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Clash of the First Division Titans: A preview of Partick Thistle v Morton

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irnbru-sflArguably the biggest game in Scottish football is set to take place tomorrow night, with Partick Thistle and Morton, set to do battle at Firhill. This game could further stamp the Jags authority on the league title or it could give Morton that lifeline they so desperately need, as they sit two points behind Thistle – who also have a game in hand.

Resident fan bloggers Andrew Ward [Morton] and Raymond Stark [Partick Thistle] look ahead to the biggest game of the season across all four senior leagues.

Partick Thistle Preview: Jags looking for a tonic

© Patrick McGuire | Scotzine.com

© Patrick McGuire | Scotzine.com

The big games just keep on coming for Partick Thistle. After the disappointment of losing on penalties in the Ramsdens Cup Final, the Jags entertain Morton at Firhill on Wednesday night in what could be potentially a league decider.

A stunning run of form over the last couple of months has seen the Jags overturn an eight point deficit into a two point lead with a game in hand – a home game against Raith Rovers next Tuesday.

Built on a solid defence who have only conceded four goals in their last 10 league games and with the midfield and forwards contributing 24 goals in those games the signs are encouraging. Thistle also boast the best home record in the UK with their only dropped points coming on Boxing Day against Morton.

It will be a contrast of styles tomorrow night at “Fortresshill” with the Jags trying to play the ball on the deck and get their passing game flowing and Morton playing long balls to try to get in behind the Thistle defence.

Morton pose problems with their set pieces and are a strong physical team as Thistle have found out this season. The big thing for me is how the lads who played on Sunday recover, both mentally and physically. We are already without Aaron Muirhead who was red carded at Kirkcaldy last week [as well as Sunday]and Stuart Bannigan had to go off injured on Sunday. With Paul Paton almost certainly out it means the Jags may go into this vital game without three key players.

This is where the anyone who comes into the team must stand up and be counted, it is also an opportunity to stake a claim for a regular place in the team and there could be no bigger game than tomorrow night to do that!

Tomorrow night under the floodlights at Firhill is a chance for Ross Forbes, and possibly the two new signings of Jordan McMillan (if he has recovered from a virus) and Andy Dowie to stake their claims for a regular spot. A chance to extend Thistle’s lead at the top to five points, more importantly it’s a chance for the team to remind everyone that on their day there is nobody in this league that can live with them.

There will be a big crowd – I would be surprised if there’s not at least 6000 in attendance. The pitch should be in a decent condition and an expectation level to contend with. Another important thing will be for all Jags players to keep their discipline at all times, they will be targeted however I would suggest that they remember that when we have kept 11 men on the park this season we have never lost a game, motivation enough for the team to “keep the heid”.

As for the outcome well, if Thistle win in my opinion it will be very difficult for Morton to catch us, a draw and Thistle with their game in hand are still in the driving seat, a defeat well I’m not contemplating that! Suffice to say Morton would be one point ahead, but we would still have a game in hand and it would be tight.

It will be a fascinating game to watch and be involved in, played in a fantastic atmosphere (Morton are suggesting they will bring 2500 fans through which is a surprise given their home gates don’t ever get above 2000!) with the North Stand rocking tomorrow night!

I for one can’t wait.

Morton Preview: What ‘sleeping giant’ will awaken first?

Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine.com

Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine.com

‘Sleeping giants’ is a term used to describe many clubs. Clubs who haven’t achieved as much as many believe they should. Clubs that have the passion, the belief and the fans but don’t achieve the success they deserve. This term sums up the two sides that will face off this Wednesday perfectly: Partick Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Both have had their stints in Europe; both have faced off against Scotland’s elite in the top league in the country, but both have been deprived of such luxuries for many years. For one of these sides, the long wait will finally come to an end. As to whom this will be however, will be decided this Wednesday at Firhill Park, home of the league leaders, Patrick Thistle.

These two clubs, despite having little success in recent years, have produced some memorable matches over the years. For any Morton supporter, and I include myself in this, the best tie between the two sides in recent years was on the 26th of April 2008. Morton travelled, in their thousands, with the hope that their side could triumph against Partick Thistle, which would result in the club surviving in their first season back in the First Division. Brian Wake would produce the performance of his life, during the 3-0 victory, which would gain him legendary status with the Greenock faithful.

Along with this glorious moment, the boys from the ‘tale o’ the bank’ are the only team to take points off Partick at home this season. Scott Taggart popped up with the winner six minutes from time to gain Morton all three points on Boxing Day. Despite this recent success at Firhill though, it has very much been a tricky place, for Wednesday’s visitors, over the years.

A day that will live long in the memory of all those connected with Thistle though was the 29th of August, 2009. Morton travelled, yet again, in their thousands to see their side get a thumping of a lifetime, which would see their season spiral out of control while Thistle achieved a season of mid-table mediocrity. A double from Mark Corcoran and Liam Buchanan, along with a goal from Paul Cairney was enough to send the travelling support packing on a cold Friday night in Glasgow.

Games such as these live long in the memories of supporters. However, Wednesday night’s match may very well overshadow all of these memorable moments. A win for the hosts would send them five points clear of their closest rivals with a game in hand, however a victory for Morton would send them top of the league, albeit after playing one game more. Going by those simple stats alone, it is clear to see why many are calling this game the biggest game in Scotland. It’s clear to see why many non-Morton and non-Thistle supporters are heading to Firhill this Wednesday to see the two sides in action.

The Scottish First Division is the only division were the champions are not yet confirmed, which adds to the intensity of the game alone. Along with what both sides would offer to the SPL, the interest in this game is huge.

The 22 players that will take to the field come 7.45pm this Wednesday have the chance to place their name in history. One player that will definitely be out for the leaders is Aaron Muirhead. The centre half has been in the spotlight of late after his head butt during the Ramsden Cup Final on Sunday, which resulted in the 22-year-old heading for an early bath. However, it was his red card the previous Tuesday in the 0-0 draw with Raith Rovers that meant the defender will miss the all important encounter.

One player that will be fit though is in-form striker, Kris Doolan. This deadly striker has become a ‘super sub’ of late after rattling in five goals in his last five appearances while firing Thistle to the top of the league. He would make it six in six with a crucial strike in the last-minute of extra time in the cup final to save his side from crashing out, albeit he could not prevent his side losing the eventual penalty shoot-out. This player is one that Craig Reid and co. will certainly have to deal with if they want to have any chance of taking maximum points.

Morton’s encounter against Airdrie, which saw Allan Moore’s side come out 5-2 winners, saw regular starters such as Martin Hardie (suspended), William Dyer (dislocated shoulder) and Thomas O’Ware (pulled hamstring) all miss out. Hardie, who scored the equaliser the last time the sides met at Firhill, is hopeful that he will head straight back into the squad, while Thomas O’Ware is hopeful he’ll make a return too.

Along with players such as Hardie, Tidser and Bachirou, all eleven players that pull on the famous red and yellow shirts will have to keep their eye on the most in-form striker in the country: Peter MacDonald. The ex-St.Johnstone striker has rattled in an incredible fifteen goals in his last thirteen starts, with three of those coming in Saturday’s win against bottom side, Airdrie United. Whether Peter will have his striking partner, Colin McMenamin, up top supporting him or whether he will lead the line on his own, the veteran striker will certainly cause problems for the make shift defence of Thistle.

The stage is set. The fans are ready. The biggest game in the country is just around the corner. The question still remains though: what ‘sleeping giant’ will awaken first?

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