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Caldwell hails Partick Thistle performance as best of reign

Partick Thistle manager Gary Caldwell hailed his side’s performance against Ross County as the best of his tenure as the Jags reached the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup.

It has been a turbulent few weeks off the pitch at Firhill as a boardroom reshuffle and takeover speculation has overshadowed encouraging performances on the pitch.

A thrilling cup-tie ended with Thistle securing a 3-2 win courtesy of Steven Saunders’ 114th-minute header and Caldwell insisted his players deserve all the praise.

“For the whole 120 minutes, it was by far the best game we’ve had since I’ve been in charge. We played on our terms, there were mistakes in the game but we can rectify and work on that,” said Caldwell, who took charge last October.

“What I saw was the mentality from a group of players which was unbelievable, they kept going and kept pushing and you saw the reaction from the subs when we scored.

“There was a real togetherness and spirit and that’s what we need to go forward, it’s what we need to get success but I’m delighted with the performance more than anything.

“We’ve worked on being a more aggressive team and being on the front foot and dictating the game the way we wanted it to be played and I thought the boys were outstanding.”

The game burst into life during the second half after a drab opening 45 minutes. Former Thistle fans favourite Blair Spittal opened the scoring when he arrowed a stunning effort beyond Scott Fox on the hour.

The hosts barely threatened until veteran striker Kenny Miller swept home to equalise after 80 minutes to take the game into extra time. Academy graduate James Penrice then put Thistle ahead after 97 minutes with a lovely free-kick from 25 yards out.

But Ross County have been in excellent form this season and refused to give up as substitute Harry Paton made it 2-2 with an excellent low strike beyond Fox after 105 minutes.

The second half of extra time resembled a basketball game as play raced from one end to the other with both sides pushing for a winner, which eventually came courtesy of a Saunders header from Penrice’s corner.

County co-manager Steven Ferguson remained upbeat despite crashing out the cup, saying: “We can’t be too critical of the players because they have been excellent for us.

“Sometimes you need to credit the opposition because Partick Thistle have had lots to deal with off the pitch but they played well today.”