STEVEN Lawless has warned his Partick Thistle team-mates there is a relegation battle to be won before they can think about pushing for top six again. 

The Firhill club, now in their fifth successive season of top tier football, went from basement dwellers just before Christmas to finish sixth last season. 

And having quelled the naysayers and risen from the automatic relegation place this festive period, Thistle gave their followers the tantalising prospect of deja vu by earning their first Ladbrokes Premiership win away from Firhill since March 1 last year on Saturday. 

Lawless, the man who put them on the path to that 3-1 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park with an early opener, said: “It is a similar situation to last year when we managed to get top six, and I think a few of the boys will probably have that in the back of their heads.”

But with Thistle still 11th in the table, still in the relegation play-off spot, he warned it has to be taken “a game at a time”. 

Lawless added: “But the first thing is to try and get safe, try and get as far up the table as we can and see where it takes us. [That] managed us top six last year, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it this year.”

The contrast in reaction to being asked about banishing the away day hoodoo between Lawless and his manager Alan Archibald was fascinating. 

Archibald was visibly relieved “the monkey off the back” was removed and Thistle could celebrate their first three points away this season, whereas Lawless admitted: “If I’m being honest, I wasn’t even aware of it that we hadn’t won [in the league]. 

“We’d won here in the cup so it wasn’t something in my mind. It might have been something in the other players’ minds. But the more these things go on, the more people are going to talk about them, so it’s good to put that to bed.”

If Archibald was able to sleep a lot sounder come Saturday night, St Johnstone looked as if they had just got out of bed. 

Their extended winter break hibernation due to the twice-postponed Scottish Cup tie at Albion Rovers continued against Thistle to the extent that no St Johnstone player was allowed to speak to the media after the defeat, and manager Tommy Wright has promised wholesale changes at Cliftonhill in the fourth round tie tonight. 

Bar a David Wotherspoon disallowed free-kick goal from the left flank, which evaded everyone and bounced into the net only to be ruled out by referee Gavin Duncan due to an infringement – one that Wright was baffled about – St Johnstone offered little to threaten Thistle after Lawless’s opener.

It was the Jags who took control and Conor Sammon put Thistle further in front shortly after the hour mark – his fifth goal in four games – and while Liam Craig reduced the deficit from the penalty spot, the injury-time run from his own half and fine finish from substitute Ryan Edwards was just what the visitors deserved. 

“When the team sheet goes up (for Albion Rovers) that will say it all and it’s up to people to respond to that,” said Wright. 

Lawless said he has been delighted how Sammon has responded to what was a difficult start to life at Firhill when he joined back in August. 

The big hitman was unfortunate not to net in the first half when he curled just wide from the edge of the box. 

“He was close in the first half as well,” said Lawless. “He had a tough start here, he didn’t score for a while but he’s in a rich vein of form right and long may that continue, it can only help us.” 

Lawless is hoping to help himself to more than the four goals he has this season too. 

“I quite enjoy playing here, that’s two I’ve got this year, so just glad it went in,” he said. “I’m hoping to get more goals as the season goes on now.”