KEVIN HOLT was relieved to provide the killer blow against Stranraer on Saturday in the second round of the SPFL Trust Trophy but the Jags defender admits the game should have been dead and buried long before his injury-time intervention wrapped up the win for Ian McCall’s side.

Thistle had taken the lead early on through Tunji Akinola’s superb strike on the turn after their hosts had failed to clear a corner and despite weathering a heavy barrage until half-time, managed to cling on for 1-0.

Stranraer were an altogether different beast after the interval though, with Jamie Hammill’s team probing and asking a few awkward questions of the visitors’ defence before Holt bundled in a corner in stoppage time to secure the Jags’ passage to the next round of the competition.

“The longer it stays at one nil, the more they have a chance to get back into the game,” Holt reasoned. “They made a few subs and got on top of us for 15-20 minutes in the second half so we just have to ride that out.

“If we don’t take the chances that we create – we were saying at half-time that it could have been three or four nil. And no disrespect to Stranraer but that would kill the game. But we didn’t take those chances and fair play to them, they came into it in the second half and had a few chances themselves.

“In every game, I think every team is going to get at least 10 or 15 minutes when they’re on top in the game, so it’s about how you ride it out as a team. I think we’ve got a good shape about us now so that when we are under the cosh, we’re in a better shape and we can ride those tricky spells out.”

Holt has been something of a revelation in the Thistle rearguard since moving to left centre-back but it is a role the 28-year-old is accustomed to after spending plenty of time learning the position during his two years in Cyprus previous to joining the Jags.

“I spoke to the gaffer in the summer when I signed about playing there and obviously I played left-back when I was last in Scotland with Queens and Dundee before that,” Holt recalled. “When I was away [in Cyprus] I played centre-half and I did really enjoy it.

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“As soon as I went in at centre-back I felt really comfortable and felt I could help the team, and obviously results have been good since I went there."

Akinola, Holt’s defensive partner for the last two games, registered his first goal in the men’s game with a finish more fitting a centre-forward than a centre-back at Stair Park. Holt admits the quality of the strike caught him a little off-guard – before adding that the 22-year-old West Ham academy graduate will be giving his manager a selection headache ahead of this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with Inverness.

“It was a great finish! I’ve never seen him hit one like that in training,” Holt grinned. “He’s been good since he came in up at Arbroath.

“Ciaran [McKenna] is injured so Tunji’s slotted in but he’s a bit like me – he’s played at right-back and at centre-half, and he’s looked solid through the middle. He’s been a good signing.

“And we have Lewis [Mayo] coming back from international duty for next week so the competition for places is huge. You can see with the squad that we’ve got – it’s all over the park and boys need to play well to stay in the team.”