SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 6 August, 2016. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
The start of a new Ladbrokes Premiership season brings with it a new sense of excitement for supporters and staff alike. This weekend sees all twelve teams in the Ladbrokes Premiership play the first of their thirty eight league fixtures as another long campaign gets underway. Thistle kick off their season with a Firhill clash against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and ptfc.co.uk caught up with manager Alan Archibald after training to get his thoughts ahead of the opening league fixture.
“It’s great to have league football back at Firhill. The Betfred Cup was brilliant for getting players back up to full fitness but it felt like pre-season at times. Tomorrow’s match with Inverness is our first league fixture of the season so there can be no mistaking that the competitive football has returned.”
Thistle won all four of their Betfred Cup group games, something which has given the side a bit of momentum heading into the league season.
“Last year it took us until October to win a competitive game. During that time we even went out of the League Cup, so it’s good that we have got our first competitive win under our belts so early in the season. We have a tough start to the campaign with Aberdeen and Hearts coming up later in August but we know it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
“We have a difficult game against Inverness to kick off the season. They are a side who are high on confidence and will be a dangerous goal threat. They’ve netted twelve goals in the last two games so their attacking players will be raring to add to the tally against us tomorrow.”
With not a lot to separate most of the sides in the division, the gaffer knows each game will be a tough battle.
“Apart from the four teams that have big budgets in the league, there isn’t a lot separating the rest of the teams. Our first target will be to ensure our safety to secure our Premiership status for another season. We want to be higher in the league but we first have to ensure that we will be playing Premiership football in the 2017/18 season.
“We know every week that we’ll have to be at our best to pick up the three points on league business. There will be a lot of games decided by close margins so it will be crucial to get that first goal and we’re hoping to start that trend tomorrow at Firhill against Inverness.”
During pre-season and the Betfred Cup, physiotherapist Marcin Szostak has a number of injured players to deal with something that has alleviated with the league season about to begin.
“We had a number of players who were able to use the Betfred Cup as a path back to full fitness. We’re only missing the long term injured of Stuart Bannigan, Mustapha Dumbuya and Gary Fraser. The rest have been involved in training in some capacity. The game against Inverness will probably come a little too soon for Abdul Osman and Christie Elliott.”
Coming off the back of four consecutive Betfred cup victories, Partick Thistle were looking to continue those winning ways as Inverness came to Firhill on the opening day of the 2016/17 Ladbrokes Premiership season.
Inverness would have been confident ahead of the game having scored 12 goals in two games before today. Caley Thistle’s 7-0 victory over Arbroath last Saturday seemed to indicate that they wouldn’t be sitting back against the Jags. Thistle themselves had been in good goal scoring form with eight different players netting already in the Betfred cup.
Alan Archibald made two changes to the side that beat Queen’s Park comfortably just a week ago. Abdul Osman made his return from injury to captain Thistle, coming in for David Wilson, while Ryan Edwards was replaced by David Amoo. Thistle deployed the familiar 4-2-3-1 system for the game, with Kris Doolan spearheading the attack.
Before the game, everyone at Firhill partook in a minute of applause for Luke Wallace, a young Jags fan who sadly passed away in June at the age of just 16. Both sets of fans applauded as everyone from Partick Thistle paid their respects to a lost member of the Jags family.
The game started slowly with early season nerves showing on both sides. Thistle were struggling to get on the ball as Caley Thistle dominated possession. The only notable chance of the opening stages fell to Billy King as he found space 25 yards out but his shot flew over the bar.
Inverness were closing down very well in the first half which lead to Thistle being reduced to long balls for the first 20 minutes. In the 23rd minute, David Amoo was booked for a foul on Billy King a yard outside the box but, from a dangerous area the shot from the free kick deflected off the wall and out for a corner. Around 25 minutes in, Thistle began to pick up the pace. Alan Archibald’s men got their first chance of the game around that time. Sean Welsh picked out Liam Lindsay with a free kick but the centre-back couldn’t direct his header on target.
With around 10 minutes to go before half-time, Thistle managed to make the breakthrough. In a passage of play, started by the returning Abdul Osman, the men in red and yellow managed to string some quick passes together for the first time in the game. Booth found Steven Lawless who, on the stretch, managed to poke the ball to Chris Erskine. The number 10 then set the ball onto his left foot and curled it home past Owain Fon Williams.
The Caley Jags may have felt aggrieved as Inverness had dominated most of the game up to that point. Despite going behind, the visitors almost hit straight back as Liam Polworth picked up the ball and ran towards Tomas Cerny’s goal. However, as he set up to shoot, Liam Lindsay made a vital last ditch challenge. Scott Boden also had a good chance but he fired wide from a difficult angle.
Thistle went in at half-time in front. The performance hadn’t been convincing in the first 45 but the Jags were showing signs of improvement as the half went on. Inverness had looked dangerous when given space but Tomas Cerny was yet to be truly tested.
The second started completely differently to the first with Thistle in total control. Abdul Osman was bossing the midfield in the opening stages of the second half, allowing Thistle’s creative forces to express themselves more freely.
Around 15 minutes after the break, Alan Archibald’s men took advantage of their extra space. Sean Welsh managed to win a free kick wide on the right hand side, around 40 yards out. Welsh himself took the kick and his delivery found Osman at the back post. The skipper headed it back into the danger area and Liam Lindsay flicked it towards goal. A scramble then ensued in the six yard box ending with David Amoo forcing the ball over the line to double the lead.
Steven Lawless almost made it three with 19 minutes to go. David Amoo’s deep cross landed at the feet of Lawless, the wide midfielder then managed to get a half-volley away but it flashed wide of goal.
Ryan Edwards replaced Chris Erskine as Alan Archibald looked to see out the game and safely collect the points. Thistle’s second substitution was more disruptive, Liam Lindsay picked up a knock in a challenge with Ross Draper and was forced off the field to be replaced by Ade Azeez. This led to a shake-up in the Thistle defence as Ziggy Gordon moved to centre-half and Sean Welsh dropped to right-back.
The change didn’t seem to damage the team’s confidence though as Kris Doolan manufactured a good chance within the last ten minutes of the game, forcing a decent save from Fon Williams. After that it was a straight forward affair as the Jags professionally saw out the game and held out for the three points, leaving the Firhill side in second place going into Sunday.
The victory was a deserved one in the end with Thistle completely on top of proceedings in the second 45. Despite a shaky start the defence claimed an opening day clean sheet with some solid tackling and good aerial play. Abdul Osman made a very good return to the starting line-up highlighting his importance to the Thistle midfield.
The Jags now turn their attentions to Dundee United. Thistle travel to Tannadice on Tuesday night looking to make it to the quarter-finals of the Betfred cup.
Thistle: Cerny, Booth, Lindsay (Azeez, 77) Devine, Gordon, Osman, Welsh, Lawless, Amoo, Erskine (Edwards, 72), Doolan
Thistle subs N/U: Scully, Wilson, McDaid, Syme, Pogba
Inverness CT: Fon Williams, Raven, Warren, McNaughton, Tremarco, Polworth, Tansey, Vigurs (Fisher, 75), Mulraney (Draper, 66), Boden, King
Inverness CT subs N/U: Mackay, Doran, Brown, Horner, Sutherland
Alan Archibald was in good spirits when he spoke to ptfc.co.uk following his side’s 2-0 victory over Inverness this afternoon at Firhill. After grabbing a win on the opening day of the campaign, Archie stressed the importance of getting the first victory in the bag and avoiding another long winless run similar to the start of last season.
“I’m delighted, especially after last season, waiting so long for a victory, to get off and running with a clean sheet as well, I’m very pleased with the lads.”
The manager recognised that Thistle had started the game shakily but claimed that the goal made a big difference.
“I thought that we looked nervy in the first 20 minutes. It looked like our first game of the season, as if we hadn’t played the Betfred Cup games. The goal really settled us down, it was a cagey affair up to that point. It was a good bit of play that lead up to the goal as well as a fantastic finish from Chris Erskine.
“There were a lot of misplaced passes but it was a nice piece of play and we had worked on that. We looked more like ourselves after that.”
The gaffer was quick to praise midfielder Chris Erskine after he scored his third goal since returning to Firhill on a pre-contract.
“I didn’t think we were giving him enough of the ball or feeding him quickly enough. If he gets on the other side of the opposition midfield that’s what he can do. He’s got quality and an eye for goal so it’s great that he’s off and running in the league.”
The Jags boss was also happy with his defence as they claimed a clean sheet against a team who had been scoring freely for much of the Betfred Cup Group Stage.
“I’m pleased that we got the clean sheet, I think Abdul Osman really helps that because he’s there helping the centre-backs out and letting the full-backs go forward. It’s a good, good clean sheet.”
The manager also offered an update concerning Liam Lindsay’s condition as the defender was forced off after a challenge with Ross Draper.
“We’re hoping it’s just a dead leg but it’s a bit early to say. He took a clatter right down his thigh and on his knee so hopefully it’s just an impact thing. We’ll see how he is tomorrow ahead of the game on Tuesday night. It was just one of them, a pure 50/50, there was no malice in it and big Liam has just come off second best.”