IRN-BRU SFL PENOMENAL FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: ALAN ARCHIBALD (PARTICK THISTLE)
Partick Thistle's Alan Archibald may have just been appointed as a Manager but he has had to use the skills of an experienced boss this week. His week started off on a low as his side lost The Ramsdens Cup Final last Sunday against Queen of the South in a penalty shoot-out but improved slightly when he was awarded the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month Award for March on Monday before finishing on a high after winning 1-0 against Morton.
As well as dealing with the disappointment of losing to the Doonhamers, Archibald started the week dealing with the fall-out over Aaron Muirhead for his sending off after an altercation with Queen of the South’s Chris Higgins following his missed penalty 90 seconds from the end. The Thistle boss showed both kindness and firmness as he defended his player but pointed out that Muirhead has to learn from it.
The Jags were trailing to Nicky Clark’s goal however, their ten man side recovered when Kris Doolan struck right at the death to force the sudden death penalty shoot-out.
Muirhead’s action made substantial headlines but Archibald decided not to hang his player out to dry providing it is a salutary moment in the former Annan Athletic player’s career.
Just two months into his job, Archibald said: “I have spoken to Aaron and we have dealt with it. I have watched the incident back and I did not realise at the time that he was provoked to a level that was not nice for a boy of his age.”
The Firhill boss had empathy for 22-year-old Muirhead saying: “It was gamesmanship with a young and naive player. He will learn from it and he will learn you cannot act like that despite the provocation. But we have all done it, I have done it so it would be wrong of me to ridicule him.
“Anything that happens to Aaron internally will remain in house as it has nothing to do with anyone else.”
Muirhead is not getting off scott free as his boss said: “Your team-mates need you on the pitch and I was also disappointed with Aaron’s reaction when he was walking off. He is young, he was provoked and we saw the reaction. A lot of people have got in touch with me about the incident and offering explanations but football is a team game and his team-mates needed him on the pitch.
“Also, other teams may look at it and think they can exploit something by getting a reaction from Aaron.”
Muirhead was already missing Wednesday night’s top of the table clash with Morton after being dismissed for picking up two yellow cards against Raith Rovers last Tuesday and he will now miss four further games after the SFA decided to take action.
The recently appointed Thistle boss is all for moving on from Muirhead’s folly and Sunday’s Cup Final defeat as he explained: “We are disappointed but we moved on to Morton after I spoke to the players on Monday morning. We reminded them that The Ramsdens Cup was a bonus but our goal from day one of the season was promotion.
“We are concentrating on that now and facing Morton was a great scenario for us as the big crowd helped lift the players as well. That was much better than having a game that was flat and had no atmosphere. There was no better way of getting over it than playing and beating Morton.”
Archibald summed up his side’s mood saying: “The boys were disappointed at the start of the week but that had to be expected as they are a young squad and this was the first Cup Final for most of them in their career.
“We never played or performed like we could at Livingston. We have played well all season but did not get near that and that is a regret everyone shares.
“However, if I had been offered a five point lead and a game in hand over Morton and a Ramsdens Cup Final defeat as opposed to going a point behind and winning The Ramsdens Cup, I would have picked the first option.
“Winning the First Division Championship is the biggest carrot to the club and if the two prizes were on offer, I would take going to the SPL.”
Archibald was delighted that his men bounced back thanks to James Craigen’s goal as he said: “We are a young squad but we have learnt as we have gone along. We had a great last month as can be seen by Kris Doolan and I winning awards and we need to rise to the rest of the challenges that April brings.
“You do learn from your disappointments but there are plenty of positives to think about as well. We have worked hard all season and the Cup Final was one disappointing day. The First Division is about a season’s worth of work and we know that going into the final few weeks.”
IRN-BRU SFL PENOMENAL PLAYER OF THE MONTH: KRIS DOOLAN (PARTICK THISTLE)
Partick Thistle striker Kris Doolan pushed both personal and team Ramsdens Cup disappointment aside when he picked up the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Player of the Month award for March after bagging six goals.
Doolan came off the bench to score Thistle’s late equaliser in Sunday’s 1-1 Ramsdens Cup Final before the Glasgow side suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat from Queen of the South and the 26-year-old said: “I scored a few goals last month and you want to play from the start in games but the Manager and I spoke about the reasons behind it. He is the Manager, he makes the decisions and I don’t moan about it, I just get on with things.”
Although not wishing to rock the boat, Doolan added: “I was delighted to come on and get that goal and I hope that it proved I should be starting as that is what I do, I get into positions to score goals. I was glad to start against Morton.”
As for a sense of collective disappointment after The Ramsdens Cup Final, Doolan said: “We were all upset at the way we lost but when it goes to a penalty shoot-out, it becomes a bit of a lottery. Some people thought that the momentum would be with us as we equalised right at the end of extra-time but anyone can win a shoot-out.
“We all agreed to draw a line under it, no dwelling on what had happened and to kick on against Morton. We could not have wished to have a better game to play in and one of the joys about football is that there is always a game in a few days to put things right.
“Morton was a really important game and the boys were looking forward to it. Winning it put a lot of things right.”
Promotion as opposed to cup glory was always the aim of the Jags according to Doolan who added: “The League is what we focused on as it represents a full season of hard work. It would have been nice to win The Ramsdens Cup but it was an extra bonus and the League has always been the main thing here.
“Although none of us would have turned our nose up at a Ramsdens Cup winners’ medal, the SPL is where everyone wants to be. It was a nice day out and everyone wanted to enjoy it but promotion is the prize.”
As for reaching the SPL by moving elsewhere in the summer should the Jags fail to gain promotion and Kilmarnock follow up a reported interest, Doolan said: “I have no idea about the future. I am out of contract but I just keep my head down and don’t pay any attention to speculation.
“We are still annoyed at losing on Sunday but we had a chat about rallying ourselves. We felt better after that and then had a big game to put things right in. The gaffer had a chat but he didn’t need to do much to lift us. Everyone knew how big it was.”