Sunday 4th February, 2018 at 11:54am
As Partick Thistle battled through a tough first half of the season, one thing that the Jags seemed to miss was a strong base to their midfield. Adam Barton and Ryan Edwards were both being asked to play unfamiliar roles with Martin Woods, Abdul Osman and Stuart Bannigan all unavailable at points. However, it seems that Thistle have now overcome these problems in the middle of the park with Abdul Osman and Martin Woods back in the team, playing together for a second match in a row. Martin in particular was excellent against Motherwell as the Maryhill men took a point from Fir Park with the ex-Ross County man getting his foot on the ball in the midst of a very physical game. The stats show that Woods is an influential player for Thistle with the Jags winning five of the seven matches he’s played, losing just once in those games. Martin was named JagZone man of the match yesterday and he spoke to ptfc.co.uk to look back on a tough 90 minutes, full of ups and downs.
We began by asking Martin what the overriding feeling was among the dressing room after a whirlwind second half.
“I think everyone is disappointed that we couldn’t come away with the three points as that would have been massive for us and at the moment it feels a bit like a defeat, although, in the grand scheme of things it’s probably looking like a good point. Certainly before the game, we would have been happy with a draw as it keeps our undefeated away record, since the turn of the year, going and takes us out of the bottom two.”
Earlier in the season Thistle came to Fir Park and fell to a 3-0 defeat by Motherwell in a game where the Steelmen’s physicality seemed to overwhelm the Jags. Today there was much more battling from the Maryhill men and although Martin wasn’t with the club for the previous defeat, he feels the team as a whole learned a lot from the last game at Fir Park.
“We knew because of the last game here that we needed to step up and match them physically, do a bit of the nasty stuff and I thought we did well. Second balls are always important in games like today’s and we were picking up plenty of them which was pleasing and that allowed us to get forward a bit more. In the bottom half of this league there are going to be plenty of games that we’ll need to battle hard in and I think we showed today that we can be combative which will hopefully help us pick up more points, especially away from home.”
Although Martin is no stranger to a tough tackle, he’s a player who prefers to get the ball down and play. However, he still enjoyed the match today as it tested all facets of his game and gave him an opportunity to showcase his abilities to the Thistle faithful.
“We weren’t expecting a great football game today. It probably wasn’t a great watch for the neutrals but I thought we had spells of good play. I tried my best to get the ball on the deck and pass it around but when it’s a game like today’s you just have to do that little bit sharper. Motherwell are full of hard-working players and their press is tireless so you can’t spend too much time on the ball or you’ll have it nicked off you but it’s all about working with what time you have on the ball and I thought we created a decent amount of opportunities.”
Alan Archibald made four changes to the side which won at St. Johnstone last weekend and unfortunately three of those were forced alterations. Two of the goalscorers from last week, Steven Lawless and Conor Sammon missed out while a knock forced Callum Booth to watch from the stands, however, the Jags were still able to field a very strong first eleven and Martin reckons that just goes to show the strength of the squad that Thistle now have, following the winter break.
“The squad is a very strong one now that we have most of our players back. Three of the front four from last week dropped out today but we still looked a threat and that’s a credit to the guys who came in. They haven’t been sulking or anything like that because they’ve not started in other games, they’ve just been ready to perform when called upon. We saw Ryan Edwards make a difference off the bench last week, today Kris Doolan comes in for Conor Sammon and fills in brilliantly with the goal. You can tell that all these boys are fighting for the team and that’s great to see. The manager having more options can only be good and I think he’s a manager who understands that not every game suits certain players. For example, Chris Erskine played well last week but didn’t get on today and that’s because he wouldn’t have got the chance to get on the ball today which is his game. Thankfully, we’ve got a whole host of other options like Doolan or Edwards so that Chris doesn’t have to play every game and that’s something we didn’t really have towards the end of last year.”
As mentioned above, it was Abdul Osman in alongside Martin in the centre of the pitch today. Having made his return from long-term injury, Osman started with Woods in midfield for the first time last weekend and they built on that relationship today. It was another solid performance from the duo in the middle of the park and Martin is pleased that he has managed to forge a good partnership with the Jags’ skipper so quickly.
“I think me and Abs compliment each other well. As a two, we can break up play but we can also move the ball about when it’s an appropriate time to do so. I’ve enjoyed playing with him for the last two games and I think it can be important to form these relationships where you can get a bit of familiarity and build and understanding between you and your midfield partner. We’ve both had injury problems this season but, hopefully, we have now got past those and can focus on the rest of the season.”
In the next week, Thistle have two extremely tough games as the Jags first face Rangers at home in the league during the week before then travelling to Parkhead to take on Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup. Martin thinks that although Thistle have big games against the teams around them coming up, it’s important to take each game as it comes and not write any fixture off.
“Of course, they’re very tough games against good teams but it’s up to us to show a bit of belief in ourselves. We’ve seen other bottom six teams picking up wins against the teams near the top of the table and it’s something we haven’t done yet this season so we want to start taking more from this sides. We’re in a better position to beat these teams now than we were prior to the winter break and we’ve already performed well against Celtic this year so we know we have big performances in us, it’s just about turning narrow defeats against teams like Celtic and Aberdeen into draws and wins.”
As Martin mentioned it’s a huge week of action for Thistle coming up and it all starts with a Tuesday night match against Rangers. Kick-off is 19:45 from the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.
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