AFTER becoming increasingly accustomed to watching Thistle tentatively shuffle out of the traps at the start of each season, Stuart Bannigan is encouraged to see the Jags put that particular hoodoo to bed this term.

Three wins out of five in the Championship as a newly-promoted side is a decent enough record thus far but the two defeats suffered on the road – first to Arbroath and then Inverness – in recent weeks have taken some of the shine off Thistle’s start to the campaign. In both games Ian McCall’s side took the lead, and both were ultimately settled by individual errors in the away side’s rearguard.

Victory over Kilmarnock at Firhill tomorrow afternoon wouldn’t be enough to catch Inverness in first but would leave the Jags right in the thick of it at the business end of the table. And that, Bannigan reckons, would be something of a novelty for the Maryhill club at this early stage of the campaign.

“In the last couple of years we’ve started pretty poorly and you’re left chasing your tail,” he recalled. “We were lucky last season that we went on the run we did [towards the end of the season] and other teams fell away but we might not get that luxury this time.

“We need to start really well. Three wins out of five is not a bad start and we’re in the mix of things but it is tinged with a wee bit of disappointment from the two games that we’ve lost. We were 1-0 up in both of them and sort of threw them away so that was disappointing but the overall picture isn’t too bad.

“I think it helps that we score from set-pieces. They’re such a big part of the game and we’ve started so well in that sense. We can’t keep relying on Brian [Graham], Scott [Tiffoney] and Zak [Rudden] to get all the goals. It has to be spread about a wee bit more so we’re happy with that.

“Over the last three or four years I can’t remember us scoring many [goals from set-pieces] at all, I really can’t. We’ve already got four or five this season straight from them. They’re a big part of the game and we do work on them in training. It’s good to see them paying off.”

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McCall is approaching the two-year anniversary of his return to Firhill and the Thistle boss has often underlined his desire to bring in the right character of player and to change the mentality within the dressing room.

Promotion, relegation, titles and court cases – Bannigan has seen and done it all with the Jags. And the midfield stalwart reckons that two years into McCall’s experiment, the results are clear to see.

“I knew when the manager came in that he would get things right,” he explained. “It takes a wee bit of time.

“There’s been a big turnover in players – from two years ago there’s only really me, Shea Gordon and Jamie Sneddon left out of that group. It’s a big change but you could see the togetherness the group had towards the end of last season.

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“We’ve brought in five or six this year and there’s a real team spirit. It’s similar to the teams that we had back years ago when we were doing well so it’s about continuing to produce on the park.”

Three points against Kilmarnock would certainly provide a welcome boost to Thistle’s tilt for the promotion play-offs. Bannigan admits the players are still smarting from last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Inverness but expects his side to respond in emphatic fashion.

“I’m sure it will be an intense game with a good tempo, it’s two big clubs towards the top of the table and Killie will bring a good crowd as well. It should be an intense game and we’re looking forward to it but we need to put on a better showing than we did last weekend.

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“We responded last time – after the defeat to Arbroath we responded against Morton pretty well at home so we’ll need to do that again.

“We’re hoping to make Firhill a fortress and make it as hard a place as there is for people to come and get a result. We’ve started off with two wins out of two so we’re looking to make that three at the weekend.”