Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall will aim to continue his recent dominance over former club Ayr United when the two sides’ clash on Championship duty for a third time this season.
The Jags have recorded back-to-back 4-0 victories over the Honest Men in October and November respectively and will have their sights firmly set on completing a hat-trick of wins at Firhill this evening.
As Scottish football’s second tier passes the halfway point, Thistle find themselves six points adrift of league leaders Arbroath in fifth place and could reclaim their spot among the play-off positions if results fall in their favour.
However, they face a difficult task against the managerless Somerset Park outfit, who shocked high-flying Raith Rovers 2-0 on Boxing Day, while Partick’s long trip north to face Inverness was postponed.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, McCall said: “I spoke to the players yesterday – I genuinely think that in the second half of the season that the games against the bottom five will be a lot, lot harder.
“Particularly in the last quarter, you get absolutely mad results because teams are fighting for their lives near the end of the season.
“Every game you play against the bottom five teams gets very hard. We won both games against Ayr 4-0 this season but both of them for half an hour, forty minutes – before we scored – were very close. We’re taking nothing for granted.
“The boys trained really well over the last two days but I’m long enough in the tooth to know that doesn’t equate to winning games of football.
“Sometimes you don’t train well and win, sometimes you train well and lose. The last two days couldn’t have been better but what matters is tonight from quarter to eight.”
Since their previous encounter, Ayr have parted company with manager Jim Duffy and appointed former Hibernian chief Graeme Mathie as the club’s new managing director.
McCall has become accustomed to receiving stick from opposition fans but he will always be indebted to his old club for handing him his second start at management.
He added: “I’ve said many times, it’s a long time since I’ve been there now and it’s a completely different club.
“Graeme is a really positive appointment. I owe a lot to them and the people that were there at the time know that. That’s all that really matters to me.”
The extended break has allowed McCall’s squad more time to prepare for their next fixture but the Jags boss doesn’t believe that will hand his side a greater advantage.
He confirmed: “The boys were off on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
“We worked hard on Thursday and Friday but I didn’t have any players I thought would do something daft so I gave them Christmas off.
“They have worked hard on Monday and Tuesday and they are ready to go. At this time of year the day’s off are as important as when you train.
“Not playing can mean you are fresh but it can also have a negative effect on you at times as well. Looking at them in training they look fresh and ready to go.
“We have three games in the next 11 days which are winnable and loseable. It’s a really important period now for us but preparation has been good and hopefully that will be the case.
“I don’t expect anyone to stretch away like Dundee United and Hearts have in recent seasons. I still think there will be a team in the bottom five who will go on a good run.
“The third quarter is always pretty crucial and if we can take more points than we have in the first two then we should be in a half decent position.”
Thistle sit second in the Championship form table after just one defeat in their last eleven games and McCall McCall stated: “We have done really well recently.
“Against Raith in our last game it is one of the best matches we have played for a while. We should have won the game far more comfortably but to score a late winner like we did is always special.
“So I am pleased with how it is going and hopefully we can keep the run going.”
McCall revealed he is dealing with a couple of injury issues to players with Steven Bell still short of full fitness and Tunji Akinola expected to miss out. Prolific strike pairing Brian Graham and Zak Rudden may be involved.