PARTICK THISTLE captain Stuart Bannigan is dreaming of leading his side out at Hampden after the Jags booked their place in the last eight of the Scottish Cup with the win over East Fife at the weekend.

Bannigan, who came through the ranks at Firhill, knows how much an appearance at the national stadium would mean to the club and the supporters, particularly after a traumatic last 18 months for everyone involved with Thistle.

To get there, they will have to overcome Hearts after landing them in the quarter-final draw last night, but Bannigan is full of belief that at this stage of the competition, anything can happen.

“It would be unbelievable to lead Thistle out at Hampden,” Bannigan said.

“The last time we were there was way back in 2002, so there are a whole new generation of Thistle fans that probably haven’t seen us at the national stadium in a major competition.

“We have given ourselves a massive chance and being at the latter stages of the cup just gives the whole club a great feeling.

“When it gets to this stage, you have to believe that you can do something, and you have a chance on the day, no matter who you face.

“We’re delighted to be in the last eight. It was always going to be a tough game at East Fife, but the conditions made it even tougher for us with the wind, so we were just happy to get the win and get into the next round.

“We just had to dig it out. We are a much different side to the one that were beaten at Bayview earlier this season, not just in terms of personnel, but we’re a tougher nut to crack.

“Even if we aren’t playing so well, we’re seeming to be able to grind out results in the last couple of weeks, and that’s a good sign for us coming into a crucial part of the season.”

For Thistle, it doesn’t get much more crucial than Saturday’s trip to face Alloa, with the carrot of jumping out of the relegation places on offer if they can win their fifth game in-a-row.

Bannigan is all too aware how pivotal a game it could prove to be in the Jags’ quest for Championship safety, but he is confident that they can continue to fight on two fronts.

Asked if he would sacrifice a cup run for safety, Bannigan said: “I’d love both to be honest! We’ve not had much cup success, and it would be something to cherish when you finish playing.

“So, if I had my way I would take both, but we certainly want to get away from that bottom spot in the league.

“No matter what the result was at the weekend there between Alloa and Falkirk, our game there this weekend was always going to be massive.

“It is an even bigger game now that we’ve drifted to the bottom of the table, albeit with a game in hand.

“We know how difficult it is going to be, Alloa have given us a few real tough games this season. They are a good side. They’ve maybe slumped a little bit recently, but we definitely know that it will be a really tough task.

“We also know though that with a win we can jump out of the relegation places, which would be a huge psychological boost for us, because we were seven or eight points behind them just a few weeks ago.

“So, we know just how big a game it is. I don’t think we could have envisioned this run we are on, and if we can keep it going as well as climbing out of the bottom two spots then it will be absolutely massive.”