SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 9 November, 2013. Kick Off: - 15:00
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow.
Tomorrow’s game with St Mirren is something of a rarity for Thistle in this season’s Premiership; a Saturday at 3pm kick-off. It’s a rarity too in that it is the first top flight meeting between Partick Thistle and St Mirren at Firhill for over 31 years. Given the short distance between Paisley and Glasgow a large travelling support is anticipated at Firhill tomorrow which should add to the occasion with the match almost falling under the category of a derby fixture.
The two teams have already met this season; Thistle running out deserved 2-1 winner at St Mirren Park back in August with Kallum Higginbotham and Ross Forbes both scoring inside the game’s final ten minutes. St Mirren were at that time at something of a low ebb but their fortunes have picked up since then. So much so that a win tomorrow would take them to within just two points of Thistle with the benefit of two games in hand. That they have a second game in hand is due to their home match with Ross County being abandoned with St Mirren leading 2-0 and well on the way to all three points. That is sure to have been a hugely frustrating experience for St Mirren but they will have taken confidence from an excellent, albeit curtailed, performance.
Meantime Thistle boss Alan Archibald, speaking to [link:HOME] after Friday’s training session, is looking for a big improvement from Monday’s display at Aberdeen;
“Monday’s game was very frustrating for us. While we saw a lot of the ball we didn’t, especially in the first half, ask enough questions of Aberdeen; we didn’t create enough in their half. We changed things in the second half but they were just that bit more clinical than us. They also have a very experienced back four and you can see the difference that makes. They don’t find themselves in poor positions and they don’t make mistakes. I know that we have a young team but they need to learn and learn quickly.”
“We’re looking forward to getting back in action again on a Saturday afternoon. I’m hoping that we will start the game well tomorrow and if we can produce anything like the performance we did at St Mirren then I will be very happy. I would say that was probably the best that we have played this season.”
Finally the manager was able to give us the all important team news ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“Gary Fraser is available to us tomorrow. He has served his automatic two game suspension after being sent off for the under 20s against Dunfermline. He’s got his hearing on November 14th and it is likely that he will receive a further ban then.”
Alan went on;
“Both Conrad Balatoni and Steven Lawless missed Monday’s game at Aberdeen but they should be fine for tomorrow. We’ve a doubt though surrounding Sean Welsh. Sean has been carrying a groin injury for a few weeks now and with the international break next weekend we will take the opportunity to have that properly looked at at the start of next week.”
Partick Thistle Stats
Current Form – Last Five Games
W D L F A
1 1 3 4 9
Scorers Season 2013-2014
Kris Doolan 5
Steven Lawless 3
Aaron Muirhead 3
Christie Elliott 2
Conrad Balatoni 1
Ross Forbes 1
Kallum Higginbotham 1
Stephen O’Donnell 1
Monday November 4th 2013
Aberdeen 4, Partick Thistle 0
St Mirren Stats
Current Form – Last Five Games
W D L F A
2 1 2 7 10
Scorers Season 2013-2014
Paul McGowan 3
Kenny McLean 3
Stephen Thompson 3
Gary Harkins 1
John McGinn 1
Saturday October 26th 2013
Dundee United 4, St Mirren 0
Saturday November 9th 2013
Partick Thistle v St Mirren
(Please note the age restriction for the North Stand has been extended to include 12-15 year olds for tomorrow’s game)
Referee: John Beaton
Assistant Referees: Brian McGarry and Graeme Leslie
Fourth Official: Alan Muir
Other Premiership Fixtures
Aberdeen v Hearts
Hibernian v Inverness Caledonian
Motherwell v Dundee United
RossCounty v Celtic (12:45)
St Johnstone v Kilmarnock
It was another 90 minutes of deep frustration for Thistle as they somehow contrived to lose a game they had dominated long spells off 3-0.
Alan Archibald made two changes to the team that had lost 4-0 at Aberdeen. Both Conrad Balatoni and Steven Lawless had missed that game but they returned for the visit of St Mirren. Sean Welsh was injured and missed out while Aaron Muirhead dropped to the bench.
Thistle started this game firmly on the front foot and their first effort on goal came as early as the third minute although James Craigen’s effort, after good work from Steven Lawless, was well off target.
There were more positive signs from Thistle four minutes later. Higginbotham and Lawless combined well with the latter crossing for Kris Doolan who saw his shot blocked for a corner. From the corner that followed a Gabriel Piccolo header drifted wide of goal.
Still the early pressure came from Thistle and an excellent Stephen O’Donnell cross was nodded wide by James Craigen.
St Mirren had offered little up to this point but they were nearly able to profit from a Piccolo error in the 13th minute. Three minutes later, however, and they were in front. A Kenny McLean free kick swerved in front of Scott Fox who was forced to turn the ball round the post for a corner and from that corner Steven Thompson was able to head the ball into the bottom corner of the Thistle net.
Despite that goal the pattern of the play changed little with Thistle still very much on top but not creating too much in the way of the clear cut opportunities.
A Steven Lawless cross to the back post was just a little too high for Kris Doolan and Kallum Higginbotham was a little unlucky not to hit target with a fierce drive from outside the St Mirren box.
The best chance of an equaliser, however, arrived in the 34th minute. After a corner had been partially cleared the ball was knocked back into the St Mirren box. The flag for offside stayed down which gave Kris Doolan the opportunity to turn and shoot. His low shot though was well saved by Kello in the St Mirren goal.
Two minutes later Thistle again spurned a great chance to level the scores. A Higginbotham corner from the left was missed by Taylor-Sinclair and then Balatoni before falling nicely into the path of Piccolo but he could do no more the lift his shot high over the crossbar.
The second half began in much the same fashion that the first 45 minutes had ended with Thistle still dominating in terms of possession. Few things though were breaking for them in and around the St Mirren goal. In the 52nd minute a superb turn inside the St Mirren box gave James Craigen a shooting chance but his effort was deflected away from goal and another unproductive Thistle corner kick.
Five minutes later and Thistle again threatened the St Mirren goal with Higginbotham’s shot, after things had opened up in front of him, saved by Kello.
Just prior to the hour mark Thistle made their first change with Christie Elliott replacing Gabriel Piccolo as they continued to press hard for an equaliser. Elliott was quickly involved in the action exchanging passes with Higginbotham down the Thistle left hand side but he found his route to goal blocked.
There was controversy in the 64th minute when a Kallum Higginbotham shot looked to have been clearly handled by a St Mirren player inside his own penalty box. Despite vociferous appeals from players and fans alike referee Beaton waved play on as St Mirren received a major reprieve.
There was worst to follow for Thistle. Stephen O’Donnell, booked in the first half, picked up a second yellow card in the 69th minute leaving Thistle to complete the game with ten men.
Two minutes after O’Donnell’s dismissal St Mirren were able to extend their lead when Connor Newton fired past Scott Fox.
Although now two goals and one man down Thistle continued to try and find a way back into a game but this was clearly not going to be Thistle’s afternoon. Kello needed two attempts to save a Craigen shot and twice in the space of a few minutes Higginbotham came close; his first effort deflected for a corner his second going wide of Kello’s right hand post.
St Mirren though were close to a third goal with five minutes remaining; McGowan’s effort from a Newton cross going narrowly wide.
They did, however, grab a third goal with the game deep in injury time. Steven Thompson was in the right place to take advantage of a slip in the Thistle defence and he slammed the ball home to complete a miserable afternoon for Thistle.
When [link:HOME] spoke to Alan Archibald after yesterday’s game with St Mirren we suggested to him that it had been another deeply frustrating 90 minutes and was quick to agree with that assessment.
“It certainly was. We knocked the ball about well and we kept possession. St Mirren came and sat off us and allowed us to play. What the difference was that they got their goal.”
“It was a disappointing goal to lose. It was a set play and that has been a problem for us all season. We’ve not kept a clean sheet since the Dundee United game and we changed things about today for that reason but we couldn’t keep a clean sheet and that’s why we lost the match. It’s certainly something that is causing us concern because if we can’t keep a clean sheet then we aren’t going to win a game. And it’s simple things like set plays that are letting us down. I said to them last week that they have a job to do and they aren’t doing it. It’s these simple things that you need to do if you are to win games.”
The first goal yesterday, as it so often does, proved to be hugely important. Said Alan;
“I think the first goal is vitally important in any league but especially the higher you go up the leagues. It changes games. You saw today that their goal changed them and they looked dangerous on the break or any time they got a set play.”
On a more positive note the manager was pleased with the performance of Kallum Higginbotham who collected the sponsor’s Man of the Match award.
“I thought Steven Lawless came in and did well as well. In the first half I thought he and Kallum linked up really well. All that was missing was the goal for Kallum.”
With the score still just 1-0 the decision not to give Thistle a penalty for an apparent handball midway through the second half proved pivotal and the Thistle manager was in little doubt that his team had been denied a clear penalty.
“I thought at the time that it was a stonewall penalty and I’ve seen it again and the boy moves his arm to block it. The referee is only 15 yards away and I’ve no idea why he hasn’t given a penalty; it beggars belief. We’ve not had many breaks this season but they say that it evens itself out over the season and we have to hope that it will. More importantly though we have to keep working hard and keep on doing what we’re doing in the first quarter of the season and start to pick up points in the second quarter.”
The ordering off a short time later of Stephen O’Donnell for a second booking certainly didn’t help the Thistle cause any.
“He probably was foolish to make that challenge but some referees for some reason seem to give bookings very easily, even when it is quite soft, because he is breaking away on the halfway line. There were worse fouls than that in the game though that went without being cautioned. It’s a learning curve for Stephen and hopefully he will learn from it.”
Thistle had already made some defensive changes prior to O’Donnell’s dismissal with Isaac Osbourne dropping into the centre of defence and Alan was pleased with his performance in that role.
“He does well where ever he plays; he is just a good professional and works really hard. He is a delight to work with and he acquitted himself really well there. We made the change and moved him to centre half just so we could get more attacking players on the pitch.”
Although we have to wait almost a fortnight for our next game the hard work starts again on Monday morning.
“It’s a sore one to go into the international break on the back of a defeat but the hard work continues on Monday morning. The players will be back in and we will be working hard to turn this around.”