Jags are First among equals as relegation battle enters final furlong

STUART BANNIGAN hopes the experience of fighting for the First Division title 12 months ago will stand Partick Thistle in good stead as they battle to beat the drop this term.

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Partick Thistle ace Stuart Bannigan slows down Celtic's Kris Commons in the only  game in which the Firhill  midfielder feels his side have met their match in recent weeks of Premiership encounters
Partick Thistle ace Stuart Bannigan slows down Celtic's Kris Commons in the only game in which the Firhill midfielder feels his side have met their match in recent weeks of Premiership encounters

Alan Archibald's side are well placed to avoid an immediate return to Scotland's second tier as they fight it out with St Mirren, Ross County and Kilmarnock at the foot of the table.

It is almost a year to do the day that the Jags beat Morton in their Firhill title decider and went on to claim the First Division crown in style thanks to a superb winning run at the end of the campaign.

The stakes are arguably even higher this time around and midfielder Bannigan is confident Thistle have what it takes to ensure another end of season celebration.

He said: "It is different from last year. We are down near the bottom of the league and we don't have the momentum of winning a lot of games.

"But the pressure is there and we know what it would mean to stay in this league.

"I am sure the boys will draw from the experience of last season and take it into the last few games.

"We were winning just about every game last year and the momentum was building all the time but it is different this time around.

"It is a bit more stop-start but we have six big games left and we are looking to get as many points as we can. It would be a great achievement if we could stay up."

Thistle have impressed in their first top flight campaign in nine years as they have more than held their own in the SPFL Premiership.

The battle to avoid the relegation play-off spot is likely to go right down to the wire and Bannigan was pleased the Jags managed to add to their tally once again at the weekend after back-to-back defeats against Inverness and Celtic.

He said: "It is good to be putting points on the board. We more than deserved our draw with St Johnstone on Saturday. We still have a few games to go so there is still a lot to play for.

"I don't know how many points we will need to avoid 11th. We just want to get as many as we can.

"We haven't had many defeats recently and we haven't been outclassed really. We were well beaten by Celtic last week but the majority of games have been really tight.

"We are in most games and hopefully we can win a few more between now and the end of the season."

While Thistle still have a chance of beating the drop, bottom-of-the- table Hearts are already Championship-bound after a nightmare campaign.

But Bannigan insists Archibald's side can't afford to treat the Jambos lightly when they come to Firhill this weekend.

He said: "Hearts are fighting for their lives and they showed great spirit to win against Hibs on Sunday.

"It will be a very tough game so nobody here is thinking that we can just turn up and get the three points.

"It will be a difficult game but it is one we think we can win before we head into the split."

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