PARTICK THISTLE are fighting their biggest battle as a collective unit as they bid to emerge victorious in the Irn-Bru First Division title race but individual duals are contested weekly.

Despite missing their first- choice goalkeeper, Scott Fox, and the influential trio of Paul Paton, Sean Welsh and Steven Craig, Jackie McNamara's side maintained their place at the top of the standings as they completed a ninth home victory from nine games at Firhill across all competitions this season.

They may not have been at their vintage best but the win was still deserved. Aaron Sinclair glanced home a Ross Forbes free-kick before Stuart Bannigan clinched the win with a curling, looping lob from the edge of the area.

Loading article content

It is not just an impressive first team McNamara has at his disposal. Amid the strength in depth lies a fierce competition for places driving his side forward as each player bids to retain his place for the following week.

The Thistle manager dropped club captain Alan Archibald to the bench for the latest fixture, with Hugh Murray returning after an absence of several weeks.

Those in the stands through injury or suspension watched on in delight as another three points were gathered but individual aspirations could be put on hold as the team con-tinues to build momentum.

"People have been out, 'Shuggy' [Murray] got a red card at Morton a while ago and people have stepped in and he has not been in the team since," Bannigan said. "I was playing left back while [Aaron Sinclair] was out so we have a lot of depth. The people on the bench want to come in, and stay in, the team.

"You need a big, strong squad and whoever comes in needs to do the business. It has happened so far, so hopefully we can keep that going.

"If there are injuries or suspensions I can cover a few different positions, anywhere in midfield or defence.

"With the big pitch at Firhill, there is a lot of space so our flair players can get on the ball. We have scored a lot here with the crowd's backing."

While Thistle show no signs of slowing their promotion push, Livingston now find themselves 10 points off the pace as Gareth Evans' first match in permanent charge end in disappointment.

"I thought we did okay first half," Evans said. "Partick are not top for no reason and played very well second half."