SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 16 January, 2016. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
It’s a return to league action tomorrow afternoon as Thistle host Dundee in the next round of the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership. Ptfc.co.uk caught up with Alan Archibald to gather his thoughts ahead of the game.
“It’s a return to league business. We have three league games to play before we have our Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United, so we’re focused on getting as many points out of these three games first before looking to push on in the Scottish Cup.
“The last time we played Dundee we got a draw at Dens Park. That draw, I think, was the start of our lengthy unbeaten run and we’re hoping that we can use a fixture against Dundee to start a lengthy run of unbeaten form once again. We’re looking to push on up the table and we know a victory on Saturday will take us above Dundee so that is all the motivation the players should require.”
Dundee are one of two sides Thistle have failed to beat on Premiership duty since returning to the top flight of Scottish football in 2013 and Alan is keen to rectify that record.
“Games against Dundee have been funny ones. The last time we played them it was probably the best they have played against us over the two years but we got a well-earned point. The previous fixture at Firhill was a similarly strange one, we hit the woodwork three times I think but they got the win through a good strike from Greg Stewart. We will need to be wary of him on Saturday and we know the danger that he can bring to Dundee.”
A lot of speculation has surrounded Stuart Bannigan this week but Alan doesn’t expect the industrious midfielder to be distracted come kick off on Saturday.
“There has been a lot of focus on Stuart this week, but we’ve not had any offers so it has just been paper talk. Stuart has been fantastic for me over the last three seasons and, if he departs in the summer having helped Thistle stay in the league, then he’ll go with our thanks.”
Saturday’s line up will have one enforced change to the side which defeated St Mirren, with captain, Abdul Osman, suspended having accumulated six bookings.
“It’s disappointing that Abdul is missing but it’s something that we’ve known about for a few weeks and it has given us time to prepare. He has been fantastic for us but it is part of his role that he will inevitably pick up a few yellow cards and, unfortunately, he has to miss a game now. We’ve got several options for who can fill in for him and we’ve been working on it throughout this week so whoever we pick to replace him will be looking to put in a performance that means they retain their place in the line-up against Inverness next week.”
Finally Alan concluded by giving us his team news.
“Christie missed the Development League game through illness on Tuesday so he missed the opportunity to get more minutes in his legs as he steps up his recovery. Abdul is obviously suspended and we have a couple of players who are carrying knocks but we’ll give them every chance to make Saturday’s game.”
Thistle hosted their first game of 2016 against a Dundee side which had been idle for the previous couple of weeks after several postponements. Thistle, meanwhile, were looking to use last week’s Scottish Cup success over St Mirren as a springboard to push on for another run of unbeaten league form. With snow falling all morning, Thistle’s groundsmen worked extremely hard in the build up to the game to make sure the pitch was clear of snow prior to kick off.
Manager Alan Archibald made two changes to that successful cup team with Mustapha Dumbuya coming into the defence with Gary Miller dropping to the substitute’s bench. There was also a change in midfield with Abdul Osman suspended giving another chance for David Wilson to stake a claim in the Thistle starting line-up. Christie Elliott, who has missed all of the competitive actions so far, was fit enough to start on the bench.
Both sides took a few minutes to settle into the wintry, heavy conditions but Dundee adapted quickest and were soon to show their domination. Kevin Holt sent a long ball down the left hand side which Harkins looped high into the air. As Lindsay waited for the ball to drop for him, the midfielder was able to nick it away from the young defender and headed towards the box. With Lindsay bamboozled by the trickery of Harkins, he tripped the Dundee player to give the visiting side an early penalty. Kane Hemmings made no mistake from the penalty spot with a confident powerful strike.
A one goal deficit soon became two. Greg Stewart swung over a delivery from 40 yards, from a free kick, Cerny came to collect the ball around 12 yards out but was blocked off by his own defenders. The ball dropped neatly for Harkins to sidefoot into the back of the net and Dundee had a two goal cushion.
With barely 15 minutes on the clock it was 3-0 to Dundee. Lawless lost the ball inside the Dundee half before Harkins received the pass inside the Jags half. He spread the ball wide to Stewart who had all sorts of space and time to advance into the Thistle penalty area and curl the ball beyond the helpless Cerny.
Dundee sensed that they were able to carve Thistle open at will and should have probably notched a fourth only for Paul McGowan to be denied by a tremendous clawed save by Tomas Cerny. Seconds later, Kane Hemmings smashed an effort off the post as Thistle faced the very real prospect of being on the wrong end of a heavy home defeat.
With the half reaching the half way stage, Thistle managed to find a way back into the game with a goal that raised hope the great comeback was on. Bannigan had a corner cleared back to him and he delivered a terrific left footed cross, which was flicked on by Liam Lindsay and David Amoo was able to nod home from six yards out to give Thistle some hope.
Thistle were being roared on by an optimistic home support but with the snow getting heavier, it made conditions extremely tricky for both sets of players. Dundee, with their two goal advantage, were happy to allow Thistle the opportunity to have the ball in areas of the park where they didn’t threaten Scott Bain’s goal and kept them at arm’s length.
There was to be a fifth goal in the half but disappointingly for Thistle it came for Dundee. Harkins was left in acres of space on the edge of the box and he curled an excellent effort into the top corner.
The snow relented slightly in a second half that was pretty tame in comparison to the first.
Dundee still looked dangerous on the break and when Hemmings looked to have beaten Lindsay for pace, the young defender went into the book for the challenge.
Thistle threatened Scott Bain through long range efforts for the majority of the second half, with neither goalkeeper really being tested during the second half.
With 15 minutes to go, Liam Lindsay bundled over Greg Stewart on the edge of the Thistle penalty area with referee Euan Anderson issuing the defender with his second yellow card of the game. Harkins sent the resulting free kick inches over the bar, while McGowan hit the outside of Cerny’s post with the game entering the final stages.
There was one final goal in the game as the clock wound down. Booth went on a mazy run and fired a powerful effort which Bain was unable to hold on to. Doolan reacted quickest to prod the ball home into the net and the scoreline had a bit more respectability surrounding it.
Thistle start 2016 with consecutive defeats and sit above the relegation play off slot by virtue of goal difference.
Thistle’s good run of performances and results came crashing to a stop today when the Jags were comprehensively beaten 4-2 by an impressive Dundee side. Alan Archibald was clearly still seething about his side’s performance when he spoke to ptfc.co.uk minutes after the final whistle.
“Obviously it was a terrible result and the performance was nowhere near up to the standards we have set ourselves but it all stemmed from the poor, poor start we had. We never recovered from our start and we got punished for our mistakes. I don’t want to take anything away from Dundee though – they were excellent today – but we made it far too easy for them.
“It was unusual today as we defended really poorly. Our defence has been outstanding recently but we really didn’t defend anywhere near as well as you need to at this level. We were very poor in possession and we allowed their key players to play. Dundee are a very good side and when you do that you know they will punish you – that’s exactly what we got today.”
Although the match was never in any serious doubt the snowy conditions certainly had an impact on the game, but Archibald wasn’t looking for excuses.
“The conditions were far from ideal today but it wasn’t the reason we lost the game. The players have to go out there and manage the match better. The weather was the same for both sides and it’s no excuse.”
It was certainly one of the poorest performances of the season from Thistle and Archie was struggling to pick out any positives from the 90 minutes.
“I don’t think there were any pass marks across the whole team today. It was one of the poorest performances I think I have seen in my time here as manager. The only positive for us was Christie Elliott returning from injury, he has been out for a long time so it was really good to see him back in the fold.”
With the score 4-1 at half time it was always going to be a struggle for the side in red and yellow, but Archibald was still disappointed at the lack of fight from his side.
“At half time we made it clear to the boys that the performance was unacceptable. At that point you just want them to go out there and restore a bit of pride for themselves and for the supporters who have paid money to come and watch us today but I don’t think we did that either. We hardly made a chance in that second half – we were miles off it.”