Partick Thistle braced for Hearts backlash

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Partick Thistle, who would ordinarily have been favourites for automatic relegation this season, are refusing to buy into the notion that Hearts’ 15-point penalty increases their chances of survival in Scotland’s top flight.

Gateshead 2-1 Partick Thistle

Scorers: Gateshead - Briggs (2), Marwood (39); Partick Thistle - Baird (80)

Conrad Balatoni, the highly-regarded Jags defender, came through the ranks at Tynecastle with many of the youngsters who will line up for the administration-hit Edinburgh club this season.

And, after discussing with his Thistle team-mates how his former club’s situation might impact on the relegation battle during their six-day training camp at Durham University last week, the 22-year-old believes any team making a slow start to the season will find themselves at risk of being reeled in by a fired-up and focused Hearts.

“In some ways the Hearts situation takes the pressure off us a bit because it gives us an early buffer,” he acknowledged. “But a few of the boys have spoken about it and if they start clawing it back early on, it’s going to put more pressure on us. If Hearts go on a good run and win three or four games and we – or any other team – get off to a bad start, then they’re right back in the mix. I know most of the boys there and they’ve got some really good players. I’m still friends with Dylan McGowan and boys like Jamie Walker and Jason Holt are really good young players; it’s no surprise to see bids coming in for them. There’s absolutely no chance we’ll be taking it for granted that Hearts are going to finish bottom.

“We’re probably the team they’ll be looking to catch, but if we can win a few games early on, that would turn the pressure back on to Hearts or anyone else who made a slow start.”

At the end of a productive week in Durham, Thistle lost their first proper friendly of the summer against fired-up Blue Square Premier side Gateshead, whose two first-half strikes ensured John Baird’s late debut goal was merely a consolation for the Scots.

In a match played in searing heat, and on astro-turf which left the Thistle players’ feet “blistered and burning”, the Jags fielded five trialists, including Rory Boulding and Mark Kerr, and changed almost their entire side after the break.

Manager Alan Archibald, who feels he needs to add “three or four” new faces before the season starts, was in no mood to read much into the game, but he admitted: “It’s clear we still have a lot of work to do.”