PARTICK Thistle goalkeeper Scott Fox will run out at Pittodrie with a spring in his step tonight after being named in the Scotland squad for the forthcoming games against USA and Norway.
Expected to be included by Gordon Strachan for the first time, Fox will become the first Firhill player to grace the senior international side since Nicky Walker in 1996 if he is called into action in either friendly.
Thistle’s rare flirtations with the national side always seem to involve goalkeepers – prior to Walker, Alan Rough was the club’s last Scotland pick back in the early 1980s – and manager Alan Archibald will hope the news gives his squad a lift as they take on Aberdeen.
They might need it, too, as Pittodrie manager Derek McInnes praised his side’s attitude during their first round of games in the Scottish Premiership over the weekend.
Aberdeen were second after completing their opening quarter of fixtures with a 2-0 win at Hibernian last Saturday when Scott Vernon and Gregg Wylde came off the bench to score.
The Dons followed that up with an even later 2-0 League Cup win at Motherwell despite being reduced to ten men in the 13th minute when Joe Shaughnessy was sent off for a reckless tackle.
Aberdeen teams have been on the end of a number of cup shocks in recent years, so McInnes was thrilled to win against the odds. And he believes their mental toughness will stand them in good stead as they prepare to begin their second round of fixtures at home to Partick Thistle tonight.
McInnes said: “It’s a big part of the game and I think we have shown that this season. We have had a lot of late winners. On Saturday at Easter Road, in the last ten minutes we scored a couple of goals, Wednesday night we scored a couple of goals late on, against Inverness we got a late goal, Dundee United a goal in the second half as well.
“So I think there has been a lot of games that have been in the balance for us this season already, and the players have never accepted anything other than going for that win.
“That’s great to see, and hopefully we can keep producing that because I do think it’s important that when we go out on the pitch that we’re always out there to win the game.”
Aberdeen had their previous game against Thistle won early on as they swept to a 3-0 victory at Firhill. But that was a rare heavy defeat for the Jags this season, and McInnes knows his former Dundee United team-mate, Alan Archibald, will have his team well prepared.
“I think it’s been the only game, big Archie said that, that they have been well beaten,” McInnes said. “We played well on the day and I think we capitalised on a couple of mistakes but that has been uncharacteristic by them. They have been excellent.
“Every time I have seen them I have never failed to be impressed. They have really brought something to the league and all the plaudits they have been getting are well deserved. I really enjoy watching them when I go to games and we have a tough match ahead of us.”
Thistle striker Kris Doolan is on course to bag 20 goals in his first-ever campaign in the top flight, which is impressive going for someone who was playing for Auchinleck Talbot just four years ago.
Doolan was 23 before he entered the senior game but he is determined to make up for lost time and is looking to add to his goal tally when the Jags visit Aberdeen tonight.
“That’s five goals after a quarter of the season so I am happy with that,” he said. “I would have taken it before the start of the season. It’s a good return of goals and it’s good to be up with the top scorers in the league so I just want to keep it going.
“The step up has been fine but at times we haven’t had a great deal of luck. However, when we won at Inverness things went our way and we got that wee bit of luck, which I thought we deserved after all the bad luck we have had. But we have done well in just about every game and now it’s starting to pay off so, hopefully, we can kick on into the next quarter now.”
The striker credits manager Archibald for sticking with him when the goals dried up. “I have repaid the manager because he has kept faith in me and my return in goals is to thank him. Hopefully, I will continue to put the ball away for him.”
Doolan also expressed his delight at discovering that he is not out of place in the Premiership. “There is a difference because the players in this league are very clever,” he said. “Defenders are also bigger and stronger, but that doesn’t mean you can’t score against them – you just have to work the ball a different way to get into goalscoring positions.
“We have not surprised ourselves as we know how good the players here are. We deserve to be in this position and playing in the Premier League. We have worked hard to be here and the boys deserve to have their chance.”
Archibald rates Doolan, who is usually asked to play up front on his own, as one of his key men.
“I’ve backed Dools to the hilt,” he said. “He was one of the first players I offered a new deal to at the end of last season. He works very hard and he’s starting to add goals to his game.”