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Match Preview

Ross County v Partick Thistle – 22nd December 2018

With Christmas just days away Thistle face the long trip to Dingwall this weekend as they take on Ross County in the penultimate match of 2018. Thistle boss, Gary Caldwell, caught up with just before the team boarded the bus to travel north. He started by sharing his sympathies with Jags fans facing a lengthy trip just before Christmas.

“It’s unfortunate for our supporters that the longest trip of the year comes so close to Christmas but the fixture computer often spits out these kinds of ties. Hopefully we’ll still get a great following and I’m sure the supporters who do travel will give us great backing as they always do. From our side we’ll be doing everything in our power to give them something to cheer, both in terms of a good performance and hopefully an early Christmas present of three points.”

As things stand Ross County sit second in the Championship table and have done well since being automatically relegated at the end of last season. Despite their lofty position Caldwell is confident that his Jags side is capable of proving more than a match for any team in the league.

“We analyse every opponent on their merits. We look at strengths and weaknesses, work with the players on those and aim to give ourselves the best chance of winning the game of football. Ross County are up that end of the table on merit, they are a good football team. That being said though we know they have weaknesses and we will be out to exploit those.

“On our day we can compete with any team in this league but we lack consistency in performance and that is probably the biggest area in which we need to improve. If we can become more consistent like we have been in recent weeks then those performance will transfer into results.”

Despite occupying a spot towards the wrong end of the table Thistle come into the game on a decent run of form having lost just one in the last four matches. However, Caldwell does recognise that his side should really be sitting in a much more comfortable position in terms of points on the board.

“The boys are really looking forward to it and are buzzing to get back to playing. We come into it with only one defeat in four games which is good. Having said that, we believe we should be going up there having taken even more points from those matches so we’ll be eager to make sure we don’t let points slip again.

“We’ve looked more of a threat going forward in recent games and have created good chances from which we should have scored more than we have, but the improvement has been encouraging for sure. The conditions definitely played their part against Alloa so hopefully they won’t have as big an impact on Saturday.”

The team has been fairly consistent recently and the physio room hasn’t seen any new faces for a couple of weeks. Pleasingly for the Thistle manager there may also be a returning face fit in time to feature against County.

“The team news remains more or less the same as last week. Craig Slater has trained this week though so could come back into the squad following his time out injured. With Bannigan suspended for next week it’s great to have Craig almost back as he has been a fantastic performer all season and is a big miss when he isn’t available.”

The big news around the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill this week was that Stuart Bannigan has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Club until May 2020. Although Caldwell has only seen a relatively small amount of Bannigan in action, the news that he had signed an extended contract had clearly put a smile on his face.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have Stuart signed up until May 2020. It was very clear to me from very early on that he was a key player for this football club and that he was someone we definitely wanted to get tied down. He’s been here all of his life and he’s Thistle through and through. More than that though he has been a leader on the pitch and his performances have been excellent since coming back from a very serious and complicated knee injury.

“He will be a massive player, not only this season but next season as well. He sets the tone for the team with his energy and the way he plays so it really is great to have him here on a more long term basis.”

More exclusive preview interviews with Christie Elliott, Sean McGinty and Jags gaffer, Gary Caldwell, are available to Jagzone subscribers – log in now to see them.

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