Wednesday 16th May, 2018 at 8:43pm
It feels like it has been a season of massive games for Alan Archibald’s Jags but none have been more significant than the next two fixtures. The two legged Ladbrokes Premiership Play-off Final will decide which league Thistle will play their football in next season and it will be Livingston trying to bring the Jags five year spell in the top flight to an end.
In a week of enormous pressure, Alan Archibald still found the time to speak to ptfc.co.uk ahead of Thursday’s first leg clash with Livi. The gaffer started the discussion by rubbishing any talk of the West Lothian club being nothing but a physical team.
“They are a physical side but I think that sometimes overshadows how good a team they are. They do play good football and they have good players. They can pass the ball and play as well but because they are so strong that is where the focus lies. A lot is made of their style of play but their footballing ability definitely shouldn’t be underestimated and we certainly won’t be.
“They are one of the best teams in their league at set plays and we know that but I don’t think it is anything too different to what we’ve faced before. We’ve had good preparation in terms of the games we’ve played previously. We’ve taken on St Johnstone, Ross County and Motherwell, they all play a similar system and are a similar size so we’ve no excuses and we just need to make sure we’re ready for it.”
Although Archibald is doing his best to keep his players focused on what they can control, the enormity of the match is certainly not lost on him.
“I feel like I’ve been saying this every week but it is an absolutely huge game. We got the victory last Saturday with a good performance and that now gives us the opportunity, over two games, to secure our Premiership status. The Dundee result also gives us momentum because going into yesterday’s game we hadn’t won since the first game of the split but getting that result does give us a bit of confidence.
“We need to make sure we manage the game as it goes on, particularly given that it’s over two legs. That’s definitely something we’ll touch on with the players as it is different playing a game over two legs. That being said, we will still be looking to win the game and that really is all that counts.”
Unusually for the Premiership team Thistle are actually going into the first leg with the better form. Two wins and two draws was nearly enough to see them secure automatic safety but that wasn’t to be. The good post-split form gives the Jags a much needed boost going into the final two matches of the season.
“Over the last five games we’ve certainly seen a shift in terms of performance and there has definitely been an increase in quality since the split. The guys have really started to trust in each other and trust in the way they play again. We haven’t won every game but we’ve been in every game and we’ve created chances, that gives you a bit of momentum and the lads have started to believe in themselves a lot more as a result.
“That kind of belief gives us the confidence that we need going into these next two challenging games. We need to be ready for everything that the game will bring but I thoroughly believe that we have what it takes to secure our place in the top flight for another season.
“Ultimately, we just need to look after ourselves. Our own performance, that’s all we can control.”
At the end of a long season everyone knows what is required and Archibald is certain that he will need his whole squad between now and full time on Sunday.
“Our depth of squad is going to be all important for these last two games. You’ve seen Ryan Edwards, Kris Doolan and Conor Sammon all come off the bench and make an impact in recent weeks. I know sometimes I get criticism and I know it can be frustrating from the outside but we need that impact from the bench. We’ve had that impact in just about all of the post-split games and it has made a massive difference.
“Chris Erskine was struggling with his hamstring last week which is why he only made the bench on Saturday but he’s got a good chance for Thursday and will hopefully be available. Niall Keown and Callum Booth should both come back into contention too.”
Make one last trip to support the side this season at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Thursday night. This fixture is pay at the gate for Partick Thistle supporters who are advised to arrive early to ensure entry for kick off.
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