SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP

Firhill Stadium, Scotland

Referee: B Madden | Attendance: 6540

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Partick Thistle

  • Aaron Muirhead 86' PEN

1 - 1

FT

Heart of Midlothian

  • Jamie Walker 88'

Balatoni: Wounded Hearts a threat

Partick defender Conrad Balatoni is braced for a meeting with a Hearts side who are determined to defy the odds in the same way as the Jags did last season.

Balatoni and his team-mates delivered a message to the doubters when they clinched the First Division title last season after feeling they had been written off in some quarters as too inexperienced.

Hearts have been classed as clear relegation favourites following their 15-point deduction for going into administration and the lossof most of their experienced players.

But they clawed back the first three points of their punishment last weekend with a 1-0 win over Hibernian and former Hearts youth-team player Balatoni is well aware of the quality in the Tynecastle squad, six of whom were named in the Scotland Under-21 squad for this week's friendly defeat by England.

"They have some of the best young talent in Scotland and that is proved by the Under-21 caps," the 22-year-old said.

"A lot of people write them off just because of what's happened with the 15-point deduction but I know they are a good side and they will be going out to prove everyone wrong, just like we were last season.

"Once people say you can't do something it just makes you want to do it even more. We will be ready for them coming out and trying to get the three points."

Thistle boss Alan Archibald believes Hearts will use being written off as a motivation tool.

"We definitely used that to our advantage," Archibald said. "People knocked us down and we used that to spur us on.

"I can see a lot of similarities in the Hearts squad. They are very young but there is a togetherness and unity similar to our own.

"You can see them all fighting for each other on the pitch.

"I watched them last week and they have a very, very tight group of boys. They have a unity and something to fight for and that shows on the pitch."

Hearts head into the game on a high following last weekend's derby win over Hibernian.

But boss Gary Locke admits his preparations have been hit hard by a number of his youthful squad being away on international duty this week as they aim to further slash the deduction they started the season with for going into administration.

He said: "Sunday was great but the rest of the week has been pretty much a disaster to be fair.

"We've not had any players, we haven't had anyone on the training ground so the preparations for this game certainly have not been great at all.

"Sunday was a huge plus for us, not just because it was Hibs, but because it was important to get three points.

"We've got to try to dig into the 12 points and this will be another difficult game because Partick are absolutely flying at the moment.

"I've seen them a couple of times myself and they have started the season really well. They have been fantastic in every game.

"They have good, attacking players and I think they will do really well this season. It will be a tough test for us."

Hearts will be without experienced campaigner Ryan Stevenson for the foreseeable future after he suffered medial ligament damage against Hibs.

Locke said: "I'm gutted for the lad. I've seen it again and it was a poor challenge and I'm going to lose him for a number of weeks.

"I've said all along we've got a good squad but injuries and suspensions are going to affect us and that's me lost one of the most influential and experienced players in the team for a good eight to 12 weeks.

"Hopefully we can get him back sooner but it's a huge blow for us."

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