Nicholson banking on Ismael Bouzid to plug leaks

Ismael Bouzid. Picture: SNS
Ismael Bouzid. Picture: SNS
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BARRY Nicholson believes former Hearts defender Ismael Bouzid can finally plug the hole in the Kilmarnock defence that has been leaking goals all season.

Only Ross County and St Mirren have let in more than the nine goals conceded by the Rugby Park side so far this term.

But manager Allan Johnston hopes to solve the situation with the capture of the Algerian international on a one-year deal. The former Tynecastle player has had spells at Union Berlin, Kaiserslautern, Galatasaray and Troyes and joins Killie from USM Alger in his homeland in time for today’s trip to Partick Thistle.

Nicholson has also been impressed by what he has seen during the 30-year-old’s recent trial stint and says his aggressive approach is just what the Ayrshire side require. He said: “We need a no-nonsense defender like Bouzi. Someone to go and win the balls in the area for us. If the ball is up the other end of the pitch then we can’t lose goals. The manager wants us to be a team that plays football but Bouzi gives us something that we have missed, a dominant centre-half.”

Kilmarnock could also have skipper Manuel Pascali back in their line-up for the Scottish Premiership fixture at Firhill following his recovery from a hamstring injury which has kept him out since February.

Nicholson added: “Manu coming back is a big help. He’s a big voice in the dressing room and has a lot of experience. He’s also an organiser on the park and that is maybe something we have missed.”

Meanwhile. Kallum Higginbotham has vowed to repay manager Alan Archibald for handing him the chance to kickstart his career again at Partick Thistle.

The winger jumped at the chance to pen a two-year deal with the Jags in the summer after a frustrating spell at Huddersfield came to an end. Higginbotham wants to play a major part in helping Partick secure their top-flight survival.

He said: “I’m loving it here. I love training and looking forward to a match on a Saturday. When I was down south it was just training and, come Saturday, I knew I wasn’t going to be involved.

“It was getting a bit stale. It’s good to be back involved and feeling wanted again. Hopefully I can repay Partick and the gaffer for giving me the opportunity.”

Partick had enjoyed a positive start to life in the Scottish Premiership before suffering a 3-0 home defeat to Aberdeen last week. “It was just a blip in our season,” said Higginbotham. “All the boys have just swept it under the carpet and we will move on today.

“Before that game, we were playing some excellent football and everyone has been talking about us. We will go out and show that it was just a one-off and get back to the way we were playing.”