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Thistle unable to put price on a home victory

Stuart Bannigan keeps encountering the same question.

Supporters, friends, family, journalists all keep asking one query: when will Partick Thistle win at Firhill? They have not managed to earn three points at home in the league all season, and it could become the fundamental flaw to their season. Bannigan insists it has not yet become a psychological problem, but it needs to be overcome. "We need to quieten a few people," he said.

The visit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle today provides a chance for Thistle to arrest a poor run. The sense is of a team who have adapted to the top flight after earning promotion, but are not yet well-equipped enough to be consistent. Thistle were bright at first, but goals and points have become more scarce. Alan Archibald is seeking reinforcements on loan for the rest of the season. For now, though, the current players just want to register a victory at home so that they can change the narrative of their campaign.

"Everyone keeps asking us about this home win," Bannigan said. "It will come, we need to keep believing. Every weekend it seems to be that we come away with the same old story - that we're doing enough in games but not getting the results. I get fed up talking about it. I answer the same questions over and over but we have to deal with that and do something about it. Three points would be the perfect Christmas present.

"We keep saying we're playing well. It's just not falling for us. We put pressure on ourselves to do well, we know we're in a battle at the bottom but we've got a run of games coming up that we feel we can take points from. Our home record doesn't play on our minds. We feel positive going into every game, we know we've got a good team and we're happy with the way we play. We maybe just need someone to help Kris Doolan score a couple of goals."

Thistle defeated Inverness earlier in the campaign, winning 2-1 at the Caledonian Stadium last October. A similar result would establish a sense of optimism ahead of the second half of the term; Hearts seem without hope at the bottom of the table, but the clubs gathered above them are seeking to avoid the play-off place.

"Survival is the key but we want to look above us as well," Bannigan said. "We're all young boys trying to prove something, but we're in a battle and need to get out of that first."

One of Thistle's most immediate priorities will be quelling the threat of Billy McKay, with Peterborough United the latest club taking a keen interest in the Inverness striker. It is understood the Sky Bet League 1 club have asked the Highlanders to name their price for the Northern Ireland internationalist, with a fee of around £1m thought to be the least that the SPFL Premiership side would accept for a player who has already scored 17 goals this term.

Rotherham and Burnley are also known to have their eyes on McKay, who is contracted for another 18 months, but manager John Hughes is refusing to entertaining transfer talk. "Billy is absolutely different class," he said. "He is at the stage now where everyone is on the outside looking in, wanting to see what he is all about.

"I described Billy as like Anthony Stokes when I first worked with him. Then when I thought about it, I saw Billy more like Owen Coyle. He was the same in stature, with a great left foot. Not the quickest but his movement set him apart. Like Billy, he scored all kinds of goals, near post, back-post, headers, volleys. He was always on the defenders shoulder and you could rarely read his runs.

"Billy is very much like that. What makes him special is he is a really humble boy. Really down-to-earth, quiet, just trains away, laughs, jokes, gets on with his football - a pleasure to work with."

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