St Johnstone V Partick at McDiarmid Park : Match Preview

28 March 2014 05:01
St Johnstone V Partick - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Millar planning welcome back party

St Johnstone midfielder Chris Millar is aiming to welcome Tommy Wright back with another victory after winning both matches during the enforced absence of their manager.

Wright is set to be at McDiarmid Park on Saturday for the visit of Partick Thistle after recovering from a gall bladder operation.

The Perth club beat Hibernian and St Mirren while the Northern Irishman was in hospital, securing the final place in the Scottish Premiership's top six in the process.

Millar believes the professionalism of the squad, coupled with the coaching of Callum Davidson and Alex Cleland, ensured they performed well despite Wright's absence, but he is sure his return will give them another lift.

"We have an experienced squad here and boys who have been here for a number of years," the 30-year-old said.

"When it comes to a Saturday, everyone is focused, and we train hard every week.

"Callum and Eck (Cleland) generally do a lot of the coaching anyway and the gaffer manages it.

"So nothing has changed there and Callum has been in contact with the gaffer throughout the week when he has not been here.

"Everyone wants the manager to be about. He has had his operation and it will be good to have him about the boys again. Hopefully he can influence us and kick us on."

Saints clinched third place last season after pipping Inverness on the final day and they are now only four points behind Caley Thistle.

And with William Hill Scottish Cup glory in their sights, Millar is determined to keep their momentum going.

"Obviously the teams in third are maybe a wee bit out of reach but that's four wins in six games in the league and if we can do that hopefully we can claw up another couple of places and finish as high as possible," he said.

"We've still got a lot to play for. We've got a semi-final coming up against Aberdeen, there are places to play for, and it's bonus money and bonus position money as well. So we are looking to finish the season strongly."

Saints left-back Brian Easton could return but fellow defender Tim Clancy will be assessed after going off with a knock midway through the midweek win at St Mirren.

Kris Doolan spent five years scrapping with Partick Thistle to escape the Championship - and he does not fancy going back after just 12 months in top-flight.

The former junior player only penned his first full-time deal as a professional when he signed for the Jags in 2009.

But the 27-year-old's hard work paid off when he helped the Maryhill men end a nine-year wait for Scottish Premiership football by winning promotion last season.

However, fast forward 10 months and Alan Archibald's team now find themselves in a four-team scrap to avoid the relegation play-off spot.

But former Kello Rovers and Auchinleck Talbot frontman Doolan admits the thought of returning to the wildnerness of the Championship is the only motivation he needs to keep fighting for survival when they visit St Johnstone on Saturday.

He said: "I think we've hopefully got a good chance of safety. We're always looking up the way and I think we can do well against the teams round about us.

"We worked hard to get back up to the Premiership and we don't want it to be over after one season. This is a club that deserves to be in the top flight. Everything about it deserves to be in the Premier League and we're trying as hard as we can to keep them in the Premier League.

"When you compare life at the bottom of the SPFL to the top of the Championship, there is no comparison. We'd still rather be here scrapping for our lives than playing down there.

"We had a great time last year winning promotion. It's not been as much fun this year for the fans but I think they would still agree that there's been plenty good performances so I think we all want to stay in the Premier League and keep that going.

"Staying up in the Premiership is everything. If we can stay up this season then we can build and the club will develop - but first and foremost we need to stay in the Premier League."

Thistle boss Alan Archibald has a defensive crisis with Lee Mair set to join fellow centre-backs Conrad Balatoni and Aaron Muirhead on the sidelines.

Mair (ankle) is rated as extremely doubtful after injuring himself in Wednesday's 5-1 hammering by Celtic, while Balatoni (hand) and Muirhead (knee) are definitely out.

Kallum Higginbotham, meanwhile, is suspended while long-term absentees Isaac Osbourne (ankle) and Sean Welsh (groin) also remain on the sidelines.

Source: PA