High stakes as Partick Thistle bid to reel in Livingston

Alan Archibald admits his Partick Thistle side cannot play any worse than they did in the first leg of their Scottish Premiership play-off with Livingston.

Baily Cargill competes with Livingstons Lee Miller, but Thistle must compete a lot better this time. Photograph:SNS

Thistle’s poor performance on Thursday leaves them on the brink of relegation to the second tier of Scottish football.

They must turn around a 2-1 deficit at the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill this afternoon if they are to retain their top-flight status, but it could have been worse for the Jags, with Tomas Cerny making a succession of saves to restrict the score.

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Archibald was left indebted to the Czech goalkeeper, and admitted his side can only improve in the second meeting.

“Tomas made a couple of good saves that kept us in the game,” the Thistle boss said. “He knows he should have done better for the first goal but he kept us in it at the end.

“The positive thing is probably that we can’t play any worse, and we’re still in the game. They [the players] are well aware that they let their levels drop compared to previous weeks. They know that, individually and collectively, performance levels were poor and the guys know that and they let themselves down.”

If Livingston were to avoid defeat today, it would be the first time since 2014 that a team was promoted through the play-offs and would be a second successive promotion under David Hopkin.

Craig Halkett, the West Lothian side’s captain, has encouraged his team-mates to play without pressure at Firhill.

Livingston finished second in the Championship in their first season back from the third tier, and Halkett says the players can use the experience of being relegated two years ago to help them against Thistle.

“There are a couple of boys who were here two years ago when we got relegated from the Championship [in a play-off against Stranraer], when we were in the same position but to go down,” he said. “The boys know how it feels to be on their [Partick’s] side, but for us there is no pressure on us and we can just go on and enjoy it.”

He added: “All the boys can relate to that position. We know how they will be feeling so that could work as a small advantage to us, but we have to focus on playing our own game.”

Halkett has also praised manager Hopkin’s influence on the squad, saying: “He is massive for us. No-one expected us to be in this position, and I don’t think we would be in this position if it wasn’t for the manager and the amount of coaching he does on the training pitch.”