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Focus is on recruitment to add new life to Thistle

Partick Thistle are stuck in a rut.

Alan Archibald is no further forward in his pursuit of Farid El Alagui, the former Falkirk striker
Alan Archibald is no further forward in his pursuit of Farid El Alagui, the former Falkirk striker

Morale at Firhill does not reflect the run of misfortune and disappointment that the team has fallen into, but results do. They have yet to win a league game at home this season, they are third bottom of the SPFL Premiership and the promise of the early weeks of the season has drifted away to leave only a sense of frustration. "We're just not getting the rub of the green," said Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager.

The collapse of Hearts' finances has removed some of the immediate alarm from the other clubs gathering at the bottom of the table. Administration, and the reliance on a very young, inexperienced and inconsistent squad has left the Edinburgh side adrift. There is still a play-off place to be avoided, but other sides are so closely bunched that nobody needs to start fretting yet. Even so, there is a realisation at Firhill that their campaign needs to be revived, or else it could be lost.

Archibald has a limited squad, so the focus is on recruitment. Thistle are seeking to sign players on loan for the second half of the season, including Gary Fraser, who has just returned to his parent club Bolton Wanderers after spending the first half of the campaign at Firhill. Archibald also hopes to sign former Falkirk striker Farid El Alagui on loan from Brentford. Only Hearts and Hibernian have scored fewer than Thistle's 14 league goals this season, but the manager is looking to strengthen every area of the team, not just up front.

"There has been no progress on the loan move for Farid El Alagui," Archibald said. "We just made an enquiry to his club and that's as far as it's gone. We've got a few targets out there but we're waiting for people to make decisions. It's down to their parent clubs whether they can go out on loan or not. We'd like a wee bit of experience if we can get it. But they're hard to get, as we found out in the summer.

"Agents aren't throwing players at us. It's a wee bit different from the summer. It's like a property chain. Managers need to see what they're getting in before they know who they can let out. It's a bit frustrating but we knew that would be the case.

"The boys need a hand. We've lost Ozzy [Isaac Osbourne], Gary Fraser and Sean Welsh, who are all key players. So we're down to the bare bones. We have a big January coming up and before that two home games in a short space of time. We'll be playing the teams round about us next month, so we know how vital it is to take points from them. I don't think you can ignore what other teams are doing.

"We'll have to start winning games ugly. We're not asking for any favours from anyone else. We have to go out and start winning games. One victory could spark a run. But the mood has been okay, considering we've had such a bad run."

Archibald will consider free agents, but is more keen on signing players on loan because their fitness levels will be higher and allow them to make an immediate impact. Fraser has been suspended, and if he returns he would miss the first game next month when the window reopens because the abandonment of the game against St Johnstone means that it does not count as part of his suspension. That irks Archibald, but the season will not hinge on an administrative quirk.

Thistle have generally played well during this first season back in the top flight. Their football can be crisp and considered, but too often it has lacked an end product. At the weekend, they drew level with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, having performed brightly throughout the game, only to concede a late winning goal to Kris Boyd's deflection of Jackson Irvine's shot. Two games in quick succession at home, to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Boxing Day and then Motherwell on Sunday, could shape the second half of the season for Archibald's team.

Thistle need lifted, if not in terms of spirit then at least in decisiveness and good fortune. Their opponents on Thursday will be buoyed by their last display, even if it ended in a 4-3 defeat by Aberdeen, because a three-goal fightback in the second half told of the team's resolve and fighting heart, qualities that John Hughes would demand of his teams.

"Hopefully we can exploit any defensive vulnerability that Inverness have," Archibald said. "They lost four goals at the weekend but they showed great spirit in pulling three back against a very good Aberdeen side. We got a great victory up there but they are a hard team to play against. The boys have been buoyant and they went back to passing the ball at the weekend. We're roughly where we expected to be. We had a good start and hopefully that's us had our bad run."

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