SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Tue 2 February, 2016. Kick Off: - 19:45
Alan Archibald spoke to ptfc.co.uk earlier ahead of tonight’s Scottish Ladbrokes Premiership fixture with Motherwell. We began with his deadline day additions he made in Antonio German and Aidan Nesbitt.
“Signing Antonio gives us a lot of versatility. He can play up front or on the wing, so he’ll be able to add something to our squad. He scored a lot of goals recently in India, so he’ll be confident that he could do the same for us. It’s his first time in Scotland so we’re hoping it will click from him. He hasn’t played for a couple of months so it might take a while to get his match sharpness back.
“Aidan is a promising youngster from Celtic. He’s 19 later this week I believe and we’re looking forward to working with him. He’s already made his senior debut for Celtic so he’s highly regarded by Ronny Delia and his coaching staff. He knows he will have to fight for his place like everyone else, and there is no expectation that he will start every game just because he’s on loan.”
Alan was clearly pleased with the additions he had made during January which makes his squad stronger for the league run in.
“The squad is stronger now. A few games ago we could barely fill the bench and we’ve now got everyone back fit. It makes a massive difference that Mathias Pogba, Gary Fraser and Christie Elliott are now all fit and ready to go. Ryan Edwards is back from Australia duty and added with the new boys it means we’ll have a strong squad to pick from, with competition fierce for places.”
There was huge disappointment around Firhill on Saturday when the match against Dundee United was called off.
“I personally thought the pitch was playable. I’ve seen it a lot worse and I think we would have got a decent game on it. The Dundee game went on in conditions that I personally thought were worse and it’s disappointing that Saturday’s game was off. We were all raring to go and looking to get the three points, so it’s always disappointing when the game is called off.”
One of the consolations of Saturday’s game being postponed meant Archie and Scott Paterson were able to travel to Dundee to watch Motherwell in person.
“We travelled up on Saturday to watch them and they were slightly unfortunate to only get a draw. Motherwell are a very solid unit, and they don’t concede a lot of goals in games. They are slightly similar to us in that they didn’t have the greatest of starts and have really pushed on from where they were earlier in the season. We know it’ll be an extremely tough game and we’ll have to be at our best to get all three points.”
Thistle hosted Motherwell at Firhill still seeking their first league victory of 2016. Thistle had been inactive for 10 days following the goal-less draw in Inverness due to the postponement of the weekend’s fixture with Dundee United. Motherwell came into the fixture without a league win in 4 games and on the back of a 2-2 draw with Dundee.
Manager Alan Archibald made two changes to the side which played a drab 0-0 with Inverness. Mustapha Dumbuya missed out through injury allowing Gary Miller to return to the team, while Christie Elliott earned a start ahead of David Amoo. There was no place on the bench for deadline transfer duo Antonio German and Aidan Nesbitt, but there were welcome returns for Ryan Edwards, Gary Fraser and Mathias Pogba.
On a heavily sanded pitch, which survived a thorough pitch inspection just after 5pm, both sides made bright starts. Marvin Johnson was the first to trek through the Jackie Husband desert, jinking past a couple of challenges before finding his cross well cleared by Seaborne.
Steven Lawless looked in the mood right from the off and had a couple of early efforts flash past the post of Connor Ripley. Seaborne was next to test the on-loan Motherwell goalkeeper with a header that Ripley needed two attempts to gather.
After a positive opening, the game descended into a hard fought midfield battle with Thistle having Miller, Seaborne and Bannigan going into referee Barry Cook’s notebook for fouls. Thistle gradually grew into the game as a more attacking force, with Miller having a left footed effort from the edge of the box.
Marvin Johnson created space in the penalty area, tumbling under minimal contact from Sean Welsh. The referee waved away his claims and played advantage as Thistle sought to break away.
With the halftime whistle approaching, Steven Lawless jinked away from two Motherwell defenders before slicing a shot wildly off target to ensure the first half ended goalless.
Thistle started the second half sluggishly with Motherwell forcing themselves on the front foot. Pearson fired over the bar with just a few minutes gone, before Johnson almost scampered through after Seaborne left a through ball, the offside flag denying the Motherwell winger.
Thistle introduced Mathias Pogba with a third of the game to go and he proved to be a real handful for the Motherwell defenders during his time on the park. He reached Miller’s deep cross with 15 minutes to go, but his header could only just clear Ripley’s bar.
Pogba was doing well to flick the ball on, and hold it deep in the Motherwell half as Thistle pushed forward looking to grab the winner. Miller was next to have a sight of goal, but his long range shot went well wide of goal.
In a game of few chances, Booth almost found a way past Ripley before Ainsworth thumped a freekick of a strong Thistle wall before Thistle grabbed the games only goal.
Motherwell partially headed the ball away, under pressure from Amoo, but the ball fell gently for Lawless who rifled the ball beyond the helpless Ripley with the aid of a small deflection from a Motherwell defender.
There was still drama to come as Motherwell tried to snatch a last gasp equaliser. A corner was flicked on at the near post and only an excellent goalline header from Gary Fraser prevented the ball from crossing the line.
Thistle navigated almost four minutes of injury time before being able to celebrate another three points which saw the side rise to 8th in the Ladbrokes Premiership table.
Ptfc.co.uk caught up with a happy Alan Archibald shortly after the full time whistle, with Thistle edging a close game by a late Steven Lawless goal.
“I’m thoroughly delighted with that. It was a game where both sides cancelled each other out for a lot of the game. I thought we started the game really well, creating a few opportunities, but not seriously testing their goalkeeper. The game was a bit of a slog in the middle but at the end we were able to nick the goal right at the death
“I thought it was going to take something scrappy, or a setpiece, to separate the sides. The ball has just dropped to Lawless and it’s taken a deflection to fire it past the goalkeeper. We’ll definitely take that, we had something similar against Inverness and hopefully we go on another winning run once again.”
Thistle’s groundstaff worked tirelessly all day long to get the pitch playable and Alan was keen to praise the hard work done behind the scenes.
“It’s great to get a win when there has been so much work done to put the game on. Allan Findlay was in at 7.30 this morning and has worked on the pitch all day to get the game ready to go ahead. Without him and his team of volunteers the pitch wouldn’t have been good enough to put the match on for us to get the three points, so it is good to get the win when some many people have put so much effort into getting the pitch into a good condition.”
Thistle fans certainly got into the swing of things during the 90 minutes brandishing their Johnathan Monk yellow cards enthusiastically, but Archibald found referee Barry Cook’s willingness to caution his players surprising.
“I didn’t think it was that bad a game in terms of fouls for the referee to issue yellows cards as much as he did. We went in at half time with four Thistle players booked and there wasn’t a horrific tackle in the game to that point.”
The league business takes a back seat at the weekend with Thistle heading to Tannadice on Scottish Cup duty looking to reach the quarter finals.
“We’ll take confidence out of tonight’s result going forward. The boys will have tomorrow off to recover and then on Thursday we’ll start planning for Dundee United and how we plan to keep our Hampden dream alive.”