SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Tue 5 April, 2016. Kick Off: - 19:45
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
There is only one game left at Firhill before the league splits for the final five games of the season. Everyone at Partick Thistle is focussing on a crucial game against Dundee United as the side look to put themselves into the best position possible ahead of the weekend trip to Dingwall. Ptfc.co.uk caught up with Alan Archibald after training on Monday to get his thoughts on the big game.
“It’s going to be another hard fought battle at Firhill. We’ll have to win all of our individual battles to ensure we come out with three points. We’ve been through it with Kilmarnock on Saturday and we expect more of the same against Dundee United on Tuesday evening.
“The disappointing element from not getting the win on Saturday, is that to get into the top six we are now relying on favours from other teams. We’ll have to take care of ourselves and then hope things go our way.”
Dundee United are locked in a relegation battle with Kilmarnock as they look to retain Premiership status but Archie is only focussed on what Thistle do.
“Dundee United had a great result on Saturday against St Johnstone and will be coming to Firhill on a high. That will make them dangerous opponents but we’re all focussed on what the eleven players wearing red and yellow can do on Tuesday night.
“We’ve had a decent defensive record all season long and that has given us a great base to build on. We know that if our defence plays as well as it can, we’ll only need one goal to win the game and in Tuesday’s game the first goal is going to be absolutely vital. We’ve kept ten clean sheets this season and we’re keen to add to that total.”
The gaffer has a number of different options to call upon and with an almost fit squad he knows he will have a selection headache.
“We only have Stuart Bannigan who is definitely ruled out of the game so we have plenty of options to pick from. We’ve been working on a game plan over the last couple of days to get as positive a result as possible and we know we have a number of players we can call upon for the job in hand. It’s a great problem to have as we have a number of different options as to how we set the side up and our substitutes have the quality to change the game if it isn’t going our way.”
Archie rounded off with a bit of team news ahead of the match.
“Liam Lindsay is a doubt. Dan and Freddie did really well on Saturday, teaming up to record another clean sheet together so I have every faith that they will continue to do well if we go with them again on Tuesday. The only other doubt is Abdul Osman who is carrying a knock but we’ll give him every opportunity to make the game as he is a vital player for us.”
With two games remaining before the league splits into two sections of six, it was another crucial night at Firhill as Thistle hosted Dundee United in a re-arranged game from January. Both sides needed the three points for very different reasons contributing to a tense atmosphere around the ground as kick off approached.
Manager Alan Archibald made two changes to the side which contested a drab draw against Kilmarnock with Kris Doolan being preferred to Mathias Pogba up front, while Ryan Edwards dropped out for Gary Fraser. United were captained by former Thistle player, Paul Paton and were looking to build on Saturday’s 1-0 win over St Johnstone.
Frederic Frans went into Andrew Dallas’ book inside two minutes when he fouled Anier as he looked to burst through on goal. Paul Paton’s free kick sailed high over Cerny’s cross bar.
It was Dundee United who had the better of the early stages and after they capitalised on Gary Fraser lying stricken on the Firhill turf, Ryan Dow forced a strong save from Tomas Cerny. Fraser’s game was over with barely ten minutes played and Archibald introduced Pogba to the team, with Doolan dropping deeper into midfield.
As Thistle struggled to adapt to the tactical change, United imposed themselves on the game. Paul Paton curled a free kick just out of the reach of the United attack. Long ball after long ball caused Thistle bother and Tomas Cerny had to be alert on a number of occasions to sweep up loose balls while also producing terrific saves. Ryan Dow was posing a menace to the Thistle defence, but was having a poor time with his accuracy, firing over the top of the bar.
With 29 minutes on the clock, Thistle got themselves in a horrible mess on the edge of the box and with McKay presented with near to an open goal, his effort was just over the cross bar.
Thistle were starting to come into the game but Doolan’s header was comfortable for Kawashima to clutch. It was only a temporary respite as United broke again. The ball working its way to Rankin on the left hand side of the box and he forced an excellent save from Cerny who tipped over the crossbar.
United did have the ball in the net on the stroke of half-time through McKay but the whistle had long gone for an offside.
If the first half was one of Thistle’s poorest then the second half was a definite improvement. There was a tactical reshuffle required early on with Frederic Frans having to be replaced in the early stages of the second half through injury. Mustapha Dumbuya was introduced to the game meaning Gary Miller moved to central defence. It was a move that would have a devastating impact on the game.
One of his rampaging runs down the right hand side saw him whip over a cross which Callym Booth volleyed over the crossbar by inches.
Thistle were coming into the game stronger as it wore on, but weren’t creating clear cut opportunities for Kawashima to face in the United goal. That all changed in the 71st minute as Thistle took the lead.
Dundee United sent an aimless long ball into the corner, which Callum Booth collected. He played the ball to Doolan who controlled well before sending it back to Booth. The ball was switched to Dumbuya, via Osman and Welsh, who rampaged down the right hand side. His low cross from the right was dummied by David Amoo to create the space for Kris Doolan to lash a right footed effort beyond Kawashima from just inside the penalty area.
Thistle found renewed confidence from the goal and Lawless forced a full length save from the edge of the box.
With Thistle having used all three substitutes there was some concern when Abdul Osman appeared to suffer an injury. Thankfully he was able to soldier on with Thistle unable to add a second goal when Welsh worked well inside the box. Kawashima was equal to his curling low effort.
David Amoo was proving to be useful for Thistle in winding down the clock with several rampaging runs deep into United territory.
With four minutes of injury time signalled, there would be one further moment of drama when Scott Fraser tumbled inside the Thistle box. He was, correctly booked for diving as temperatures began to rise inside the Jags penalty area.
With four minutes of additional time safely navigated, Thistle could celebrate another three points that took the side above the 40 points mark and means the side will be competing for a top six slot in the last game before the split.
It was a massive three points for Thistle on Tuesday night as Kris Doolan’s single goal separated the side from Dundee United. With a victory needed to ensure the side remained in contention for the top six, it was a beaming Alan Archibald who spoke to ptfc.co.uk shortly after the game.
“That was an absolutely massive result for us. We knew we needed a win to keep us in with a realistic shout of top six and we’ve got that. It was a tough, tough game. We knew United would come and cause us problems and they certainly did that in the first half. We were lucky to get in at half time with the score still at 0-0.
“In the second half we performed a lot better and took the game to United. We scored an excellent goal and then had to hang on until the full time whistle.”
The narrow victory marked the 11th clean sheet of the season for the side and Alan was delighted the team could hold firm.
“It’s a terrific achievement by the side to have reached 11 clean sheets and we’re not even at the split. Tomas Cerny has produced a number of terrific saves for us in the first half to keep us in the game and hasn’t had too much to do in the second half. Without those saves, particularly the outstandingone from Rankin, we’re going in behind and with a mountain to climb.
“The defence work incredibly well as a unit and it’s great to have such a reliable backline as it means we know that we’ll only need the one goal to secure all three points in games.”Thistle were forced into two substitutions due to injury and we asked the gaffer how the players were.
“Gary Fraser has picked up a knock on his knee and being so early in the game we tried to get him back on the pitch to carry on but he just wasn’t able to do it. We brought on Pogba and put Doolan a bit deeper in order to try and change the system a little bit and it was a success I thought. Freddie felt a sharppain in his calf and we’re hoping that we have caught it early enough that he won’t be out for too long.
“We’ve had a lot of games recently and there are a few walking wounded around Firhill at the moment. We’ll get them back in and do the correct recovery and see where we are with numbers as we head to Dingwall.”
Saturday’s game becomes another incredibly important game with a Thistle win, combined with other results, enough to see the side secure a place in the top six.
“It’s been some turnaround since the start of the season. We now have the opportunity to get into that top and that would be a terrific achievement for the side. At the start of the week I told the players we had to make sure we went to Dingwall withthe opportunity to take that top six place. We don’t quite have it in our own hands but we know that if we win we have a chance. It’s a game we are all looking forward to now and the preparation begins immediately.”