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Gallacher has been hands on in contest to be Thistle's No.1

It would seem a poor choice of words to suggest the gloves are off in the contest to be first-choice goalkeeper at Partick Thistle.

Neither Paul Gallacher nor Scott Fox would wish to do without the tools of their trade, while the expression also does not take into account the respect shared between the two players.

Their relationship was a curious one at the start of the season given that Fox, who started out as Thistle's No.1, was also prepared for matches by Gallacher, a former Scotland internationalist with designs on being a coach. The 34-year-old has since performed as the Firhill club's goalkeeping coach and as one of those trying to be earn a place in the starting XI.

Gallacher had seemed more adept at the former role, as a sequence of composed performances between the posts caused Fox to be called up to the Scotland squad in November. An injury would interrupt the progress of the 26-year-old and he has returned to find his mentor has taken his place in the team, with Gallacher expected to retain his place against Hibernian this afternoon.

"My coaching got him in the Scotland squad so it worked well there," said Gallacher, with a smile. "I came here with the attitude of getting into coaching when I finished playing and it has been a great learning curve for me to pit my wits against Scott - a young, up-and-coming goalkeeper.

"He is a fantastic goalkeeper and he got the nod so I just needed to push him as far as I can. We worked really hard together and he got his reward with his call-up. He got a little injury and that gave me the chance to come in and show the manager what I'm capable of."

He was able to restrict the threat of Aberdeen last month as Thistle won for the first time at home in the league this season. It has lifted the mood around Firhill and that would then be incubated in Manchester as Thistle spent last week training in England. "It was nice to get a bit of different scenery, get a bit of a laugh with the boys and we got a game of golf in as well. It was a great little week away," added Gallacher.

A match with Hibs today may feel much more like hard work, although the Easter Road side are hopeful that they will have cause to celebrate before kick off. Goalkeeper Ben Williams is awaiting the birth of his child and could miss the trip to Firhill if his partner goes into labour.

"It's all quiet on the baby front, for the moment," said Terry Butcher, the Hibs manager, whose teenage midfielder Sam Stanton was yesterday named SPFL Young Player of the Month for February. "So he will be in goals for us until the first contractions.

"I'd have no problems with Sean Murdoch coming in, he's the No.2 goalkeeper and he will become No.1 if Ben's good lady goes into labour."

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