SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 21 February, 2015. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
A much improve performance against Dundee has given Thistle boss, Alan Archibald, cause for optimism ahead of Saturday’s game against Ross County. Given recent form it is a match that has taken on much greater significance, a fact the Archibald was only too aware of when he spoke to ptfc.co.uk.
“It’s a massive game for us now and it will be a much changed side that we face on Saturday when you compare it to the team we beat in our opening game of the season. In fact, I think there are only a couple of players that are still in the side.
“County have had a tough season but they will be full of confidence after a great win last week against Motherwell. They’re a team that is absolutely scrapping for their lives and we need to be aware of that going into the game on Saturday.”
After a run of disappointing performances there was more positive than negative for Archie to take after last weekend’s defeat to Dundee.
“I was pleased with our start against Dundee, even if the result was bitterly disappointing in the end. We need to start in the same way, stamp our authority on the game and not let County get a foothold. If we do that, I’m confident we can get the result.
“We play Ross County twice in the next three games and those results will go a long way to defining the rest of our season. If we can win both of them it gives us the freedom to look up and stop worrying, to a certain extent, about what is going on underneath us.”
The Jags have suffered three back to back defeats and this is something Archie know needs nipped in the bud, starting with Saturday.
“We’ve had three defeats in a row, which hasn’t happened to us this season and we need to get back on track. The good thing is that we can take a lot of confidence from our game against Dundee which was much, much better and we started looking like our old selves again.”
Although the worst of Archibald’s recent horrendous injury problems are behind him there are a fe concerns.
“Bannigan and Seaborne are both struggling, Dan is still suffering with the same knock from last week and Stuart picked up a heel knock in training, but we will give them both every chance. Sean Welsh is out and Scott Fox will, most probably, miss out. Jordan McMillan is also still unavailable.”
With Ross County’s resurgence coinciding with a bad run of form for Thistle, this game took on an entirely different significance. County’s confidence was understandably high while Thistle were desperate to stop the rot.
Manager, Alan Archibald, made three changes to the starting line up from the 1-0 defeat to Dundee, Paul Gallacher replacing the injured Scott Fox as he had done at half time at Dens Park, Dan Seaborne returned in place of Conrad Balatoni and Ryan Stevenson replaced Stuart Bannigan.
Thistle started the game brightly with Stevenson picking out the run of O’Donnell early in the first half. The right back drove forward but, as he got into the box, his attempted back heel did not find its intended target. An O’Donnell long throw caused more problems for the visitors’ defence and Stevenson was unlucky to see the ball cannon off him from a tight angle at the front post.
The first blow was landed by the Highlanders though as, in the 11th minute, they took the lead thanks to some calamitous defending. Twice Thistle failed to clear their lines properly and when the cross came in Frans’ clearance cannoned off Dan Seaborne and fell straight to Curran who slotted home from less than two yards out. Thistle’s appeals for a hand ball in the run up were waved away by the referee.
The goal seemed to knock Thistle’s fragile confidence for a while, although great play from Taylor saw him control the ball and fire a pass with the outside of his foot to Elliott whose cross was met by Stevenson but blocked by the County keeper.
A Martin Woods corner was then poorly dealt with by the home defence and Quinn volleyed wide from eight yards when he should have put the visitors further ahead. More worryingly for the home side was the amount of time the attacking midfielder had, unchallenged, in the thistle box.
The Jags were creating chances though and O’Donnell, who had looked impressive in spells, found Stevenson with a well-timed pass. Stevo in turn linked up well with Taylor and his shot fizzed just wide of the target when perhaps he should have at least warmed the keeper’s gloves.
Frans then nearly made something from a poor Fraser corner when he headed goalwards but over the bar. Elliott then swung a cross to the back post which O’Donnell headed from the back post for Stevenson, his header beating Brown but cannoning back off the post and before being cleared. An O’Donnell pass then sent Taylor down the right hand side and his brilliant cross was met by the head of Elliott but his effort was saved to leave County leading by the only goal of the game as the ref brought the first half to an end.
Doolan replaced McDaid at half time as Thistle looked to get back in the game but it was County who fired the first shot when Woods effort drifted harmlesly wide. At the other end a Booth cross was flicked goalwards by the head of Doolan but went wide.
In the 53rd minute County were awarded a penalty, Frans and Seaborne failed to deal with a long ball which broke off Seaborne to Boyce who got into the box before being brought down by the Jags captain. Curran stepped up but his weak effort was comfortably saved by Gallacher to keep Thistle in the game.
Higginbotham and Bannigan came into the fray and the former saw an effort hit the side netting. And then, in the 65th Minute, it was 2-0 to County. Yet again Thistle lost the ball cheaply in midfield and Gardyne’s cross found De Vita who guided the ball past Gallacher.
The penalty save had given Thistle a boost though and three minutes later a Higginbotham corner found Taylor who headed home to make it 2-1 throwing the Jags a lifeline. Despite hauling themselves back into the game the home side failed to take advantage as, in 71mins, Fraser collected the ball wide played a one-two with Boyce and, with nobody tracking his run, Fraser fired home and made it 3-1.
Substitute, Jervis, put a shot just over the bar from 25 yards and Kiss brought a good save from Gallacher as County looked the more likely to add to their tally. The last chance of the game fell to the home side in injury time when O’Donnell flashed a shot from 16 yards across goal but wide of the target.
So, at full time, it finished 3-1 to County who in truth took advantage of some awful defending and all round below par performance from the home side.
Gallacher, O’Donnell, Frans, Seaborne, Booth (Bannigan), Fraser, Osman (Higginbotham), Elliott, McDaid (Doolan), Stevenson, Taylor
Basalaj, Balatoni, Craigen, Bannigan (57), Doolan (46), Lawless, Higginbotham (58)
After another disappointing defeat for Thistle, Alan Archibald was understandably downbeat when he spoke to ptfc.co.uk after the game.
“It’s a very disappointing result and everyone on that dressing room knows that. We lost bad goals and our defending was in no way up to scratch today. What makes it more disappointing I think, is the fact that we actually started strongly. We were attacking and had a chance early on in a four versus three situation. We made the wrong choice and it came to nothing. I think that set the tone for the rest of our day.
“There was maybe a shout for hand ball in the run up to the first goal – the fourth official said hand ball but the ref didn’t give it – but we have enough opportunity to get rid of it before then. Ross County looked like a side hungry to win the game with something to play for and we didn’t. It’s important that we shake that sooner rather than later because we have got things to play for, pride first and foremost, but we certainly aren’t safe yet either and if we keep playing like that we will be in a relegation battle.”
Seeing a penalty saved by Paul Gallacher and then getting a goal back, there was a point Archie may have see a possible second half resurgence but it wasn’t to be.
“We had a chance in that second half and I think if we had got the equaliser we might very well have gone on to win the game. It wasn’t to be though and the goals we lost were inexcusable. The results elsewhere have gone our way today but we can’t keep relying on other teams if we want to progress in this league.”
Despite a clearly sub standard display it wasn’t a rocket the manager gave his players at full time.
“We didn’t go in screaming and shouting, we just spoke to them calmly and explained that they have to show more hunger and desire. we have the technical ability in the dressing room – of that I have no doubt – but we need to show it on a Saturday.
“At the moment we’re in relegation form. Everyone is looking for another Hibs this season and we need to make sure we aren’t that team.”