Tue 26 July, 2016. Kick Off: - 19:30
Ochilview Park, Larbert
Thistle head to Ochilview for a competitive fixture for the first time since the 2005/06 season this evening as we look to move a step closer to topping Betfred Cup Group E. Ptfc.co.uk caught up with manager Alan Archibald to get his thoughts on another tough game in the group.
“We’re exactly where we wanted to be at this stage in the group. We’ve played two games and won them both so it means our destiny is in our own hands. If we win our last two games, we’ll be guaranteed to finish top without relying on anyone other than ourselves.”
Thistle may have left it late to grab the win against Queens on Saturday, but the manager was pleased with the creativity shown by the side, something he hopes continues this evening.
“We only scored two goals on Saturday but I’m not too concerned. Most of the chances we created during the match, we had four or five players in the box which is something we didn’t have too often last season. We didn’t score too many goals last season and that is something that we have to improve in the campaign ahead.
“We got a lot more support to the attack which we showed on Saturday. Players were constantly making the burst into the box in support and with the chances we’re creating then I’m confident that we’ll be more of a threat going forward.”
Stenhousemuir may sit bottom of the group without a point to their name, but Archie isn’t taking them lightly and will have the squad prepared for the clash at Ochilview.
“We’re taking the game seriously and we’re preparing for Stenhousemuir in the same way we would prepare for a Premiership side. We’ve had them watched and we know where they could pose a threat to us, so we’ll be making sure our side is prepared and ready for the dangers they’ll bring.
“Stenhousemuir will have nothing to lose and, in front of their own fans, they’ll be desperate to take our scalp. It’s up to us to prepare properly, be focused on the pitch and take our chances when they come. We know Stenhousemuir will have a chance in the game, every team does, and we’ll have to make sure we don’t gift them easy chances where they can hurt us.”
Finally we asked the gaffer for his team news ahead of the clash.
“None of our long term injuries will be back for tonight’s game. The goalkeeper’s are working hard but it’ll be more likely that they might come back into contention for the weekend. We don’t want to rush them back too early and have them missing out on a Premiership fixture. Daniel Devine and Ziggy Gordon are both carrying knocks and we’ll give them fitness tests to see if they make
Thistle travelled to Ochilview to take on League One Stenhousemuir in the third Betfred Cup tie of the group stage. Thistle had won each of their two previous fixtures while Stenhousemuir were isolated at the bottom of the group without a point to their name. Despite this, it was clear that there would be a tricky game to navigate for Alan Archibald’s side on the artificial surface in Larbert.
Manager Alan Archibald made four changes to the side which defeated Queen of the South at Firhill on Saturday as he freshened up his attacking strike force once again. Kris Doolan and Mathias Pogba spearheaded the Jags attack with Ade Azeez and David Wilson dropping to the bench as the gaffer set a more attacking line up. Chris Erskine also sat out the 90 minutes on the bench with Ryan Edwards getting his first start of the season, while defender Daniel Devine missed out through injury. His absence allowed David Syme to make his competitive debut for the club.
Attacking the goal in front of a large Thistle support in the first half, Kris Doolan, sporting the white away kit, got the game underway. Right from the start Thistle’s pressure was relentless and during the first half they won over 10 corners. From one of these corners Pogba had the game’s first opportunity with a powerful header. Youngster McCabe, in the home goal, was more than equal to parry away his effort.
Pogba was proving to be a menace for the Warriors defence and moments later he won another header from a Welsh set piece, this time he got too much downward power on the ball and it bounced up and over the crossbar. The big target man was not to be denied his first goal of the season and on the 20th minute he had it. Callum Booth fired over a great cross from the left hand side and a Pogba diving header found its way into the top corner of the net.
Thistle seized possession back straight from kick off and within 60 seconds had won a penalty when David Amoo sneaked the ball away from a defender and was fouled. Sean Welsh made no mistake with the spot kick.
There were to be no further goals in the first half but some of Thistle’s play was great to watch as they built attack after attack. On the rare occasion that Stenhousemuir broke forward, David Crawford was well placed to repel the attacks.
Thistle weren’t the same force in the start of the second half and that allowed Stenhousemuir to have a bigger grip on the game. Cook fired a 35 yard free kick well over the bar while Stenny continued to push Thistle back a little as they looked to get back into the game. Thistle, however, always continued to prove a threat.
Kevin Nisbet, on as a substitute for Steven Lawless had an immediate impact. He slid a great ball wide to Pogba who fed a cross in for the youngster. Nisbet connected well with the effort but could only steer his shot off the post before Doolan’s rebound was deflected over the bar.
With the game entering its final phase, it seemed like Thistle were going to hold onto their two goal lead with a minimum of fuss. On 73 minutes McCroary grabbed a goal back for the home side. A corner was partially cleared and McCroary was able to fire home from inside the box having evaded the attentions of his marker.
This caused a few anxious moments for the Jags support before the game was wrapped up once and for all. Azeez collected Nisbet’s pass, breaking through the offside trap. His low effort was blocked by a defender but Amoo was able to fire home the rebound to restore Thistle’s two goal lead.
In a remarkable similarity to the first half, Thistle grabbed another quick fire effort. A cross from the left was well controlled by Azeez before his effort wriggled under the goalkeeper to give him his first Jags goal.
It would finish 4-1 to Thistle and the club took a step closer to the next round of the Betfred Cup. A win on Saturday will secure the top spot in the group as well as a coveted seed position in the next round.
With another Betfred Cup victory pushing the side closer to the last 16, ptfc.co.uk caught up with manager Alan Archibald shortly after the full time whistle blew on the 4-1 victory over Stenhousemuir.
I’m delighted with the victory. We came here focussed on getting the three points and we’ve managed to gather them with a bit of style.
“I thought our first half display was very, very good. We were dominant and created a number of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. We were slightly poorer in the second half but we still created chances and managed to get a couple of goals late on to add to the scoreline.”
The manager changed his strikeforce for the third time in the group phase giving Mathias Pogba his first start of the tournament and the striker repaid his faith with a goal.
“We changed it up again after going with Doolan and Azeez in previous games. Mathias came off the bench on Saturday and set up two goals to help us get three points and it was good to see him on the scoresheet tonight. He had a number of opportunities in front of goal, which is always great to see from your strikers.
“We’ve had seven different players scoring in the Betfred Cup which is great to see the goals spread around the team. We know we didn’t have enough scorers last year and for a number of the squad to start the season on the goal trail can only be a good thing. Hopefully a few of them kick on and score plenty more over the course of the season.”
With a number of changes to the side, the gaffer is keen to give minutes to as many players as possible.
“Danny Devine missed out tonight through injury, but that gave David Syme a chance to get 90 minutes under his belt. We’ve rotated the squad from middle to front to give players minutes and I think you can see that it is paying off with a number of good performances from different players.”
There were a few nervous moments around Ochilview as Stenhousemuir got themselves back into the game before David Amoo’s strike restored Thistle’s two goal cushion.
“I said before the game that Stenhousemuir would get, at least, one chance. Every team gets an opportunity to score. The disappointing thing is that it has come from a corner kick. We won’t get away with that when we get into Premiership action, so we have to learn from it quickly.”
Qualification from the group stage is very close but the gaffer knows the job isn’t quite done yet.
We’re not through to the next round yet, but we are very, very close. We play Queen’s Park on Saturday and we’ll be looking to round off with a win. If we get another three points at Firhill then we know we’ll be guaranteed to be a seed in the next round.