PARTICK THISTLE assistant Neil Scally reckons the future is bright at Firhill after watching his side lose 2-0 to Hearts in their final pre-season friendly against Hearts on Friday afternoon.

The Jags named an almost entirely different starting XI from the one that drew 2-2 with Ayr United two days previously, with lots of young players on the fringes of the first-team squad given a run-out against Robbie Neilson’s men.

Thistle matched their opponents for 60 minutes at Firhill before wilting in the final half-hour of an entertaining contest in Glasgow’s west end but Scally found plenty of reasons to feel encouraged after the final whistle.

Midfielder Mouhamed ‘Sena’ Niang was a particular standout, marshalling Hearts skipper Steven Naismith admirably and keeping the Scotland internationalist relatively quiet – not bad at all for a 20-year-old who spent last season on loan at Montrose in Scotland’s third tier.

Scally said of the combative midfielder: “In terms of his aggression, how he was pressing the ball and his fitness levels, he was brilliant.

“To play against Hearts – who we know have a great squad – with some of our fringe boys as well as first team boys, to compete well for 60 minutes, we were pleased with it as a workout.”

Another player who stood out at Firhill was 24-year-old Blair Lyons, who was with Sena at Montrose during the previous campaign. The winger agreed a pre-contract move to the Jags in January and while Scally insisted that he is far from the finished product, he reckons Lyons gives Thistle something they have lacked in recent years: pace and trickery out wide.

“That was something that we analysed,” he said. “We figured we wanted to add a little more pace and some players that we thought could make something out of nothing.

“Blair’s one of them and Connor Murray is another that we think will add a wee bit of excitement to the team.

“Blair definitely catches the eye when he’s running at people, he just needs to work on a few things when we’re not on the ball, like making sure he’s switched on and his body angles are good.”

Meanwhile, Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says he is pleased with his side’s performances ahead of their opening fixture of the new campaign against Inverness on Tuesday night at Tynecastle – but refused to get carried away with his side’s performances in the close season.

He said: “I still think it will take a few competitive games to get going. I think these games are good but there are a lot of changes in the game. I think we made 10 changes at half-time.

“I was pleased with the work rate and the clean sheet and I was pleased to get the result. It’s been a decent pre-season but it means nothing. We go into the game on Tuesday and that’s when it starts.

“I’ve been in loads of pre-seasons where I’ve won all the games and then lose the first few competitive games and vice-versa. It means nothing.”

Former Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday made his first appearance in maroon on Friday afternoon but supporters will need to wait a little longer until he becomes a regular fixture in the starting XI, Neilson added – because he has barely kicked a ball in months.

The 28-year-old was forced off shortly before half-time after picking up a knock but Neilson said the injury was nothing too serious, and revealed that it will take a few more games until he’s fully up to speed.

“He’s fine, he had a tight thigh,” Neilson said of the midfielder. “It’s his first game since March and he’s only trained a few days. We were going to take him off at half-time anyway. We’ll let him settle down over the next couple of days.

“We’ll use the Betfred Cup and a couple of league games as well [to ease him in]. It’s been a long time he’s been out.”