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Match Preview

Motherwell v Partick Thistle – February 3rd 2018

There was buoyant mood in the Jags camp this week as the squad reflected on an extremely strong performance and convincing victory over St Johnstone last Saturday.

With the transfer window having slammed shut on Wednesday night it was an unusually quiet deadline day for Alan Archibald with the Jags having got their main target sorted early in the form of on-loan Bournemouth centre back, Baily Cargill. The Thistle boss explained to how he felt about the club’s business during the window.

“It’s been quiet which has been good. It was a bit strange on Wednesday not doing any business obviously but I’m glad we weren’t involved with anything. We knew exactly what we needed to do and that was to get a replacement in for Jordan Turnbull. That was the urgent piece of business we needed to do and sure enough we got there with plenty of time to spare when we got Baily in.

“I know I’ve said it before but the main thing for us was getting the injured players back. You’ve already seen the impact Abdul Osman and Callum Booth have had and we also have Mustapha Dumbuya and James Penrice in the fold too. Christie Elliott is getting closer as well so that really feels like five or six new signings and makes our overall January a very positive one in that respect.”

Anyone who saw Thistle’s bench in Perth will know that with players returning from injury Archibald now, in the best possible way, has a serious selection headache.

“Obviously the impact getting these players has in terms of the strength of our bench and the balance of the side on matchdays is huge but it’s more than that too. We now have competition in every position just about and it gives us great numbers for training too. We have been training with around 12 players for most of the season and suddenly we’re regularly up to 20. Even just in terms of being able to deliver high quality sessions it makes a massive difference.

“I said at the start of the season that this is probably one of the strongest squads we’ve had since we came up but it’s difficult to recognise that when they all get injured at the same time! As I said though, we’re getting back to a really healthy position now and hopefully that can only bode well for the rest of the season.”

With a series of games against teams close to Thistle in the league Archie knows just how valuable a win at Fir Park could be and is keen to keep his side’s mini-revival going.

“Our form won’t simply change and we won’t move up the table without a lot of hard work from everyone at the club. We did see that on Saturday though as we started extremely well and really put the game on St Johnstone. We got the victory and now we need to treat that as the catalyst to really push our season on after a disappointing start.

“This week will be different though, it’s the opposite to last Saturday where we were going to a ground that we have good form on. This weekend we’re travelling to Fir Park which is a ground that hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us at all in recent years. Motherwell are a good side and we’ll need to be at our best. I like the way they go about playing the game. They’re incredibly strong and it will be a tough, tough game.

“We’ve got a really important run of games coming up against teams that are around us in the table. The plan was always to stay in the pack until we got our players back and then see what we could do from there. As you can see by looking at the league table it is still incredibly tight and there’s a lot of teams involved. Our key aim now has to be to move as quickly as possible away from those bottom two places.”

Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of Archibald taking charge of Thistle, albeit in a caretaker role to start with. Not one to readily reflect on the past, Archie was clear in his overall feelings on how his period in charge has been so far.

“It has been fantastic. I think I’d describe it as a bit of a roller coaster but it has been a brilliant experience. I’ve now spent half my life at this club in one way or another and it has been a really special place for me. I’ve got a great relationship with the board and the supporters and I appreciate everything that both have done to help us along the way.

“I’ve learnt a huge amount since I was first made manager and Scott and I continue to learn more all the time. We’ve been through good and bad but looking back over the years we’ve had some really special times in the last few years. What’s more, even when things aren’t going as well as we’d like there is always a real strategic approach to things and that can be seen throughout the club in the Thistle Weir Academy, the new training ground project and the way we have recruited players and staff. That kind of approach is invaluable and has gone a long way to seeing us achieve what we have done in the last five years.”

A topic that used to cause nothing but problems for Archibald now brings a broad smile to his face and the gaffer was only too pleased to give a very positive summary of his squad in terms of availability.

“I’m delighted to say that we haven’t suffered any issues following last Saturday’s game so we should have pretty much the same full squad available which is brilliant because it means we should be able to field a really strong bench which, as you saw on Saturday, made such a difference to the game.”

More exclusive preview interviews with Steven Lawless, Martin Woods and Jags gaffer, Alan Archibald, are available to Jagzone subscribers – log in now to see them.

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