THE start of an uncomfortable run of form would demand that Partick Thistle get themselves back into gear.
They appear to have stuck it in reverse.
There is some irony in that given the Firhill side's best days this season now seem to be behind them, with the last 14 matches having brought just one win and a good deal more misery. It is a sequence of results which has left Thistle's heads hanging so low that they are looking up at Ross County from the SPFL Premiership's relegation play-off place, while the two sides are now separated more clearly by momentum.
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A home defeat by St Johnstone earlier this week has been the most significant step back; the Firhill side conceded a goal within half an hour and surrendered not long afterwards.
Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager, has held his hands up too, since a coach will often accept the brunt of criticism, and he is entitled to expect a more compelling performance against St Mirren this afternoon. It is a match which will take place in Paisley but given the form Thistle have shown at Firhill this season - the side have still to win a league game there - they would perhaps be happier the further from home they get.
The Glasgow side could find it harder to get away from the relegation play-off place, though. Archibald considers his side's impoverished form to be symptomatic of the naivety within a squad unaccustomed to top-flight football. His preferred treatment is to source a more experienced player during this transfer window - most likely on loan - although the 36-year-old might be left with faith healing. Without another new signing, Archibald can only trust that his players learn from their errors.
"We need a bit more experience," said the Thistle manager. "St Johnstone showed that against us; their goalkeeper [41-year-old Steve Banks] was tying his laces in the final few minutes and sometimes it takes that little bit of experience to slow things down.
"We need to be a bit more streetwise. You get that from playing games and the guys will have learned a lot from playing last year. Some of these guys haven't got a lot of game time - James Craigen was playing university football two years ago. You only become more streetwise by playing games and learning from experienced professionals."