Partick Thistle failed to close the gap on Hearts on Saturday but that does not mean they have ditched their ambitions. According to Steven Lawless, the remaining four games of the season still give them time to peg back the Tynecastle side, though he says they must address their inability to get the better of Rangers.
The Ibrox side travel to Firhill on Saturday and despite losing 5-1 to champions Celtic on the same day Thistle were drawing with Hearts at Tynecastle, Lawless says he expects a tough afternoon.
But having failed to take anything from their three previous head to heads, the Thistle midfielder believes they are due a return.
“I don’t think we’ve managed to land a punch against them this season, and I actually said that in the dressing room there,” said Lawless, pictured. “I was running my mouth off as usual. It wasn’t like we all sat down and had a chat about it, I was just saying ‘Listen, any chance of us doing something against Rangers?’
“We seem to do better against Celtic for some reason, but we’re at home and we’ve got the fans behind us, so we’ll try to put in a better performance than we’ve managed to do at Ibrox the last two times.
“I don’t know why we’ve done better against Celtic. You would think Rangers would be easier to get at. It’s one of those things that we have to try and rectify next week. Hopefully we get the three points.”
Lawless thought he had done enough to earn his side all three points in Gorgie on Saturday as he set up one goal, for Kris Doolan to net in the 50th minute, and then scored one himself.
The second of those was a quickfire response to the side being reduced to ten men after Danny Devine was sent off for a handball with 20 minutes remaining.
Isma Goncalves converted from the spot but, having finally made the breakthrough after more than an hour of carving out chances with no tangible end product, Hearts allowed Thistle to regain the lead within a minute.
It was a game that the home side had been looking to win to apply some pressure on fourth-placed St Johnstone and enhance their chances of playing European football next season, but while Andraz Struna weighed in with a goal in the 87th minute to give them a draw, it equated to loss of ground on the Perth side who had picked up all three points in their match.
Hearts had started out with a positive approach, going with three at the back to give them more space to drive into and more attacking options. It proved a useful experiment, with Prince Buaben showing some prowess in the sweeper role. It also added up to concerted pressing by Ian Cathro’s men in the opening period. The clinical finish was missing, though, with some fine saves by Tomas Cerny in the Partick goal and some moments the Hearts strikeforce would rather forget, Goncalves admitting that on any other day he may have been heading home with the match ball.
One wasted opportunity in particular, in the dying minutes, to earn all three points, will have kept him awake. Surging forward, he only had the keeper to beat but Cerny was quick off his line to close him down and smother the ball. “I missed a lot of chances and I am really disappointed but when you are a striker you have days like this so I must live with it,” said Goncalves, who acknowledged he should have done better. “Their goalkeeper played well but that’s no consolation.”
It leaves Hearts’ hopes of pipping St Johnstone to the European place the more unlikely. “Of course it is getting difficult and that is disappointing for our team but I think when we look at the spirit and the way we played, it was a good effort from the team. But it is disappointing because St Johnstone won. We know it is getting more difficult but it is not impossible so until it is impossible then we will keep working,” added Goncalves.