By the left ... quick march to top tipped for kid Keenan

CONRAD BALATONI today tipped Partick Thistle youth Dale Keenan to make a bid for the club's left-back berth this season.

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Dale Keenan has chance to make a bid for the left-back slot after Aaron Taylor-Sinclair's move south
Dale Keenan has chance to make a bid for the left-back slot after Aaron Taylor-Sinclair's move south

The Firhill defender was handed a new deal by boss Alan Archibald earlier this summer and has spent the last few weeks training with the Jags first team ahead of the new Premiership campaign.

Archibald remains on the lookout for defensive reinforcements as he bids to bolster his squad for Thistle's second shot at Scotland's top flight next term.

He ran the rule over another contract hopeful as his side lost 1-0 to Rangers in a behind-closed-doors clash at Firhill on Tuesday as he looks to replace Aaron Taylor-Sinclair following his move to Wigan.

Keenan has been given his chance to catch the eye in friendly action so far after impressing for Scott McKenzie's under-20s last time out.

And Balatoni has urged his fellow defender to make the most of the opportunity in front of him as Archibald continues his search for fresh faces in the coming weeks.

He said: "I don't know what is happening in terms of new additions. I am sure the manager will get everything sorted out in the next few weeks and the squad will be firing on all cylinders.

"A left-back is obviously the main one because of Sinky leaving, but young Dale Keenan is more than capable of coming in if we don't get another player in.

"I am sure the manager has got targets and it is down to him to get it finalised, we just carry on with the football.

"Dale is a good player and I said to him a few weeks ago that if he does well in pre-season then he will give the manager something to think about.

"He has done well every time he has come on and I have been impressed with him.

"It is down to him to keep his head down and work hard. If another left-back does come in, if he gets a chance he will need to keep it and cement that place as his own."

Finding someone to fill the Firhill No.3 jersey is Archibald's top priority in the coming weeks as the countdown continues to the new Premiership campaign but he also remains in the market for a centre-back and striker this summer.

Balatoni enjoyed a solid debut campaign in the top flight last term and is likely to be one of the first names on the team-sheet when Thistle host Ross County in their league opener next month.

The Jags head south of the border to face Fleetwood Town this weekend before the visit of Sunderland next midweek rounds off their summer schedule and Balatoni is confident he will be in prime shape for the big kick-off.

He said: "I played for 45 minutes against Rangers. I am feeling good. It was another good half under my belt and I feel that I could play 90 minutes.

"I played on Sunday and I would like to get 90 minutes in the next couple of games.

"The manager has worked us hard and I am feeling fit. I would like to play the full games against Fleetwood and Sunderland but I will see what the manager's plans are.

"The season is not far away now and I want to play as much as I can.

"You don't want to tire yourself out before the first league game, but I am feeling good and hopefully the manager will see that I can play the two games."

Thistle have a couple of extra days to prepare for their first Premiership outing this term after their clash with champions Celtic on the opening weekend of the campaign was postponed. And Balatoni is determined Archibald's side will get off to a flying start when they do finally get underway on August 13.

He said: "It is a bit disappointing that the first game has been postponed, but that is life and we have to deal with it.

"It gives us an opportunity to get the three points in our first game at home to Ross County.

"Everyone will be fired up for that and looking to get off to a good start.

"Hopefully we come through the next couple of weeks and games unscathed and we can focus on getting the three points in the first game."

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