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Fox holds starting role in his hands

Scott Fox wore the gloves for Partick Thistle last season.

They were intended only to keep his hands warm after the young goalkeeper had been left out in the cold, rather than help his side keep a hold of a place in the SPFL Premiership. Having started the campaign as No.1 at the Firhill club, Fox spent the last four months numbered instead among the substitutes.

A diminished role within the squad was discomfiting, not least since he had recently been called up to the senior Scotland squad. Fox was included in the group ahead of friendlies against the United States and Norway. That was followed up two months later with time spent away from the action against the likes of Ross County and Kilmarnock.

That was a fall from grace which resulted in bruised pride. But Fox has healed and will now try to use such a painful experience to his advantage this term, having retaken his place in goal as Thistle won 4-0 against Ross County on Wednesday night. The 27-year-old will expect to keep his place when his side alight at Dens Park this afternoon.

"It was hard last year when I was sitting on the bench and went from a high to a low, massively, very, very quickly," said Fox, whose side have only Sean Welsh sidelined for the trip to face Dundee. "I couldn't chap the gaffer's door because he [fellow goalkeeper Paul Gallacher] was doing so well. It was hard and it just drove me on in the summer to get back in the team and try to produce what I did last year.

"Psychologically it's going to push me on. Times are going to get hard but I can't let my performances drop because I don't want that to happen again. It was massive for me to get the nod [on Wednesday] because Gall did so well last year. I couldn't have had a problem if he played and I dare say he wouldn't hold it against me."

Indeed the experienced former Scotland goalkeeper has been among Fox's most ardent supporters since joining Thistle. Gallacher, who also works as the club's goalkeeping coach, has made sure that his young team-mate knows that such support will not falter as a result of their competition.

"Gall spoke to me on Friday and told me I was playing," Fox added. "He was disappointed, but he encouraged me too. It's good to have someone in your corner like that."

Jim McAlister is prepared to come out fighting from his own corner this afternoon. The Dundee midfielder had been a regular starter for his side last season as they earned promotion back to the top flight, but has found his place taken up since by players brought in over the summer. Gary Harkins, Kevin Thomson and Simon Ferry have instead emerged as a first-choice midfield triumvirate.

Thomson - who is also the new club captain - will miss the visit of Thistle due to a calf injury, though, and McAlister has been informed that he will step into the breach. "I had a chat with the gaffer after the Peterhead game recently," said McAlister, whose side will also be without suspended striker Phil Roberts this afternoon.

"If I am given the opportunity against Partick then it is down to me to take it. There is a lot of competition for places and it is good for the club. It keeps everyone on their toes and that's the way it should be."

The midfielder is wary of the challenge posed by Thistle, a team which is now in their second successive season in the top flight. "They are a year on in this league," McAlister added. "Experience-wise they have some good players and they got off to an incredible start in midweek as Ross County are no mugs."

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