PARTICK Thistle manager Gary Caldwell says that his men won’t be shirking the physical challenge posed by Hearts when the sides meet in Monday night’s Scottish Cup quarter final at Firhill.

Caldwell was a spectator at Tynecastle on Wednesday night as Hearts went down to a late goal in a pulsating encounter with Celtic, and was impressed by what he saw from Craig Levein’s men.

But he is confident that he has the personnel to outfight and then outwit their Premiership opponents to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in 17 years.

“I think we have the players to cope with the physical battle, but we have to use our heads as well,” Caldwell said.

“You’re never going to have an easy draw at this stage of the competition, but we’ve been looking forward to this tie since the draw was made.

“We wanted to be at home and we got that. It’s not going to be easy by any means – I went to the Hearts - Celtic game on Wednesday night and they’re a very physical team, with quality and experience all over the pitch.

“We have to understand that there are many different ways to win that battle, and we have to use our heads and maybe win it in a different way.

“It’s not a macho contest where you want to see who the strongest player on the park is. You want to see who the best team is, and we will have to use our heads against Hearts in order to beat them.

“Every team has their style, and you have to impose your style on the opposition, but if we aren’t ready to battle and defend corners and stand up to them, then we’re not going to get the opportunity to impose our style on the game.

“We have to do that first and foremost.”

Thistle go into the game on the back of two desperately disappointing results, with a second half collapse against Ross County that ended their unbeaten start to the year followed up by a dismal 3-0 defeat at Dunfermline on Tuesday night.

But Caldwell isn’t concerned about the confidence levels of his players going into the tie, banking on the magnitude of the occasion to be all the motivation they require to shake those displays out of their system.

“It can’t affect us and that’s been the focus ever since Tuesday night,” he said. “Our second-half performance against Ross County obviously affected us at East End Park but we have to let it go, learn from it and focus on a tremendous opportunity.

“This is a Scottish Cup quarter-final and I told the players prior to the previous round that these opportunities don’t come around too often – you might think they do but they don’t.

“I also told them that I’d played in a League Cup final as a youngster at Hibs and I assumed that would happen every year and, of course, it didn’t. That’s why you have to take these chances when they come.

“It’ll be a huge challenge but one which I believe we can look forward to because we can cause them some problems.

“I don’t believe in free hits and I don’t believe that if we go out and lose then it’s ok.

“I believe it is a massive opportunity to get to a semi-final of the Scottish Cup, and we have to be ready for that when it comes.”