Partick Thistle manager Kris Doolan has welcomed the return of Stuart Bannigan to add even more experience to his confident side ahead of their play-off final against Ross County.
The 30-year-old midfielder suffered a calf strain in the first half of Thistle’s quarter-final first-leg win over Queen’s Park, while Cammy Smith is also set to return after missing the semi-final games against Ayr with a groin issue.
The Jags have scored 16 goals in the cinch Premiership play-offs so far and Doolan has backed his players to handle the occasion ahead of Thursday’s first leg at Firhill.
“Stuart is back training now which is brilliant,” he said. “A guy like Stuart Bannigan coming back in lifts a team even more, as if they needed anything else to lift them. Even just to see him in training again… the boys got a wee spring in their step.
“He is such a big player for us and it’s great to see him back there leading within a group. I see a lot of leaders in the team and Stuart is one of them.
“You need that type of experience at this stage and it rubs off on the younger ones. They learn how to carry themselves, not to get carried away, not to get flustered and to enjoy it, embrace it.
“The play-off games are notoriously frantic and you have to understand how to handle that, but we have a lot of seasoned professionals, guys who have been through these type of games before, have played in the Premiership and top end of the Championship.
“We have good players who can handle the pressure. That’s shown in the four games we have had, we have not only scraped through the games, we have come flying through the games.”
Thistle have had a week to prepare for both legs against Ayr and will go into Thursday’s game with two more days of rest than County.
“I feel as if we are in the best shape we can be in,” Doolan said. “I think the boys have learned a lot about dealing with the play-offs, we have had four games under that pressure and scored 16 goals.
“To handle that type of pressure in the play-offs is a big feather in the cap of those players because I have been in the flipside of it. I have been in the Premiership side coming into the play-offs off the back of a season where you are used to losing games, and it becomes really difficult to turn a team round who have such good momentum.
“The four games we have had have been a great learning curve but also made us get stronger.
“If you are winning games, you don’t feel tired, you don’t feel sluggish. Our boys are desperate to play and they are full of energy.
“The confidence we have, we don’t come into these games fearful. We will be understanding of how difficult it is, we will give respect to Ross County because they are the Premiership side, but we play to win in every game and I see that mentality day in, day out.”