STEVEN ANDERSON loves scoring goals but insists clean sheets are better. Although a little bit of Scottish Cup excitement is all well and good, he is similarly adamant a revitalised Partick Thistle must prioritise the harsh realities of league safety over silverware dreams.
The on-loan St Johnstone defender was branded ‘old-school’ by manager Gary Caldwell for his no-nonsense display at Bayview Stadium as he made it two goals in two games for his temporary employers. Whilst the effects of Storm Erik raged around him and threatened to blow the Jags off course, the 33-year-old remained calm to keep East Fife at bay, and he eventually won it for the visitors with a 61st-minute header that reprised his cup-final exploits for Saints in 2014.
Thistle lost in Methil earlier in the season in the Irn-Bru Cup but, finally, there appears to be something different about the Firhill outfit following changes made by Caldwell last month. This was a fourth consecutive victory in a six-match unbeaten sequence since the turn of the year and gave their suffering supporters something tangible to cheer.
The luck of tonight’s draw could either make the club some welcome money or a very real opportunity to progress to a Scottish Cup semi-final. However, just minutes after the full-time whistle in Fife, Anderson was seeking out the result from the Championship’s only game, a win for Falkirk that consigned Partick to the foot of the table and brought back into sharp focus the Jags’ prime concern this season.
“As a defender, you want clean sheets because that gives you an opportunity to win games, or not lose them anyway,” said Anderson. “So, clean sheets are what I pride myself on, not goal-scoring. But it’s nice to get a goal here and there.
“I would say I’m old-school as well – I’m 33 now! But I know my strengths and weaknesses. I head the ball, defend right, first and foremost, and make sure people round about can play. Saturday was my kind of game – not on Astro-turf, though! When the pitches aren’t great, you defend and then give the ball to the boys who can play. It wasn’t the type of game for the ball players. But keeping clean sheets is the most positive thing for me, and we got one.
“Cup runs are nice for the club, financially and so on. We’ll hopefully get a TV game, you never know who. But we’re through and we’ll just wait for the draw. Ach, you never know, anything can happen in the cup. Whoever we get, we’ll give a good account of ourselves and we could beat them.
“But of course the league is the priority. It’s nice to get a wee cup run and something different. In the league, it’s all about getting as many points as we can to stay up, but looking further as well. It’s not just about staying up, it’s about looking at how far we can go up the league.”
East Fife, back to action after their farcical late call-off against Bohemians in Dublin seven days earlier, claimed for three penalties on a stormy afternoon when Thistle keeper Conor Hazard was penalised for breaching the back-pass rule when he caught his own clearance. The League One outfit harnessed the wind to better effect at times but could not add the Scottish Cup quarter-finals to their eagerly-anticipated Irn-Bru Cup semi-final against Ross County on Friday.
“It’s a big ask – Ross County are doing well – but we’ll see what we can do,” said Fifers defender Pat Slattery. “Hopefully we can get into the final, which will be brilliant for the club. We’ve been building on every good result we get and we’re confident in our own ability. We want to see the season out well and hopefully get promotion too.”