Sat 30 July, 2016. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
Adults – £10
Concessions – £5
Thistle will conclude their Betfred Cup group stage tomorrow afternoon with the visit of Queen’s Park to Firhill with the aim of maximum points still firmly in sight. Manager, Alan Archibald knows a draw will secure his side’s progress to the last 16 of the competition, with a win guaranteeing a seeded placing in the draw. Ptfc.co.uk spoke to the gaffer ahead of the Glasgow derby to get his thoughts.
“We are exactly where we wanted to be at this stage in the group. We have maximum points and know that a draw will see us progress as group winners. We want to be one of the seeded sides in the next round so we’ll be going all out for the win that will secure that. We don’t know who will be in the unseeded portion of the draw but to be guaranteed to avoid the sides who have been competing in European competition is something we are all aiming for.
“We know it will be an extremely difficult game. Gus MacPherson always has his sides organised and difficult to break down, so we’re expecting a very tough game. We’ll have to be patient and not get frustrated as we look to break them down.”
It took Thistle until October to have seven different competitive scorers, this season it has taken just three games, a factor which has pleased the manager.
“It’s great to see so many players on the scoresheet so early in the season. One thing we lacked last season were goals and getting numbers in the box. So far this season, even though it is early, we’ve not had that problem and we’ve seen the likes of Lawless, Erskine and Edwards charging into the box in support of the striker. Hopefully that continues throughout the season and we see a number of them popping up with strikes all through the campaign.”
With lots of rotation in the first three Betfred Cup games, it has allowed a lot of players to get minutes in their legs as the players prepare for the first Ladbrokes Premiership clash next Saturday.
“We’ve done a bit of rotation throughout the games and it has worked well. We’ve brought players up to speed in terms of minutes and they are raring to go for the Premiership kick off. We’ll continue to rotate the squad for tomorrow’s game as we look to get maximum points.”
Finally we asked the gaffer for his team news.
“It looks a lot brighter than it did at the start of the campaign. We’re only really missing Christie Elliott, Gary Fraser, Abdul Osman and Stuart Bannigan. Daniel Devine looks to have recovered from his knock and we’ll see how he is tomorrow. Tomas Cerny and Ryan Scully have been training all this week so we’ll hope to see one of them in goals for the game.”
Following a convincing 4-1 win against Stenhousemuir on Tuesday evening, Partick Thistle were looking to finish in top spot in group E as well as securing a seeding for the next round of the Betfred Cup. Thistle were looking to complete a 100% League Cup group stage record for the first time in more than 40 years.
The opposition for today’s match was Queen’s Park, a team that has had a campaign of mixed fortunes in the competition. They had been beaten in their opener against Queen of the South but managed to win away at Ochilview to keep their hopes of progression alive. However, this past Tuesday they lost dramatically on penalties at Hampden against Airdrie after a 3-3 draw. With all that taken into consideration the Spiders’ chances of going through were extremely thin and depended on results elsewhere. The Jags, on the other hand, knew exactly what they had to do, a win seeing them top the group and earn a seeding. With the league season approaching quickly, it was sure to be an intriguing encounter.
The Thistle team made four changes from the win over Stenhousemuir. Tomas Cerny made his return from injury as David Crawford dropped to the bench. Danny Devine replaced David Syme while Erskine and Wilson came in for Pogba and Amoo. Alan Archibald reverted back to the trusty 4-2-3-1 formation today despite utilising a 4-4-2 set-up on Tuesday night.
Sean Welsh led the men in Red and Yellow onto the pitch for his 100th competitive appearance since first joining on loan in 2012. It was Kris Doolan who got proceedings underway at Firhill with Thistle shooting towards the North Stand.
Thistle were looking good in the opening few minutes but it was the visitors who had the first big chance. Queen’s Park managed to find space on the wing and a good cross to the front post found the head of Aiden Malone who had his attempt saved terrifically by the returning Tomas Cerny at close range. The save ended up being crucial as just one minute later a fantastically judged long ball from Sean Welsh found Chris Erskine, who managed to head the ball over the Queen’s keeper and into the back of the net, scoring his first headed goal for Thistle since January 2013. The goal set the tone for the match as Thistle began to take control of the game.
Five minutes later Archibald’s men had another chance as Ziggy Gordon cut onto his left foot inside the box before putting a curling effort just off target. A couple of minutes later the lead could have been extended again as the ball bounced off a defender into the path of goal scorer, Chris Erskine, who had his shot blocked by a sliding Queen’s Park man.
The next big chance would fall the way of the Spiders. A free kick from the Jags’ right hand side was headed towards goal but Cerny was once again alert as he made a smart save down to his left. After that good chances were few and far between. The next clear-cut opportunity fell to Kris Doolan in the 38th minute as he was picked out by Liam Lindsay, he shifted the ball onto his weaker right-foot before having his shot saved by Andrew Murphy.
The game reached half-time at 1-0. The Jags had been in complete control for the majority of the first 45 minutes, however, Queen’s Park had managed to muster two great chances with limited possession and Alan Archibald would have been looking for fewer moments of shakiness from his team.
Aiden Malone kicked off the second half as the men in Black and White looked to get back into the game. Six minutes in Thistle’s first change was made. David Amoo replaced Ryan Edwards who had been running non-stop all game. Amoo made a big impact on the game as, just minutes later, an excellent dinked cross by the Englishman found the onrushing David Wilson who was looking for his first senior goal but he headed it off target, when perhaps he should have scored.
Ade Azeez came on for Steven Lawless as Thistle looked to retake control of a game that was well in the balance as it approached the hour mark. David Galt, who works for Partick Thistle’s own Community Trust during the week, had the next chance as the ball was laid off by Adam Cummins but he dragged it wide of Cerny’s goal.
David Amoo continued to cause the opposition problems as he picked out Ade Azeez with a cross, but Azeez headed the ball against the bar under heavy pressure from a defender. The Jags then made their final change as Mathias Pogba replaced Kris Doolan. The game wouldn’t stay 1-0 for much longer.
Chris Erskine found himself on corner duty in the 78th minute, he hit the cross towards the back post and perfectly landed the ball on the head of Liam Lindsay, who headed the ball powerfully into the back of the net. It was the defender’s first goal since netting away against Dundee in a 1-1 draw last November.
The home side weren’t content with a two-goal margin though and made some great forward play with David Amoo looking comfortable on the ball. The wide midfielder then played the ball square to Ade Azeez who had most of the goal to aim at. Unfortunately for him a sensational diving save by Spiders’ ‘keeper, Andrew Murphy, denied him his first Firhill goal.
The final chance of the match fell to Ewan MacPherson. The substitute found space in the box and was picked out with a cross by Ross Millen, but the number 19 MacPherson could only direct his header over the bar. And that would be all as Andrew Dallas blew the final whistle.
Overall, Thistle had been in control for most of the match. Tomas Cerny made an impressive return to the starting line-up, making two crucial in the first 45. Captain, Sean Welsh, had another stand-out performance in the midfield as he provided the assist for Chris Erskine’s opener. Erskine himself played excellently grabbing a goal and an assist.
The Jags can now look forward to the next stage of the Betfred Cup. The draw will be made tomorrow afternoon following Dundee United’s clash with Dunfermline.
Thistle’s next fixture is against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Firhill on August 6, in the opening game of the 2016/17 league campaign.
A Thistle win at Firhill saw the Jags take a maximum 12 points from 12 as they played out their final Group E match against Queen’s Park in front of more than 2,000 supporters.
Alan Archibald spoke to ptfc.co.uk after the game to reflect on a very satisfying campaign so far.
Archibald said: “We were happy with the result today but the tempo of the game definitely had a pre-season feel to it. The most important thing though is that we are through and through as group winners which gives us a seeded place in the next round.
“We asked the lads to go out and win the group to get us into the next round and give us the best chance and that is exactly what they did so we are pleased with that. You have seen plenty of good sides fall foul of this group stage so for us to go through in such comfortable style really is great to see.”
The Thistle side had a very versatile look to it as the second half went on with Chris Erskine, among others, changing position in the attacking part of the park as changes were made, something the manager expects to happen regularly as the season moves on.
Alan said; “We’ve got great options in the attacking positions and you saw that today. There is a real versatility to Dools, Erskine and Lawless so to be able to move them around and accommodate the likes of Azeez, Pogba, Amoo and Ryan Edwards is a real bonus. I think it will keep us fresh going forward and will make us very dangerous during the season.”
Competitive football at this stage of the year is certainly something that has pleased Archibald.
“I think the lads have enjoyed it and competitive football is certainly better than friendlies. I think it has been a success for the fans too as the attendances have been good for every game. Ultimately though, we’ll be judged on the results we get in the Premiership and that starts in earnest next week.
“Our preparation has been good and now that we are getting a lot of the boys back to full fitness we’re really just looking forward to the start of the Premiership season next week. I think we have a strong squad and every week we are getting players back to fitness so hopefully by Saturday we’ll be ready and raring to go.”