No debut victory for Partick Thistle and Archie

THEY came and they saw - but Archie's army could not conquer Cappielow when it counted.

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Chris Erskine and team-mates celebrate the game's opening goal with interim boss Alan Archibald
Chris Erskine and team-mates celebrate the game's opening goal with interim boss Alan Archibald

It was third-time lucky for Partick Thistle interim boss Alan Archibald on Saturday but the Firhill legend couldn't cap his dugout debut in dream style, with the points shared and the status quo remaining at the top of the Irn-Bru First Division.

Having seen fixtures with Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers postponed on successive Saturdays, it was a baptism of fire for the stand-in gaffer in Greenock.

In the end, the point gained after an enthralling 2-2 draw can be seen as a good day at the office for Archibald and assistant Scott Paterson, but feelings of what if will still remain after a free-kick and penalty double from Peter MacDonald cancelled out strikes from Chris Erskine and Steven Craig that had the Jags on course for a huge win in the title race.

There is little doubt that this Thistle side has the potential to claim the league crown, but it remains to be seen if Archibald is the man to lead them to promotion glory.

The 35-year-old has the chance to manoeuvre himself into pole position for the top job following the exit of Jackie McNamara to Dundee United.

Defender Conrad Balatoni is enjoying life in the new regime under a man that the Jags players all know well.

He said: "We are still calling him Archie just now, he doesn't want to be called gaffer just yet.

"Maybe if he gets the job full-time he will change that.

"Scott Paterson has come in and the training has been great. It has been a bit different, they have brought their own ideas in and the boys have all enjoyed playing under them.

"Scott was a centre-half so he has been working with myself and Aaron Muirhead. He has played for a long time so having him and Archie there will only benefit us.

"Before the game, he just told us to go and enjoy it and show everyone what we can do.

"We go out each week to win and hopefully make the fans happy. Luckily we have had the results that have done that and we will look to keep doing that and win as many games as we can."

Having waited patiently for their chance to take to the field under Archibald's command, Thistle almost made a perfect start to life after McNamara but couldn't hold on for a crucial Cappielow triumph.

A second-half rally from the Ton saw them pull level but, despite their pressure and a red card to Hugh Murray, there was to be no late heartache for Thistle as each side took a point for their endeavours in front of a bumper 5647 crowd.

Balatoni said: "You can look at it both ways, as a point gained or two dropped.

"It is always disappointing to only take a point when you have been 2-0 up away from home.

"We were looking to close the gap. We have still got the games in hand but they have got the points on the board and we need to look to win the next few games and try and catch up with them.

"We always go out to win the game, Jackie brought that in and Archie is continuing with that ethos.

"We want to go out and win every point and play good football. We scored two goals but they then scored a good free kick and got the penalty. We defended well after Shuggy got sent off as well so we are happy in the end with a point."

Trailing by eight points going into the Cappielow clash, not allowing Morton to slip further into the distance was perhaps even more important than winning for Thistle as they look to keep up the pressure on Allan Moore's league leaders.

A home tie with Hamilton Accies tomorrow is the first of their three games in hand over the Ton and Balatoni is pleased the title is still in their hands.

He said: "We knew that this was a big game and some people thought it was make-or-break because if Morton won then the gap would be 11 points.

"At the end of the day, if we win our games in hand then we are only a point ahead and we have still got to play them at Firhill.

"There is a lot of football still to be played and we are not getting ahead of ourselves. We will take each game as it comes and hopefully by the end we will be sitting top."

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