Scottish League Cup
Tue 23 September, 2014. Kick Off: - 19:45
After an obviously disappointing result on Friday night, Thistle have the opportunity to bounce back almost immediately with a League Cup tie against the same opponents. St Mirren once again make the short trip from Paisley to Firhill and Alan Archibald is looking to put right the mistakes from Friday night.
“It was obviously disappointing, especially seeing as we had the chance to go 10 points clear, that would have given us a really strong margin. To be fair, the lads did everything we asked of them in the first half and we should really have put the game to bed then. I think if we go two up in the first 45 minutes then the game is over but we didn’t take our chances and we were punished for it.”
It was definitely a game of two halves and, after a convincing first 45 which saw Thistle create a number of chances and dominate possession it was a nervous looking Jags side that came out for the second half.
“I think we just sat a bit deeper in the second half and that put us on the back foot. To be fair to St Mirren, they came out fighting in that second half and looked dangerous. It was obviously disappointing not to come away with the three points but we need to put that behind us now and concentrate on getting through to the next round of the cup.”
A number of the Thistle team have mentioned how important a cup run would be for the club and Archie is no different.
“A cup run can do wonders for morale in the camp. Everyone get behind it and it can really unite fans with the team. I remember going on one with Thistle and getting to the semi-finals, even though we were beaten by rangers it was a great experience and hopefully something we can recreate this season.
“In many ways it’s the perfect way to bounce back after Saturday. Playing the same team again, we are well aware of their threat and what they can bring. It’s an ideal way to put Friday behind us and move on in a positive way.”
Dan Seaborne was missing from the team that lost on Friday night but will face a late fitness test to make Tuesday night’s contest.
“We’re going to give Dan every chance as he’s a great asset to us when he plays but we’ll just have to wait and see. Other than that it’s just Sean Welsh and obviously Gary Fraser that we’re missing.”
It was League Cup action for Thistle on a foul Tuesday night as the Jags looked to avenge Friday’s league defeat to St Mirren, their opponents again in the cup. It took until extra time for a Nathan Eccleston goal to separate the sides and put Thistle’s name into the hat for the quarter final draw.
Manager, Alan Archibald, made two changes to the side from last Friday with Dan Seaborne returning from injury to replace Aaron Muirhead and James Craigen coming in for Ryan Stevenson.
The Jags started well and good link up play between Lawless, Doolan and Craigen saw Doolan shoot wide from the edge of the box after just a couple of minutes. The ball through was weighted perfectly but Dools, hitting it with his left foot couldn’t steer the effort on target.
Drury blazed high and wide from a good position for the visitors but the game developed into a scrappy midfield battle where chances were at a real premium. While Thistle did enjoy the better of the possession, it was a largely uninspiring first period.
Just before half time Osman headed wide for the home side and McLean did likewise at the other end but the game remained goalless.
Into the second half and Balatoni did well to clear under pressure from the St Mirren attacking line – the centre half enjoying one of his better performances this season. At times Thistle were forced to go long and, following a clearance from Fox, Doolan used excellent control to bring the ball down but had no support running beyond him. Still, he held it up well and managed to get a pass to Craigen who couldn’t get his shot on target.
A short corner nearly paid dividends for the home side and Balatoni was unlucky to see Kello pluck the ball off his waiting head following a dangerous looking cross from Craigen. The Jags’ new left back, Jake Carroll, saw his effort deflected just wide from the edge of the box as the minutes ticked away and extra time loomed.
As the game became more stretched the chances began to fall for Thistle and, when the home side broke quickly from a corner, a Lawless pass found Stevenson in space, he drove forward towards goal but his effort from 22 yards was easily saved by Kello and perhaps he should have looked at options inside.
St Mirren were far from done though and, when Thistle failed to properly clear their lines, Fox was forced to produce a save of the highest quality from a Reilly shot. The resultant corner found McLean unmarked at the back post but he headed wide under little pressure from the Jags defence.
There were more chances to come for the visitors as, former Gateshead striker, James Marwood, fired wide from 25 yards.
With time running out Stevenson again made good progress for Thistle but, when his pass failed to find Lawless the move broke down. In the end neither side could make the breakthrough so it was into extra time.
Saints threatened first with Ross Caldwell turning well and getting a shot away, luckily for the home side it was a shot that was saved by Fox.
It took a full 100 minutes for the deadlock to be broken and, luckily it was Thistle who got the ball in the net. Lawless, who was superb throughout the game and was named man of the match, found Christie Elliott, who himself made a real difference when he came on, in the box. Christie cut inside and hit a shot hard and low but Kello was equal to it and saved well. Unfortunately for the Slovakian international the ball broke straight to substitute Nathan Eccleston, who slotted home into the back of an empty net to make it 1-0.
As the end of extra time rapidly approached the chances started to come more regularly. Jake Carroll again looked dangerous firing a low cross into the box that was rolled into the path of Stevenson by Lawless but his shot was too high.
Reilly then saw Fox produce a good save low to his right as the visitors looked for an equaliser but instead Thistle nearly grabbed a second when Carroll went on a terrific mazy run at the Saints defence and, when the ball broke to Stevenson, his curling shot was headed away as it went towards the top corner.
Thistle held out for the win which, over the piece, they deserved. Thoughts now turn to Kilmarnock on Saturday for an important league fixture. The draw for the next round takes place at Tannadice following the conclusion of their game against Dundee.
It’s fair to say it wasn’t a game that will last long in the memory on a horrible Tuesday night at Firhill but as manager, Alan Archibald, said after the game, it was all about getting through to the next round.
“We’re just glad to get through really, I thought it was a bit flat to start off with. We started off brightly enough but it kind of faded away. Overall just delighted to get the victory really.
“By the second half it really looked like one goal would probably win it and I started to get worried that it wasn’t going to be us. We wasted a few opportunities and made the wrong decision at times but, at the end of the day, we’re just happy to be in the next round.”
Summer signing, Nathan Eccleston, scored the winning goal having come on as a second half substitute.
“Nathan just got in the right place at the right time. It was great work by Christie Elliott too who came on and was very very positive. He took a shot and Nathan was there to finish it off – we’re delighted for both of them.
“It’s great to see Nathan get off the mark so fast. We brought him in because we needed options up front, we only really had Dools and Ryan that could play up there, and Nathan gives us something a bit different. He isn’t quite match fit yet so we thought we’d give him some more game time and, to be honest, he got more than we thought he would but we hope he’ll take great confidence from it.”
With Thistle through to the quarter finals now, Archie doesn’t see any reason why the Jags can’t go on to feature in another final.
“In a competition like this, especially if you get a home tie, there’s nothing to say you can’t go on and reach a final. With different teams getting to the final in the last few years it gives teams like us great encouragement and it’s something we’ll take into the next few games.”