PARTICK THISTLE’S 5-0 dismantling of Montrose was meaningful in more ways than one for Richard Foster. Sure, the veteran full-back was delighted with his side’s swashbuckling display as their imperious form since the lower league restart continued but it was a day of personal satisfaction for the defender, too.

It was Foster who invitingly teed up Zak Rudden to get the blitz at Firhill under way on Thursday night and while he was pleased to register an assist and put in an assured display, he revealed after the match that he had struck a significant milestone in the victory.

“For the last few years I’ve been trying to keep track and by my calculations, that’s my 600th appearance,” he said.

“I got to 500 a few years ago and someone asked me what’s next, so I said ‘600, I hope’. You just want to keep playing as long as possible. I feel quite proud of myself that I’ve managed to get to 600 games and I still feel in good shape.

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“It was nice to celebrate it with a win because I’m one of those guys where if we got beat against Montrose then I wouldn’t even bother mentioning it. Because at the end of the day, the result is the most important thing. So it’s nice to get a win and such a comfortable one as well.”

After the full-time whistle, Jags boss Ian McCall raved about the experience provided by the likes of Foster and his defensive team-mate Steven Bell, insisting that their value off the park is almost equal to what they provide on it.

At 35, Foster knows he is no spring chicken. But after coming through the youth ranks at Pittodrie and learning first-hand just how important it is for senior players to take the next generation under their wing, he says he enjoys mentoring his younger team-mates off the pitch.

“I think it’s an important part of why the manager brought me here,” he said. “When I was breaking through at Aberdeen I had guys like Russell Anderson and Scott Severin who helped me as a young player.

“It’s kind of an unwritten rule that you pass on any experience you have and hopefully the players can learn from you. The biggest thing I tell the young boys is that you’re going to have bad games, bad touches, bad passes, but you can’t dwell on that.

“We’ve got a lot of good players. Just look at Zak Rudden – I think he’s a top, top player but sometimes he gets on top of himself. But more recently we’ve all seen the Zak Rudden that we know he can be, the one that we see in training.

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“He’s been outstanding and he’s made a massive difference for us; someone at the top end of the pitch with his pace and power is a huge asset for us. You just try and help these guys along. I got loads of help when I was young and fully appreciated it, and now I’m just trying to do the same for the young guys here.”

In the first half of the campaign, Thistle were perhaps best characterised as a side that defended with a steely resolution but despite the abundance of goalscoring opportunities that fell their way, they just couldn’t seem to get the ball in the back of the net.

There have been no such concerns since the restart, however. With 19 goals in their last seven outings in League One, the handbrake has been well and truly relinquished. As a defender, Foster is naturally more concerned with keeping clean sheets first and foremost but the left-back reckons Thistle’s newfound gung-ho attitude is wearing down already tired opponents.

“[Our defensive record] gives us a platform to go on and win games,” he explained. “The first few games back we were giving teams a lift, giving them something to hang on to. It’s the oldest cliché in football but goals do change games.

“If teams are tired it gives them a lift, gives them something there to hold on for and in the last few games we’ve not done that. You see that when we score first, team’s invariably wilt a bit. The energy saps out of them and we’re able to take control of the game and win comfortably.”

To that end, the occasional marauding run down the left from Foster can be a particularly potent weapon in Thistle’s arsenal. Against Airdie, Foster teed up Brian Graham after winning the ball at the halfway line and driving menacingly down the wing, and he grabbed another assist on Thursday to open the floodgates.

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The link-up play between Thistle’s players in the final third has noticeably improved in the last few weeks but Foster lives by one simple rule. Don’t work harder: work smarter.

“To be fair, it’s just timing,” he said of his assist for Rudden against Montrose. “I was just waiting for the wide player to switch off and then I’d make my run. It was a great pass, it’s right into me and didn’t need to break stride.

“I took a good touch but then Zak makes it very, very simple for me by taking up a great position. Brian was shouting for the cut-back – it doesn’t matter where you are in the box, big Brian wants you to pass him the ball. So he’s wanting the cut-back and I think the defenders read that. Zak takes up a great position and that allows me to just roll the ball across to him and it’s a good finish. I think from there we dominated the game.”

He continued: “It’s actually been pretty easy [settling in at left-back]. I broke through at Aberdeen at left-back and in my 600 games, I’ve probably played about 300 of them there. It’s not an alien position to me and I’m comfortable playing with my left foot. I don’t really mind what side of the pitch I’m on.

“In James Penrice, Scott Tiffoney and Connor Murray we’ve got players who want the ball. So it’s easy for me – I get the ball and give it to them as early as possible and then back up. Or if they drift inside, I try and time my run forward.

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“The players around me have made it easier. I was playing primarily alongside big Daz Brownlie at left centre-half and I’ve got a good relationship with him. Now Steven Bell has come in for the last few games and I’ve got a good relationship with him too.

“We talk to each other throughout games and sometimes I’ll know where he is just by the sound of his voice. That’s the kind of experience you try and pass down to the younger boys. You can make a game a lot easier if you talk more.”