Partick Thistle completed their preparations for their eagerly awaited SPFL Premiership opening fixture against Dundee United with a hard-working but goalless encounter against side Cypriot AEL Limassol.
Alan Archibald’s side more than held their own and knocked the ball around impressively with only a lack of cutting edge perhaps being a source of concern for the challenges ahead.
There was a discernible an air of anticipation around the stadium for Thistle’s first and only pre-season outing at Firhill before the big kick-off gets under way.
Thistle made a brisk start to this game, with lots of energetic running and snapping at the heels of their opposite numbers.
Things looked promising in terms of an early breakthrough for the hosts, with Kris Doolan making a nuisance of himself through the middle of the Limassol defence while Stephen O’Donnell and Stuart Bannigan offered plenty of penetration down the flanks as they had throughout last season’s promotion run for the Maryhill men.
Doolan went close with an angled drive and then shortly afterwards thought he had won a penalty as he fell in the box under a challenge from Edwin Ouon. However, after having pointed to the spot, match referee Willie Collum changed his mind after spotting his assistant’s flag had been raised for offside. Within seconds the ball was in the net at the other end but joy for the visitors was curtailed as they too fell victim to the same ruling.
As Thistle manager Alan Archibald observed in his programme notes, AEL presented his side with something of a different proposition from the usual pre-season friendly fare and, it has to be added, a different sort of test to what they are likely to face in establishing a foothold in the Premiership in the coming months.
The visitors’ languid passing game was easy on the eye, but they also came with some pedigree having won the Cypriot League the season before last and subsequently advanced to the play-off round of Champions League.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brazilian play maker Luciano was one of their cosmopolitan line-up to catch the eye, testing Scott Fox on a couple of occasions with fiercely struck long-range shots which the Thistle keeper was relieved to push away to safety.
The possession stats began to swing in their favour and they were not adverse to some robust tackling but Thistle held their ground, with Bannigan sending in their best effort just before half time, a blistering drive angled just wide of the target.
Alas, a mildly entertaining affair lost much of its appeal after the break with the understandable but ultimately distracting punctuations caused by multiple substitutions. On the plus side, Thistle kept their shape and generally held the upper hand. Defensive solidity was another feature of their campaign last term and another clean sheet here suggested that they will continue to be difficult to break down.
It is at the other end of the field where Archibald may require further reinforcements, although Henoc Mukendi, signed on season-long loan from Liverpool, almost brought the game to a memorable conclusion as he burst through only to see his lob land on the roof of the net.
Afterwards Archibald professed himself satisfied. “I’m confident in the ability of the strikers we have but we would like to get one more in. Everyone knows good strikers are hard to come by,” he said.
Looking ahead to the new season he added: “We just want to get as many points as we can early on and have a good home record.”