SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 4 October, 2014. Kick Off: - 15:00
The defeat on Saturday away to Kilmarnock was a tough one to take for the manager and players alike when they were back to training this week but Jags boss, Alan Archibald, is confident his players will come out fighting against Motherwell on Saturday.
Alan spoke to ptfc.co.uk in advance of the Premiership clash to give us the inside line from within the camp.
“We spoke after the game about how we felt some of the players were feeling sorry for themselves during the Killie game, we spoke about it on Monday too. I think with any team it can go two ways when you lose a couple of goals, you either stand and fight to get it back or feel sorry for yourselves and I think we only went one way on Saturday.
“I think the boys need to take responsibility, especially when we lose players to injury mid-way through the game. Not enough of them did last week and that’s why we lost the game 3-0. The players started looking for excuses, the astro pitch, the 120 minutes on Tuesday, but they aren’t excuses. They aren’t excuses when we win so they won’t be when we lose either.”
“The performances weren’t like us last week so hopefully it’s just a blip and we’ll get back to normal on Saturday.”
Similar to Thistle Motherwell have struggled for form and consistency so far this season and Archie admits that he isn’t sure what to expect.
“I saw them play against Hamilton in the cup midweek and it was a totally different team. I think his last three teams have been totally different and he’s got a few injuries to contend with as well, by the looks of the team he has picked.
“We might not really know what to expect from the line up but we do know that we’re going to get a team that is going to come out and have a real go. Obviously they’re coming in off the back of a bad result like ourselves and, like us, they’ll be looking for a good win to rectify that.”
The injury to Kallum Higginbotham has been well reported this week and, having seen the results of the scan it’s mixed news for the Thistle attacker.
“He’s going to need surgery so he’ll be going in at the start of next week. We don’t really know how long that will keep him out for until they open him up but it looks like for now like three or four weeks. It’s a very very small meniscus tear but it will very much depend on how it looks when they get in there.”
Although Higgy has claimed a lot of the plaudits so far this season Archie knows that it is just an opportunity for someone else to step in.
“It just means someone else has got to come in and step up. We’ll shuffle things about a bit as well. There were games last year where Higgy didn’t do so well and we still won so it just gives someone else a chance – it’s just one of those things in football.”
A run of results has been elusive for the Jags so far this season but, for Alan, it isn’t just the results that are frustrating.
“Getting a run of results is obviously the primary aim first and foremost but consistency within games is also important. Last season we would go out and dominate games whereas so far this season we’re only really doing that for 40, 50, 60 minutes in a game. If we can be brave on the ball and go out and get on top of teams I’ve no doubt the results will follow from there.”
Thistle bounced back from the disappointment of defeat Rugby Park in the best possible fashion as they recorded their first win over Motherwell for nearly 11 years.
The news that Kallum Higginbotham, so often an inspiration, is due to be missing for a period following surgery was a blow and manager Alan Archibald made three changes to the side that went down 3-0 to Kilmarnock. Christie Elliott replaced the aforementioned Higginbotham while there was a first league start of the season for James Craigen and a first start since August for Stephen O’Donnell. All three of those players would play significant roles in Thistle’s eventual success.
With both sides having experienced disappointing results the previous weekend it was perhaps understandable that there was a nervous feel to the opening exchanges although Thistle were the first of the two sides to settle.
It was Motherwell, however, in a rare attack on the Thistle goal that almost snatched an 11th minute lead. Josh Law was able to clip over a cross from the left to the near post where Henrik Ojamaa’s header brushed the frame of the Thistle goal.
Thistle though found themselves in front just five minutes later. Steven Lawless had been a major pre-match injury doubt but he was having a big influence on proceedings all the same. His sharp turn in the 15th minute gave the former Motherwell player some space just outside the box and his effort that went narrowly wide was a warning shot across Motherwell’s bows.
It was a warning that Motherwell paid little heed to as sixty seconds later Thistle were celebrating the game’s opening goal. Again Lawless found himself in a little pocket of space and he spotted Stuart Bannigan to his left who fired high into the net for his second goal of the season.
Thistle continued to look the better side in the first half without really looking like adding to Bannigan’s goal. Kris Doolan saw a snap shot from the edge of the box saved by Twardzik after Stuart Bannigan had been able to nod the ball onto him.
Doolan was again involved in a thrust towards the Motherwell goal in the 35th minute when he was able to get the better of McManus as the two players challenged for a long ball forward from Balatoni. Doolan was able to work the ball out into the path of Christie Elliott but his shot neither had the power nor the direction to seriously trouble Twardzik.
Motherwell meantime were making little impact on a compact, well organised Thistle defence. They were, however, able to end the half with a spell of possession and pressure but the best they could muster was a curling effort from Law that never looked like troubling Scott Fox.
Thistle began the second half in promising fashion and Steven Lawless saw a shot blocked by a Motherwell defender less than 60 seconds after the restart.
A long range effort from James Craigen, after collecting a pass from Stuart Bannigan, went well wide of goal in the 56th minute before Craigen was heavily involved in Thistle’s second goal five minutes later.
It was an excellent team goal that began with Conrad Balatoni’s pass down the right hand side. Craigen’s flick sent Stephen O’Donnell clear and O’Donnell, who had posed Motherwell problems down the right flank in the first half, was able to use his pace to get clear and send over a cross that Kris Doolan fired into the back of the net.
Now with the relative cushion of a two goal lead Thistle looked to press home their advantage and James Craigen was close to a third goal only to be denied by Twardzik after Craigen had skipped past a challenge inside the Motherwell box.
With Thistle well in control and Motherwell looking a sorry lot things looked set for a comfortable home win as the game entered the final 20 minutes but out of the blue Motherwell were able to haul themselves right back into the game.
While Thistle were deserved winners of this game it was Motherwell that arguably scored the pick of the goals with Lionel Ainsworth’s long range effort leaving Scott Fox with no chance of saving.
Just how far out Ainsworth was depends on what account you listen to but what wasn’t in question was the lift the goal gave his side. Suddenly the outcome of this match was very much in the balance. Scott Fox had to claw another Ainsworth effort round the post for a corner and Conrad Balatoni was in the right place at the right time to complete a timely clearance from a dangerous cross from the Motherwell sub who was having a big impact on proceedings.
A third Thistle goal would have eased the Thistle nerves considerably at this point and it arrived in the 82nd minute. Nathan Eccleston had only being on the pitch for two minutes when he won the ball on the halfway line and he spotted Stephen O’Donnell’s run as Thistle caught Motherwell on the counter attack. Although left with just the keeper to beat O’Donnell still had a bit of work to do and while sometimes too much time and space can almost be a hindrance O’Donnell’s confident finish had all the hallmarks of a player used to playing further up the pitch than his full back position.
Eccleston, after providing the assist for the third goal, tried to get in on the act himself only to see his effort drift wide of target as Thistle looked to add to their tally.
It was Motherwell though that came closest to scoring again and it took an excellent save deep in injury time from Scott Fox to keep out a deflected Erwin effort; a goal that would have given the final score a deceptively close look.
After having just witnessed his side bounce back from the disappointment of defeat at Rugby Park with a well merited success over Motherwell it was an understandably contented Alan Archibald that [link:HOME] spoke to after yesterday’s game; especially as the win was recorded minus some key personnel.
“We spoke about that before the game and the importance of not feeling sorry for ourselves because players are missing and I felt that the players responded really well to that. It was an excellent three points for us and first and foremost I have to praise the players for their work rate. We didn’t work hard enough at Kilmarnock last week but we certainly did today. They performed the ugly side of the game really well and that allowed us to play and we scored some good goals which I was delighted about.”
The manager made three changes from the side that went down to Kilmarnock but with Steven Lawless a major injury doubt before the game he was nearly required to make a fourth change as well.
“Steven didn’t train all week and it was a bit of a gamble to play him today but it was a gamble that paid off.”
Although there was to be no clean sheet for Thistle the manager was more than happy with the way his side defended
“Motherwell are a really difficult team to defend against. They have a lot of big guys in their team and they get the ball into the box but we coped well with that with Dan Seaborne really leading from the front in that regard. They scored a bit of a wonder goal probably during our best spell in the game and that got them back into the match but again I was really impressed with the way the players stood up to that and we were able to score a goal on the break to clinch the points.”
Victory yesterday was our first win over Motherwell since December 2003 with the Fir Park side winning all three encounters between the sides last season. Yesterday’s well deserved success then is a further confirmation of the progress that the Club is making.
“It sounds a bit like sour grapes when you say it but I didn’t think that we deserved to lose all three games to Motherwell last season. We played some good football in those matches. To get the win that we deserved today then is a sign of the progress that we are making.”
With the international break coming up we are without a fixture next weekend which the manager considers to be both good and bad news.
“When you get a win you do want to try and build on the momentum of that as quickly as possible but we picked up a few knocks today and it will be good to be able to give the players a couple of days off before we start the hard work again. Victory today though means that we will approach the Dundee United game, which will be a very difficult match, with a bit of confidence.”