Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald will not hammer Aaron Muirhead for his Ramsdens Cup final head-butt on Queen of the South captain Chris Higgins, but has warned the young centre-back he must learn from his much-publicised misdemeanour.
Muirhead was dismissed in the final minute of extra-time in Sunday’s showdown for flooring Higgins, who had rushed to goad the former Annan player just seconds after he saw a penalty saved by Lee Robinson.
The Jags were trailing to Nicky Clark’s goal at the time, but despite being a man down, they recovered to force penalties when Kris Doolan struck right at the death. The Doonhamers lifted the trophy after winning the shootout 6-5 and Muirhead’s action made substantial headlines, but Thistle, who face Morton in a crunch title clash tomorrow night, are not going to throw the book at him.
Archibald, who was picking up the Irn-Bru Phenomenal manager of the month award for March, said: “I have spoken to Aaron and we have dealt with it. I have watched the incident back and I did not realise at the time that they had provoked him which is not nice for a boy of his age. Anything that happens to Aaron internally will remain in-house as it has nothing to do with anyone else.”
The Firhill manager had empathy for 22-year-old Muirhead, saying: “It was gamesmanship with a young and naive player. He will learn from it and he will learn you cannot act like that despite the provocation, but we have all done it. I have done it so it would be wrong of me to ridicule him.”
Archibald was sent off last season after leaving Hamilton’s Dougie Imrie with a black eye in an off-the-ball incident, but that does not mean Muirhead is getting off scot-free. “Your team mates need you on the pitch and I was also disappointed with Aaron’s reaction when he was walking off,” said the Partick manager.
“He is young, they provoked him and we saw the reaction. A lot of people have got in touch with me about the provocation he had been subject to, but football is a team game and his team-mates needed him on the pitch.
“Also other teams may look at it and think they can exploit something by getting a reaction from Aaron.”
Muirhead was already missing tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash with Morton after being dismissed for picking up two yellow cards against Raith Rovers last Tuesday and he could miss further games if the SFA decide to take action after Sunday’s violent act.
Archibald said: “We have not had confirmation from the SFA about what happens next. He was already missing on Wednesday and he will be on Saturday against Airdrie but after that we don’t know. The main thing has to be that Aaron learns from it.”
The recently-appointed Thistle boss is all for moving on from Muirhead’s folly and Sunday’s defeat. “We have reminded them that the Ramsdens Cup was a bonus but our goal from day one of the season was promotion.
“We are concentrating on that now and facing Morton is a great scenario for us as the big crowd will help lift the players as well. That is much better than having a game that is flat and has no atmosphere.”
Archibald admits his side let themselves down at Almondvale on Sunday, but expects them to bounce back tomorrow. He continued: “We never played or performed like we could. We have played well all season but did not get near that and that is a regret everyone shares. However if I had been offered a five point lead and a game in hand over Morton and a Ramsdens Cup defeat as opposed to going a point behind and winning the Ramsdens Cup I would have picked the first option.
“The boys are disappointed but that had to be expected as they are a young squad and this was the first final for most of them in their career. I am sure they will react to it well on Wednesday.”