SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership
Sat 8 November, 2014. Kick Off: - 15:00
St Mirren Park
As Alan Archibald looks towards St Mirren on Saturday he spoke to ptfc.co.uk and told us how frustrating it was to lose a last minute goal, and two points, against Hamilton.
“If you look at the week we had last week, losing 6-0 to Celtic on the Wednesday night and then to go 2-0 down in the first half, it could have been devastating. I was glad to see how the team did react though and thought they turned it round really well.
“There is obviously an initial disappointment, having led the game until such a late stage, but we’ll take the positives out of that. Scott and I have sat down and looked over it again and, while I understand the frustration from a fan’s point of view, it really didn’t look like coming last week. Last year, particularly at home, you could see goals coming against us but on Saturday it was just individual errors that let us down. At the end of the day there were definitely enough positives there to go and build on.”
Steven Lawless set up two of the goals last week and the Thistle boss was quick to praise the diminutive Jags wide man.
“Stevie has been doing ever so well for us this season. He started last year on fire as well and you’ve definitely seen that so far this time round – I hope he keeps it up. He knew he had to kick on this year and he worked really hard in pre-season on his game and his physical attributes as well. I thought he really took the game by the scruff of the neck last week and caused them all sorts of problems.”
When looking towards this Saturday’s opponents Archie is looking to pile on the misery for Tommy Craig.
“I know what it is like, as a manager, to go on a bad run – we had it last year. However I also know that nobody felt sorry for us when they were taking points and we won’t be feeling sorry for St Mirren come Saturday. We’ll be going in with the attitude that we want to get the first goal and dominate from there.
“Their home form isn’t great but neither is our away form. We’ll look to capitalise on their lack of confidence and use it to our advantage, like so many teams did to us last season.”
Buddies’ captain, Jim Goodwin, is out of the tie having been handed a retrospective suspension for an incident in St Mirren’s game against Dundee United, and Archibald knows it will be a loss for the home team.
“He’ll definitely be a loss for them, his experience did well in the two games so far this season and he is a main player in their squad. He’s a real organiser for them so I’m sure he’ll be a loss, just like Stuart will be for us.”
There were a couple of missing face for the match against Hamilton so what are the selection issues for Archie ahead of the match at St Mirren Park?
“Kallum Higginbotham’s knee flared up on Tuesday afternoon so we’ll give him as long as we can to see how he is. Sean Welsh came out of the game fine but took a heavy kick in training but hopefully he’ll be OK for Saturday too.”
For the second consecutive game a Christie Elliott goal deep into the second half provided Thistle with a narrow lead but unlike Hamilton, Thistle were able to complete the victory; a win that sends them into the international break in the relative comfort of 8th place in the Premiership league table.
Alan Archibald’s starting eleven showed four changes from the side that shared six goals with Hamilton seven days earlier. In came Stephen O’Donnell, Frederic Frans, Ryan Stevenson and Sean Welsh, who was making his first start in over a year.
Captain Welsh was heavily involved in the opening exchanges of the game as Thistle made a bright start. Just over a minute was on the clock when Welsh saw a shot deflected wide for the game’s first corner kick and three minutes later Welsh, under pressure from a St Mirren defender, saw a shot saved by Kello after Stevenson did well to provide him with the shooting opportunity. The challenge from the St Mirren defender, a challenge that Alan Archibald expressed his unhappiness with after the game, left the returning midfielder injured and although he was able to continue until half-time the injury severely blunted the impact he could make in a first 45 minutes that is probably best forgotten.
It was the home side that had marginally the better of the opening half though they rarely threatened a fairly resolute looking Thistle defence.
Only once was Scott Fox required to produce a save of any note and even then his save from a McLean free kick was pretty routine. Naismith lashed a shot well wide of goal and Frans blocked a Ball effort with his legs in the few other first half skirmishes in front of either goal that were remotely worthy of noting.
Thistle introduced Gary Fraser for an obviously struggling Sean Welsh at the half-time break and the second half, while never a classic, was a distinct improvement on the poor fare served up in the first half.
Fraser was quickly involved in the action sending over a cross from the right that Ryan Stevenson must have been just inches away from connecting with.
A couple of minutes later it was James Craigen’s turn to deliver a dangerous ball into the St Mirren box, this time from the left hand side, and although Steven Lawless was able to get a touch to the ball he wasn’t able to direct it towards the St Mirren goal.
Still Thistle continued to press and a Stephen O’Donnell cross picked out Christie Elliott but he could get neither pace or direction on his header and in the 52nd minute Fraser forced Kello into a save, though in truth there was little power in Fraser’s shot.
St Mirren were offering little as an attacking force although just past the hour mark Frederic Frans had to be well placed to head clear from close to his own goal line.
At the other end a Gary Fraser corner picked out a near post run from the Belgian centre back but his header was unable to trouble the St Mirren goalkeeper.
In the 74th minute Thistle made their third and final substitution, Kris Doolan having replaced Ryan Stevenson earlier in the second half, when Declan McDaid came on for Steven Lawless. The youngster had barely been on the park for 60 seconds when he played a big part in what would prove to be the game’s only goal.
McDaid collected the ball close to the bye line on the right hand side and was able to pick out Christie Elliott. Elliott took a touch before firing the ball low through a crowd of players and past Kello and into the St Mirren net.
Could Thistle hold out this time?
A second goal would certainly have given them some breathing space going into the closing minutes of the game and Kris Doolan saw two shots blocked in fairly rapid succession as they pressed for that second goal.
There was just one moment of real anxiety for Thistle before they could celebrate a vital three points, their first on their travels this season.
With the game into the first of three minutes of injury time Adam Drury was able to run at the Thistle defence before firing in a shot that clipped the top of the Thistle crossbar.
There would, however, be no late St Mirren equaliser and after what seemed an age, but in truth was just a couple of minutes, following Drury’s near thing the full-time whistle sounded to the delight of the 1,335 strong travelling support.
“We’ve played better and lost this season, and last season, but we’ll take the three points”, was manager Alan Archibald’s fairly succinct analysis of a hard fought victory over St Mirren when [link:HOME] spoke to him after the game.
The Thistle manager continued;
“I thought we were off in the first half although I felt that we started brightly. In the first 5 or 10 minutes I thought that we started well but Sean Welsh took a bad one and that affected him and I think affected our whole play. We didn’t get hold of the ball at all and we were happy to go in at half-time at 0-0.”
Alan expanded a little on the knock that Sean picked up.
“I think it gets papered over a little because he’s had a strike at goal but the lad’s follow through takes him right out. He’s got a gash to his ankle and a really bad knock to his knee. My heart goes out to him. He’s been out for a year but we had to take him off at half-time. He wasn’t affecting the game and he knew that himself and it was really disappointing for him.”
Alan went on;
“The other subs came on and make an impact and I felt that the second half was better. We got up with the play and we won second balls. We did the ugly side of the game like we did last week and that allowed us to go on and get the goal.”
It was one of the manager’s substitutes, Declan McDaid, that had a big part to play in the goal.
“Declan has been training with us every day since pre-season and that lad has a wee chance. He has great attributes. He has pace and he can deliver the ball. We’ve been dripping him into the team slowly but surely and we gave him a bit longer today. He had a bit more time today and he made an impact and I was delighted for him. It was a good ball in and it was a good finish from Christie Elliott.”
Alan went on;
“Christie is in a good vein of form at the moment. We are trying to get him to go at players all the time and use the attributes of power and pace that he has and to believe in himself. Scoring in two consecutive games won’t do him any harm and Declan’s impact after coming on won’t do him any harm either. It’s hard for the younger lads. They go and play with the under 20s who lost 6-1 the other night but it is a young, inexperienced 20s side but they are learning all the time.”
Following Hamilton’s late, late equaliser the previous weekend Thistle hearts were in mouths when a late St Mirren effort struck the Thistle crossbar. Like all of us Alan was just a shade anxious and Drury shaped up for his effort at goal.
“You don’t want it to happen again and people think, same old Thistle losing a late goal. Last week it wasn’t down to us dropping deep or bad habits it was just down to bad defending, that’s all it was. It was the same today. You see that shot and you think that’s the way luck has been going for us this season but we got the break today and hopefully we will continue to do so.”
Victory over St Mirren leaves Thistle in a relatively comfortable position in the league table going into the international break and the Thistle manager now has his sights firmly focused on those sides above us.
“That was the frustrating thing about last week. We knew that if we had won that game we could start to look at the sides above us and today’s victory now allows us to do that. The break probably now comes at the wrong time for us but it does allow us to try and get a few injuries to clear up before we start to look forward to the Aberdeen game.”
Finally Alan gave us a little update on the injury situation.
“I’ve no idea how long Sean Welsh might be out for. He’s just getting assessed right now. I certainly hope that he isn’t going to be out for long as the lad simply has no luck at all. As for Kallum Higginbotham he just suffered a little reaction on Tuesday morning when he trained and the surgeon just said to take him out for a couple of days. Hopefully this wee break will give him the chance to get himself back to full fitness.”