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Kilmarnock 2 Partick Thistle 1: What lies beneath now the threat for Firhill side

PARTICK THISTLE continue to be defined by a sense of wastefulness.

Kris Boyd is congratulated after applying the decisive touch to a rare Kilmarnock home win. Picture: SNS
Kris Boyd is congratulated after applying the decisive touch to a rare Kilmarnock home win. Picture: SNS

Their first season back in the top division for nine years was always going to be a cause for celebration regardless of the team's fortunes, but the optimism that swept over them after a positive start to the campaign has been replaced in recent times by feelings of frustration and anxious looks over their shoulder.

Alan Archibald's side are not playing poorly but results are not going for them. From a point where they were starting to entertain lofty thoughts about breaking into the top six and maybe even pushing for European football it has now become all about survival. Realistically, that was always going to be the case.

Archibald admitted on Saturday, following his side's 2-1 defeat away to Kilmarnock, that he would have been happy with 10th place at Christmas if offered such a scenario at the start of the season. The route to get there, however, must have been different than the manager had expected. Rather than toiling at the start then gradually picking up points, Thistle have endured boom then bust.

This was a sixth successive league match without a victory, the team having accrued just a solitary point in that period. Hearts' problems mean the chances of Thistle finishing bottom are remote but the introduction of a play-off featuring the team in 11th means danger still looms.

Profligacy continues to be the prime source of anxiety. Kris Doolan, who scored the equaliser at Rugby Park with a well-worked finish, can be excused blame having chipped in with seven goals so far, but his team-mates have all been culpable at various points of not taking their chances. The better team for long spells against Kilmarnock, Thistle wasted at least six or seven good opportunities to score, then watched as Kris Boyd stole the points for the hosts. Cutting out such inefficiency will surely be Thistle's new year resolution.

"I think we should have had three points here and we would have them if it hadn't been for missed chances, mine in particular," admitted Steven Lawless with candour, the midfielder having ballooned a second-half shot over the crossbar. "We created seven or eight chances away from home and dominated large spells of the game. I should have scored in the first half as well when I took it past Lee Ashcroft and took an extra touch that I didn't need. Usually I shank those ones and it goes in the bottom corner but it didn't work out that way [on Saturday].

"Their goalkeeper [Craig Samson] was superb as well. There was one save, from a Ross Forbes free-kick, which he made look easy but I could see that it was heading straight for the top corner - and then he got up to save the rebound as well. He did it with Kallum Higginbotham as well. Higgy sent him the wrong way and he still managed to keep it out.

"There have been a few games this season that we could have won but didn't, but this one was particularly disappointing because we'd played so well. In our two previous matches we'd tried to win ugly in a bid to get results but we played a lot of good football here. However, if we keep on playing like this and keep creating opportunities then I've no doubt that we'll move up the table."

While Thistle retired to reflect on another disappointing afternoon, there was relief among the Kilmarnock ranks. They, too, have struggled to accumulate points of late but goals from Chris Johnston and then Boyd secured a first home win in two months. They managed it with a sprinkling of youth throughout the side, with five of the starting line-up aged 20 or younger, something which Johnston believes offers hope for the future. "There are loads of youngsters at the club and we could definitely go the same way as Dundee United, for example," said the midfielder after his third goal in four games.

"As long as, when you get in for your first couple of games, you play well enough to build confidence, that should make sure you are able to go on. You look around the Premiership and see there are lots of youngsters going to get their chance with the way the set-up is with clubs. But, in the first case, you have to be good enough. You can't just play young players for the sake of it. We have to be worth it."

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