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Match Preview

Ayr United v Partick Thistle – 23rd April 2019

After Saturday’s win over Alloa, Partick Thistle have an immediate opportunity to put more points on the board as they finally play their game in hand against Ayr United at Somerset Park. The game which was originally scheduled for March 2nd has been reorganised twice but will be played at last this evening with a win taking Thistle from ninth to sixth in the Championship table.

Ayr have swept the Jags in their meetings so far this season but last took on the Maryhill men in October in Gary Caldwell’s second game as boss in Maryhill. The Thistle manager spoke to ahead of the vital midweek fixture and started by reflecting on the weekend’s triumph.

“The game against Alloa was huge in a number of different ways. Obviously, a game against one of the teams around us was always going to be big but to go behind and still fight back and take the win says something about this team and this group of players.

“On top of that, we knew we were starting a week during which we have three important games so to start that week off with a comeback win will hopefully give us confidence to take into tonight’s game at Ayr.”

Although the performance against Alloa wasn’t perfect by any means, Gary was delighted to see the way his team improved on a poor first half to claim all three points.

“We struggled to get up and running in the first half. They got their goal and then defended with a lot of bodies behind the ball which made it tough to find those spaces to work in for our creative guys. The formation didn’t work; we’d wanted the defenders to step forward and use the space in front of them but we didn’t do it enough which is why we changed things.

“Those changes made a difference but I think the key was the change in mentality. We came out for the second half with more hunger and drive which got us back into the game almost immediately. Everyone was pushing forward and pressing which really unsettled Alloa so I want to see more of that over the final three games.”

Coming into the game tonight, Ayr sit third while Thistle occupy ninth position but the gaffer stressed that the Jags can’t fear the Honest Men and must take the game to Ian McCall’s side.

“I’ve been able to go and watch them a few times which has helped with preparation but every time I’ve seen them, they’ve looked like a good side. They have plenty of players who can hurt you and they’ll be looking to build some momentum going into the play-offs so we do have to be aware of what they can do.

“Nevertheless, our mentality is very important again. If we come out like we did in the second half on Saturday with that positive approach then I know we can win. However, if we play like we did in the first half on Saturday then they’ll punish us and that’s where it comes down to the players being tuned in.”

The impact of Thistle’s substitutes against the Wasps on Saturday has given the manager a real selection headache for tonight’s game but Caldwell says that those problems are good ones to have.

“You want to have options and that’s what we’ve had since January. There’s quality in the squad rather than just the starting XI and that means we can bring guys like Joe Cardle off the bench who can make a real difference as he did against Alloa and Dunfermline before that.

“It also means that we can change the shape mid-game like we did at the weekend because we have those options and we have guys who can play in multiple positions.”

Finally, he gave us an update on the squad’s fitness going into the game.

“Jack McMillan is still struggling with his calf injury that forced him off on Saturday so we’ll assess him ahead of the game. Similarly, Blair Spittal took a kick which he’s still suffering from so he’s going to be assessed today as well.

“Apart from those two, there’s no change on the injury front but, of course, Stuart Bannigan comes back from his suspension and it’ll be great to have him back.”

A more detailed discussion with Thistle manager, Gary Caldwell, as well as a preview interview with Stuart Bannigan is available to Jagzone subscribers – log in now to see them.

Jagzone members will also be able to watch extended highlights and a full match replay of the game.

Can’t make it to Somerset Park? Jagzone members can listen to live audio commentary of the match. JagZoneLIVE begins at 2:45pm on Saturday.

For a full list of all the great content you can access from just £5.99 per month as a Jagzone member, click here.

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