Former rivals' freefall stuns Jags ace Conrad

CONRAD BALATONI insists he takes no satisfaction from seeing former rivals Hibernian fighting for Premiership survival.

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Jagged edge...Conrad Balatoni is determined to add to Hibs' woes when the sides clash today
Jagged edge...Conrad Balatoni is determined to add to Hibs' woes when the sides clash today

The defender came through the ranks at Hearts before making his name at Firhill and helping Partick Thistle to the First Division title last season.

He may not have had the chance to play in a derby clash while in the Capital, but today's showdown at Easter Road is just as important for Terry Butcher's side.

The Hibees are embroiled in the battle to beat the drop this term and Balatoni knows his former foes are not too big to fail in the closing weeks.

He said: "You look at the players they have got and you wonder how they can be in this situation.

"You would have thought getting a new manager in would have given the place a lift.

"I don't know what is going on in their dressing room, though, as I am only looking from the outside.

"They have got quality in their squad and they can still hurt teams so we have got to be aware of that.

"I don't really take great pleasure from the position they are in. I am a Thistle fan now.

"It would be great for the Championship if Hearts, Hibs, Rangers and possibly Dunfermline were all in that league next season.

"But if Hibs were to go down then it would be a great loss for the top league - Hearts and Hibs are two massive clubs and Rangers are obviously still not there.

"When you look at that, you wonder where you are going to get some good crowds from?

"For me, it is about the safety of Thistle and guaranteeing it for next season."

While Thistle head into the Capital clash having taken four points from their first two post-split fixtures, Hibs are on a shocking run of form that has seen them dragged into the relegation mire.

Hearts piled more misery on Butcher's side with victory at Easter Road last weekend but Balatoni insists the Jags can take nothing for granted this afternoon.

He said: "Obviously they are not on a great run of form but then the boys know a bad run of form has got to come to an end. Hopefully it won't be against us.

"We have been working hard in the last few games and hopefully our quality can come through and take the three points.

"It is a massive game and if we win then we can maybe guarantee safety on Wednesday depending on other results.

"If we win this it will be a big step to hopefully securing our place in the league for next season. If Hibs lose...they are a massive club and maybe there is still enough time for them to avoid relegation but they are in a bad run of form and you never know."

Thistle came agonisingly close to victory on their last trip to Easter Road as James Collins snatched a draw for the hosts at the death after Kris Doolan put Archibald's side on course for all three points.

Shutting out the Hibs attack would go a long way to securing a crucial result this afternoon and Balatoni has hailed the impact of new defensive partner Lee Mair. He said: "My relationship with Lee has been good.

"He is older, wiser and very experienced. It has helped me and made me come on a tonne.

"I feel since he has come in, my performances have improved a lot although I got a slight injury before coming back in against Kilmarnock.

"He talks me through the games and having an older head next me is something I have not had since the manager was playing.

"I am learning all the time from him and I can't speak highly enough of him."

Football

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