Sunday 3rd March, 2019 at 6:31pm
Monday presents the chance for Thistle to book a place in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup for the first time since 2002. A temperamental Hearts side is the opponent at the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill and the Jags will be looking to get back to winning ways after two thoroughly disappointing back to back results in the Ladbrokes Championship.
A Monday night kick off has made for something of a disrupted week for Caldwell’s side but he still took time out during final preparations to speak to ptfc.co.uk to preview the night’s action.
Firstly the gaffer focused on just how big an opportunity it was for his side.
“The focus since Tuesday has been on the great opportunity we have in the shape of this quarter final against Hearts. Last Saturday and Tuesday night were obviously both bitterly disappointing but they are in the past now and there isn’t anything we can do about those results. We need to learn from them and move on.
“These opportunities don’t come around very often. When you’re a young player you think they will happen every year but they don’t and we need to make the most of them when they do. When the draw was made we were quite happy. Obviously you’re never going to get an easy game in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup but we wanted a home tie which we got and we look forward to it.”
Thistle’s opponents suffered a devastating injury time defeat to Celtic on Wednesday night but Caldwell is adamant he doesn’t expect them to be carrying a hangover into Monday’s clash. He insists that, if anything, the opposite will be true.
“They are a physical team but they have quality all over the pitch. They have experience right throughout the team as well with guys who have played at the highest level for a long time. It will be a massive challenge but it is one we are looking forward to and enjoy when it come about. We aren’t here to make up numbers though and we believe we can win the game.
“They’ll be looking to bounce straight back from a disappointing night on Wednesday and they are more than capable of doing that on Monday. We need to be ready for them, match them physically, mentally and tactically to earn the right to be in the next round of the cup.”
As a player Caldwell lifted the Scottish Cup and as such knows exactly what the experience can do for a Club and, most importantly the supporters.
“A cup run is more important for the fans than ever, especially at this time when we have struggled for league form as a team and off the back of the disappointment of last season. Every time you get a chance to go to Hampden whether it be a semi or a final it is a chance for the fans to have a great day and really enjoy the occasion.
“When you’re in the latter stages of a cup competition anyone can win it. One of these eight teams is going to lift the trophy and as long as we are in there fighting we will fully believe that it could be us.”
With two defeats coming on the back of such a good run some might expect confidence in the Thistle camp to be low but this is not something Caldwell sees in his players.
“I don’t think confidence is a massive issue to be honest. We’ve been on a great run and while the last two games have been disappointing in general we have been on a great run. A cup run can only improve that though and we always say that winning in football should become a habit, Monday can help us get into that.”
Most may not expect much from Thistle but Caldwell is adamant that neither he nor his players sees this fixture as a “free hit”.
“I don’t believe in that, I don’t believe in free hits and I don’t believe in the idea that it is ok to lose. I see Monday as a massive opportunity to get into the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and we have to be ready to take that opportunity when it comes.
“I think we have the players to match Hearts but we have to be smart with how we approach the game. There are many ways to win the battle and we need to win it our way. We have to be the best team against Hearts and that means sticking together, sticking to our game plan and battling as a group to get over the line with the victory.”
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