IAN McCALL admits that the recent spate of injuries at Firhill have been taking their toll on his Partick Thistle squad – to the point where he has had to change the squad’s training regimen.

The Jags boss had just 13 outfield players and two goalkeepers to choose from going into last weekend’s Betfred Cup clash with Morton and is facing a similar scenario ahead of tomorrow’s League One fixture against East Fife.

Captain Ross Docherty and Brian Graham were both suspended for the Morton game and their return to the starting line-up will be well received – particularly after a week that saw Thistle lose Ross County loanee Blair Spittal to a hamstring injury and on-loan Rangers defender Rhys Breen, who is awaiting the results of a scan on his ankle.

It leaves McCall with just one able central defender, Darren Brownlie, to select tomorrow, with the Thistle manager conceding that he may have to squeeze a round peg into a square hole in a bid to get through this period of adversity.

He said: “Brian Graham and Ross Docherty will come back in but all the other ones… I think we’ve got nine out. And then today, Rhys Breen is away for an X-ray and may have broken his ankle or it might be a ligament strain, so from having four centre-halves we’ve now got one.

“I’d like to say it’s a chance for someone else but we haven’t got another centre-back. There are one or two boys that can play there so we just hope that we get over this situation. We’ve modified the training all week – we’ve really not done a lot of contact training yet today that happened. We hope it evens itself out but it will take a while to even itself out.”

Breen’s injury setback in Maryhill is the latest in a long line of accidents that have disrupted the Jags’ season since they returned to competitive action.

Some players have required surgery, others have picked up knocks that have kept them sidelined for weeks and all the while, McCall’s starting XI has chopped and changed as players drop out with depressing regularity.

It means that McCall’s plans for the season – about who he’d play, in what formation and the team’s overall continuity – have taken a significant hit, with the Thistle boss at a loss to explain the ever-lengthening queue outside the treatment room at Firhill.

“I genuinely don’t know [why there have been so many injuries],” McCall said.

“It started with Declan Glass when he did his ACL – that was on grass. Tam O’Ware did his hamstring on grass. There have been two or three knees, today’s an ankle.

“We completely modified training this week and there’s hardly been any contact but we’ll maybe need to modify things even more and have a look at the training schedule. Ultimately, you can examine it as much as you want but a lot of it is down to bad luck. It’s as simple as that and you’ve just got to get on with it.”

On how the injuries have disrupted Thistle's season, McCall continued: “In modern football and modern society you can’t say anything or it’s termed an excuse. Other than when you get a phone call and you have to tell people how many people are out, we haven’t really spoke about it. We’ve just got to get on with it.

“With Zak [Rudden], we had a team in mind but unfortunately we’ve not been able to do that yet and we’re eight games in. We hope that they all come back strong and fit and in a way, the shorter season causes a little bit of a problem with that. But anyway, that’s the situation with injuries. They’re something you just have to get on with and we will.”

That challenge begins in earnest tomorrow afternoon in Maryhill, where East Fife will be visiting on League One duty. After a run of games against sides expected to finish in the upper echelons of the third tier, the fixture list suddenly looks a little more accommodating to the Jags.

McCall understands the significance of being in a strong position after the first full round of fixtures and in a truncated season such as this, that effect is only going to be more pronounced. But the Thistle boss is confident that despite his depleted squad, he has the right players at his disposal to get the three points at Firhill.

He said: “I think it is a chance [to build momentum]. East Fife won’t be easy and they’ll enjoy coming to Firhill. If you look at our last two league games, the table could look very different if we didn’t lose goals in the 94th and 89th minute, or if we’d scored a penalty.

“It’s very, very thin lines for this team that’s new and has been put together. Our record at Firhill so far is good and in the Betfred Cup we played two games against Championship teams – bearing in mind that we were all celebrating Scotland beating Serbia on penalties – so I include both of those as wins. Our performances at Firhill have been strong and we have to try and keep that up.”

Thistle’s propensity for conceding late goals has often been their undoing this term but McCall is confident that the issue is more incidental than systemic, insisting there are no issues with his players’ fitness or concentration.

The return of Graham and Docherty – two key players under McCall – tomorrow afternoon after the pair served their suspensions by sitting out last weekend’s Betfred Cup game with Morton is a welcome boost for Thistle, with McCall adding that he has been impressed with the pair this season – aside from that error from Docherty that led to Cove Rangers’ last-gasp winner earlier this month.

“They’ve been excellent,” McCall said of the duo. “I think Docherty has been our best player so far this season and Graham’s been great too. [Stuart] Bannigan is really starting to come onto a game, too. There was a spine of a team that we had in mind that we felt was really strong, and Brian Graham and Ross Docherty were very much part of that, so it will be good to get them back.

“Ross Docherty against Cove Rangers was head and shoulders above everybody else on the pitch and he tries to dribble the ball out his own box. I’m not sure there’s a manager in British football that can do some drills to try and prevent that happening. I’ve had him for five years and that’s the first time he’s done it!

“Against Falkirk, the first goal is clearly offside and for the second we should have defended it better but there’s not a lot you can do. It’s certainly wasn’t fitness. Falkirk had a player going down with cramp towards the end – it was a heavy shift on a heavy pitch.

“That’s the big thing we’re hoping with modifying the training – we’ve got to keep them as fit as they are because they are pretty fit. There’s nothing you can really modify in training to stop players doing things like that.”

One player who will surely be looking to make an impact at the other end of the park against East Fife is Thistle forward Blair Lyons, who has struggled to nail down a place in McCall’s starting XI since joining up with the rest of the squad this summer after leaving Montrose.

Lyons has featured mostly as a substitute so far this term, leaving some fans clamouring to see more of the tricky goalscoring winger they’d heard about from the season before. Lyons, McCall stresses, has bags of potential – but the Thistle manager asked supporters to remain patient and allow Lyons time to settle into his new environment.

“Blair is going to be a slow burner with us,” McCall warned. “It’s quite obvious he’s got ability, it’s quite obvious he’s got pace, he had a good season in this league last season but he’ll tell you himself he’s struggled to come to terms with the demands of full-time training.

“He hurt his calf and then he hurt his ankle so he’s getting there but it’s important that we don’t rush him or push him into things. The other week there he was saying to me that Brian Graham was telling him to run about and press people whereas before he was just wanting to get the ball and get at people.

“You’ve got to do both sides of the job to play. We’ve got high hopes for him and it’s just taking a little time, which I think is perfectly normal.”