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Catcalls will get catty response

Kallum Higginbotham cracked a smile within a minute of sitting down.

Kallum Higgenbotham recalls an earlier meeting with Motherwell. Picture: SNS
Kallum Higgenbotham recalls an earlier meeting with Motherwell. Picture: SNS

It was just wide enough for a moment of broad humour to escape. He has impressed as a creative midfielder for Partick Thistle this season and performed just as well in a press conference this week, revealing a side of his character which comes to the surface whenever the 24-year-old senses ripples of laughter.

The midfielder had been put up to preview a league match away to Motherwell but his sense of humour lurked closer to home, where on-loan West Ham United player George Moncur has become his new flatmate. "He's got his earrings in and loves a sunbed," said Higginbotham. "He is bringing a bit of Essex to Scotland."

It was a cheeky remark but the Thistle midfielder has previous this season, turning to face Motherwell supporters in an earlier meeting and raising a finger to his lips in response to some catcalls from the stands. Having spent time on loan at the Lanarkshire club last year, Higginbotham was willing to go along with the suggestion that such ire was likely a result of his familiarity, the sort of thing which footballers will often file under the phrase "just football".

He returned to the subject moments later to confess that he had something to do with it too. "They had a player down and they were giving me stick, probably because I wasn't putting the ball out - we came close to scoring as well," he said. "I told them to shoosh.

"It's down to the referee to tell me to put the ball out. We were 1-0 down and needed a goal. I play for Partick now, I don't play for Motherwell, and so I was just doing my job. If we had scored then we would have scored. This is the club I play for now."

Thistle can perhaps be forgiven for exploiting any advantage that comes their way, since the Glasgow side have won just once in 15 matches in the SPFL Premiership. The club are a full 22 points below Motherwell in the table, although Thistle's greater concern will be the prospect of Ross County, St Mirren and Kilmarnock all edging out of reach.

Thistle could rise to ninth in the table with a win today, although safety will still feel a little too far off for comfort. "With each game that goes by we are getting closer and closer to the end of the season,"added Higginbotham. "But I think we are in a position which we don't deserve to be in as we have played some really good stuff this season, but it is late goals and things like that which have prevented us from picking up points. Hopefully, that will change this weekend.

"The bunch of players we have are still young. We brought in Lee Mair and he has given us a bit more experience and you can see that as we've only conceded twice in the last three games. Hopefully, it will help us start to pick up points."

That is the basic necessity for a club towards the bottom of the league. It is also the ambition for a player more accustomed to the high life, James McFadden having emerged as a prominent part of a Motherwell side which is still intent on finishing in second place this season. The forward has drawn praise for his recent performances, but resisted the invitation to talk about his own form in deference to that of his team.

"We are above Dundee United and we are just below Aberdeen, so we are as good as them, and obviously we finished second last year, so we need to be aiming for that again," said McFadden, whose side are only a point behind Aberdeen in the table. "We are quite happy to go about our business, win six games in a row and get hardly any credit for it. That's fine by us, we will keep digging in and keep trying to win every game.

"We expect to be up there and don't want any praise for doing well. We know what we want to do. Celtic are going to walk the league but no team has achieved anything yet."

It was an earlier meeting with Thistle which sparked McFadden's rejuvenation - the forward scoring one goal in a 5-1 victory and coming close to a second, only for his shot to rebound back off the crossbar. That win would comprise his first goal of the campaign and McFadden has acknowledged that he is revelling in his current form.

"It was probably a wee bit of a turning point for me this season and performances have been better since," he said. "I think I'm suited better to playing through the middle. I can probably have more of an effect on the game. I have enjoyed it and the team has been playing well, and we have been getting some decent results."

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