HOW can a team that was a touch unlucky not to beat a top six Premiership side over two games be fighting to stay out of the third tier of Scottish football?

The answer is because it’s Partick Thistle and they do things differently in Maryhill.

Hearts were the better team in the first game and Tuesday’s replay, which they won 2-1, but the Championship strugglers were not so far behind.

Indeed, had referee Bobby Madden had a better view of Christophe Berra clipped the heels of Miles Storey, he would surely have awarded Thistle an injury time penalty at Tynecastle

Gary Caldwell, the Thistle manager, described his players as brave in terms of them getting on the ball and trying to be positive. They were that and a lot more.

Joe Cardle, a recent acquisition, agreed that it was odd a group of players with such talent find themselves in a dreadful position.

He said: “I came in January I said to myself: ‘Why are this team so low down the league?’ If you look at the quality we have in the changing room, it is hard to understand why we have been at the bottom for so long.

“We’ve had a couple of bad results since I’ve been here, against Dunfermline and Ross County, but apart from that, I think, the boys have been spot-on. The quality of the training, the tempo of the training, and we get to a match-day then the standard has been high.

“We need to carry that one now. We know we’re in a situation that the next whatever games we have are cup finals. Every single one of them.

“Partick Thistle have been in the top league for so long now and there has been a lot of changes, a big turnover at the club, and I think it has taken the guys six or seven months to work out where they are.

“Look, there are no easy games in the Championship. You come against teams such as Alloa and it’s always a touch game. We know that now. We know the situation we’re in.

“We got a great result against Dundee United last Saturday and now we can concentrate on the league from now until the end of the season. It’s our bread and butter. We need to pick up points, starting on Saturday, and get ourselves up that league table.”

What both quarter final legs showed was that Thistle have some fight about them and they’ve given themselves a chance.

If they beat Falkirk, a point better off, away on Saturday they will move to third bottom and out of the play-off place. If they can win, and Queen of the South lose to Ayr United at Somerset, they will jump to eighth.

Cardle said: “The game against Falkirk on Saturday is massive for us. It is as important a game as we will play all season. They dripped points at Ross County the other night but, for us, we just need to concentrate on ourselves and get the win.”

“We put them under pressure in the last 15 minutes and it wasn’t as if we were just lumping balls in the box. There was quality there when we got in the final third. We know ourselves that we can create chances, and it was just a case of putting them away which we weren’t able to do.

“We have enough strikers, enough forward players, to do that until the end of the season.

“It was horrific in the dressing room on Tuesday because we were positive going into the replay. We knew what Hearts had, they are obviously a good team, but we felt we had enough. Losing is never nice. We could have got ourselves to Hampden and a semi-final which would have been some achievement for this football club.

“We were the better team for some of the match but we’re not in the hat. Hearts have Inverness, just a game away from the final, so what an opportunity for them. So, we are devastated. There aren’t many times in your career when chances like this one come about.”