GARY FRASER would not need to be told to keep his chin up.
It has become a natural reaction among this Partick Thistle squad, a group of players required to find a way to lessen the disappointment of recent league results and any temptation to look down. It might have been tempting to close their eyes on Saturday given the combination of a defeat by Hearts and a win for St Mirren, with the Firhill side sinking back into the relegation play-off spot in the SPFL Premiership.
They are just a point behind both Ross County and St Mirren but are still distinctive as the closest team to the edge. Fraser was invited yesterday to peer down at the prospect of competing with the likes of Dundee, Falkirk or Queen of the South for a place in the top flight next season and approached the subject with all the enthusiasm of someone with a fear of heights being coaxed to the edge of a cliff. The midfielder is sure the play-offs will look lovely, but even better from a distance.
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A belief that 11th place can be avoided this season is anchored by an enduring belief in the Thistle squad. Their proximity to the play-off place has often been put down to an inefficiency of individuals in front of goal - Thistle's top scorer this season is Kris Doolan with nine goals - but Fraser defended the form of individuals by referring to collective responsibility. He comprises part of a midfield which has not contributed a threat regularly either.
There are statistics which speak to the vulnerability of Thistle, although Fraser was not inclined to listen yesterday. Instead he will keep his ear to the ground for the sound of any points dropped by their rivals now that the league has split, with Thistle to face Kilmarnock in their next league match. A home fixture against St Mirren will follow a week on Friday.
"It's like a fresh start. We just need to take these five games as must-wins and we need to stick together and fight," said Fraser, speaking at Hampden yesterday to help promote the Topps Match Attax Swap and Play tour. "I'm a bit worried. I would be daft not to be. But I believe in the team and if we keep working hard we will be fine. Everyone will have the same spirit as us because they want to avoid the play-off but we will make sure that we fight harder than everyone else.
"I think it will come down to heart and taking responsibility. I think we will do that. We will try to play football when we can but I think we will need to clear our lines quickly.
"We know ourselves what we have to do. The manager has spoken to us about it but he expects us to know what to do."
That is sentiment which might also come in useful in a play-off, since the Glasgow side were able to keep their First Division rivals at arms length to collect the title last season. It is not an environment which the club intends to return to so quickly but Fraser is confident that his team-mates would prove hardy enough to fend off the ambitions of a team from the Championship.
"These games are always harder because they are a fight and a battle," added the midfielder. "We would need to match the battle and a lot of the boys worked really hard to get up last season. But I think everyone will take points off each other between now and the end of the season. Everyone needs to keep their heads up."
And make sure not to look down.