Sat 23 July, 2016. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
As the Betfred Cup action continues tomorrow afternoon, manager Alan Archibald is looking forward to get back to action at Firhill. He spoke to ptfc.co.uk to build up to the game against Queen of the South.
“It’ll be good to get back in front of our home fans at Firhill. We’ve had to play every game away from home during pre-season to give our pitch time to get into fantastic condition ahead of the new season. We spent a lot of money on the pitch over the summer and it was money we had to spend to improve it. A good surface helps the way we like to play so it’s great to be heading back to a magnificent grass pitch at Firhill.”
With the way the group is shaping it up, tomorrow’s game could be crucial in determining who wins the group and guarantees progression to the next round of the Betfred Cup.
“I’ve seen both of Queen of the South’s games in the cup. They are a very strong, organised side and will be tough opponents for us tomorrow. It’s probably a must win game for us now, which is strange because you don’t usually get them until much later in the season.
“We’ll be looking to freshen up the team but it’s difficult because of the injuries we’ve had. Some teams have been able to use the competition to rotate their squads and we’ve not had the chance to do that. It’s a game that we are looking to win.”
The last time Thistle faced the Doonhamers was in the Challenge Cup final back in April 2013 and the gaffer is hoping for another cup run this season.
“We’ve starved our fans of a good cup run. The last time we had one was in the Ramsden’s Cup final back in 2013 and, even though we lost, it was a magnificent day. There were 10,000 fans there supporting the two sides and that was a little taste of it. We’ve had nothing since then and we are all desperate to get back on a cup run. We know the first step is qualifying out the group and Saturday is another game closer to doing that.”
Finally we asked the gaffer for his team news ahead of the Betfred Cup tie.
“The goalkeepers are both still doubts. We’re hoping that one of Cerny and Scully will be able to go on the bench and hopefully he won’t be called upon. Our young goalkeeper Conor Cullen is away in Ireland at the Foyle Cup.
“David Amoo is the closest to a return and we’ll give him every chance to make it for the game at Firhill on Saturday. Daniel Devine picked up a knock against Airdrie but we hope he’ll make it.
“Christie Elliott, Gary Fraser, Stuart Bannigan, Mustapha Dumbuya and Abdul Osman are definitely out of this game.”
After a 1-0 win over Airdrie in Thistle’s Betfred Cup opener, the Jags were looking to continue the winning trend against a Queen of the South team who had already secured two wins in the competition. Queens were looking for a win that would put them further ahead of the rest in Group E.
Alan Archibald made two changes to the side who started at the Excelsior Stadium last Friday night with Ade Azeez replacing Kris Doolan up front and David Amoo returning to the starting line-up, replacing Declan McDaid. Danny Devine, David Crawford, Ziggy Gordon and Ade Azeez all made their home debuts, while Chris Erskine returned to Firhill after two years away.
Thistle got the game underway but it would be Queens that went close first. Ziggy Gordon gave the ball away cheaply on the right and Derek Lyle, who scored twice in Queen of the South’s 2-0 victory over Airdrie, almost took advantage. The forward tried to curl a shot into the corner but the ball bounced off the post and the danger was cleared. The next chance fell to the team from Dumfries as well. An in swinging corner evaded all in red and yellow and almost fell to the onrushing Grant Anderson but even on the stretch, he couldn’t find meaningful contact.
Both sides were enjoying spells of possession early on but the Jags couldn’t quite find a passing rhythm in the first 15 minutes. Thistle’s first big chance came around 19 minutes in when a superb chipped cross from David Amoo found Ade Azeez, who was making his first competitive start in a Jags top. However, the Englishman could only find the side netting as he struggled to keep his balance. Azeez would get another chance two minutes later as Booth picked him out but his powerful header struck the bar and the ball was then collected by Lee Robinson.
Thistle were doing some good work on the break and it almost paid dividends on the 30 minute mark. Chris Erskine picked up the ball on the half-way line and proceeded to beat two Queens men only to have his shot blocked by Andy Dowie as the Thistle pressure built. Perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Ade Azeez, who once again found himself in the right place at the right time after some pinball in the opposition six-yard box. When the ball fell to him, he looked destined to score but from five yards out Dowie was there to block once again.
Queen of the South suffered a setback in the 34th minute as Grant Anderson was forced off and replaced by Lyndon Dykes. The early substitution, plus the fact that Thistle were beginning to pass with more precision and slickness, meant that Queens found themselves with their backs to the wall towards the end of the first half. They did have one good chance when Mark Millar managed to pick up the ball in the Jags’ half before striking from range, his shot dipped and swerved but only rattled David Crawford’s crossbar. Despite some good play by Thistle they couldn’t muster anymore good chances before half time and that would be it for the first half.
When the teams re-emerged for the second half, it was the visiting team who looked sharper. The men in blue were pressing and were soon rewarded for it. Just a minute or so into the second half, Derek Lyle found space out wide. He hit a low cross across the six-yard box right between the ‘keeper and the defence, causing huge problems. The ball was missed by the Queens man, Dale Hilson, but it did nestle into the corner of Thistle’s goal thanks to a deflection off Ziggy Gordon.
At this point, Alan Archibald made his first change. Kris Doolan came on for Ade Azeez in the 53rd minute as the manager looked to freshen things up in the attack. Thistle’s passing wasn’t at its best and it was seriously affecting the flow of the play. Alan Archibald made his final two changes in quick succession, with Edwards and Pogba replacing Amoo and Wilson respectively within seven minutes of each other. Queen of the South made their final substitutions in the 64th and 74th minute. After those changes it was the visitors who created the first big chance as Dale Hilson hit the post from point blank range. The rebound fell to Steven Rigg but his effort was heroically blocked by Ryan Edwards.
It would be Edwards who got the chance that started the sustained Thistle pressure as he headed a Callum Booth cross a couple of feet over. At this point, Thistle had the bit between their teeth and took control of the game. The added energy paid off. As the Jags entered the final 10 minutes of the 90, a scramble ensued in the Queens box, Mathias Pogba managed to stab the ball back to Chris Erskine who grabbed the equaliser to top off a great performance by the number 10.
After the Jags got level, Queen of the South struggled to get out of their own half as Thistle piled bodies forward in search of a winner. Welsh had an opportunity from 25 yards but he sliced the shot wide.
Just when it looked like the game was headed to a penalty shootout, Steven Lawless stepped up. A great cross by Ziggy Gordon was met by Pogba who cushioned an inch perfect header down towards Lawless. Thistle’s wide midfielder volleyed home from close range, scoring his first goal from inside the box in 74 games. Queen of the South sent everything forward late on, including their goalkeeper for a late corner, but it was enough. The game ended 2-1 to Partick Thistle.
After a shaky start to the second half, Alan Archibald’s men got back in control as the game came to a close and manged to grab the three points late on. Thistle now sit level on points with today’s opposition but with a game in hand.
Attention will now shift to Tuesday’s encounter at Ochilview as the Jags take on Stenhousemuir in the third game of Thistle’s Betfred Cup journey.
Partick Thistle: Crawford, Booth, Welsh, Amoo (Edwards, 63), Erskine, Lawless, Devine, Azeez (Doolan, 54), Wilson (Pogba, 69), Gordon
Subs N/U: Cerny, McDaid, Syme, Nisbet
Queen of the South: Robinson, Hamill, Marshall, Dowie, Higgins, Anderson (Dykes, 35), Millar, Lyle (Rigg, 74), Hilson, Jacobs, Tapping (Moxon, 66)
Subs N/U: Atkinson, Brownlie, Smith, Brotherson
Thistle nicked all three points in their Betfred Cup First Round group stage tie against Queen of the South but the final scoreline of 2-1 probably didn’t reflect the full story as the home side found themselves trailing 1-0 as late as the 80th minute. A determined Jags side never gave up though and the persistence paid off with late goals from Erskine and Lawless.
It was clear that the late resurgence was still fresh in the mind when a relieved Alan Archibald spoke to ptfc.co.uk.
“It will be recorded as a 2-1 win but that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Queens are a really strong side and we knew that going into the game. They certainly caused us problems, especially in the second half but we’re delighted with the character we showed and you certainly learn something different about yourselves in every game.
“The big difference today compared to last season was that all our subs made a difference. We had options middle to front this afternoon and were able to change the game. Pogba came on and obviously got the two assists but each of the three changes brought something different to the game.
“I also think we played to Pogba’s strengths today and got the ball into the box for him which we maybe didn’t do at times last year. It’s a great option to have and we made the most of it today.”
With the early group stages effectively replacing Thistle’s pre-season schedule it could have proved a disruptive influence on preparations for the Premiership season, but Archibald is adamant that competitive football at this stage of the season is a good thing.
“We’re enjoying the competitive football instead of just playing friendlies but it is a difficult balance to get the different players the minutes they need while still looking to win games. Today was as close to a must win game as you can get at this time of the season but we’ve come away with all three points and we have a great chance of topping the group now.”
The final word went to the attacking players in red and yellow who certainly looked to be working well as a group.
“The link-up between the front four in the first half was excellent and Ade looked a real handful. Our goals for column last season looked really poor so we have to improve on that this year. The main thing is finishing our chances, we had too many today that we didn’t finish today and we certainly won’t get that against Premiership teams.”