie McNamara a perfect opportunity to cast his eyes over future opponents.
Meantime it is anticipated that both Celtic and Everton will be bringing squads with a mixture of youth an experience to the tournament with Everton utilising a younger squad on Saturday than they will on Sunday.
ARR CRAIB CUP
SATURDAY JULY 21ST and SUNDAY JULY 22nd 2O12
SCHEDULE OF MATCHES
SATURDAY JULY 21st
PARTICK THISTLE v CELTIC XI
AIRDRIE UNITED v EVERTON XI
SUNDAY JULY 22nd
THIRD/FOURTH PLACE PLAY-OFF
(if matches are level after 90 minutes the winner will be decided by penalties)
A Day Pass for either Saturday or Sunday costs £15 for adults and £10 for concessions with a Weekend Pass – covering all four games – costing £25 for adults and £15 for concessions. Please note that proof of concession must be shown.
If you can’t make it in to the office, don’t worry as there will be cash turnstiles on both days.
Thistle reached tomorrow’s Final of the ARR Craib Cup with a comfortable and merited 2-0 with over a Celtic XI that offered little in the way of resistance to Thistle who dominated almost the entire 90 minutes.
It was Celtic, however, that had the game’s first genuine chance. Tony Watt was able to escape his marker at the end of the Thistle box and his effort went wide of Scott Fox’s dive, but also wide of goal.
After that early scare Thistle were pretty much in control for the remainder of the half. They came close to scoring in the 8th minute. Steven Lawless’ beautifully weighted pass was collected by Stephen O’Donnell who cross in turn was flicked goalwards by Christie Elliott who saw his effort saved on the line by Robbie Thomson in the Celtic goal.
Thomson, arguably the best Celtic player on show, was called into action three minutes later. Chris Erskine ran at the heart of the Celtic defence and after his skill had opened things up he saw his low shot turned round the post for a corner.
Thistle were moving the ball well over the excellent Firhill surface but they were forced to reorganise after Aaron Sinclair and Celtic’s Lewis Toshney clashed heads. The Celtic player was able to continue after being bandaged up but Sinclair was replaced by Sean Welsh.
Welsh’s first serious involvement in the game was to put Thistle 1-0 ahead in the 32nd minute. Paul Paton swung the ball over from the right hand side and Welsh’s header found the left hand corner of Thomson’s goal.
Welsh could even have had a second goal just three minutes later. Chris Erskine’s trickery give him a clear sight of the Celtic goal inside their penalty box. Thomson, however, made a fine save to deny Erskine goal, with the loose ball falling to Welsh who rather mishit his effort over the bar.
Thistle at this stage probably should have been at least a further goal clear and they were nearly made to pay for a failure to score a second goal when Scott Fox had to tip a Rasmussen effort over the bar.
The half finished though with Thistle firmly on top and after Christie Elliott had been fouled just outside the Celtic penalty box, Aaron Muirhead was unlucky to see his well struck free-kick pushed away by Thomson.
It took Thistle just 4 minutes of the second half to net the second goal that their play clearly merited. After good work from Christie Elliott, Steven Lawless netted his fourth pre-season goal with an excellent finish from the edge of the box.
With a regular flow of substitutes throughout the second half there wasn’t the same degree of fluidity to Thistle’s performance as there had been during the opening half. They did, however, remain much the better side with Celtic only infrequently posing any threat to the Thistle goal.
Callum McGregor though did force Scott Fox into a smart save to his left from a free kick in the 74th minutes.
Thistle though continued to look the more likely to score again. Aaron Muirhead, who impressed in his first Firhill appearance, forced Thomson into a save with a shot from 20 yards and a Kris Doolan shot clipped the edge of the post after the ball had been laid back into his path by Mark McGuigan. Paul Paton too came close with a shot that was just a yard or two too high as Thistle ran out comfortable winners.
No match reaction