WHEN Ciaran McKenna replaced Kevin Holt just 10 minutes into Partick Thistle’s 6-1 trouncing of Accies in Hamilton last month, he had no shortage of motivation.

After finding himself in and out of the starting line-up this season, the defender clambered off the bench after Holt sustained a head knock just as the Jags had taken an early lead.

McKenna knew that a strong performance would underline his credentials for a place in Ian McCall’s starting XI and coming up against a previous employer – one that he left in 2020 with just four first-team appearances to his name after feeling he didn’t get the game-time he deserved – provided plenty of fuel for the fire.

It would prove to be a memorable night for McKenna as his side ran out 6-1 winners over his previous club. And with the two sides set to renew hostilities this afternoon at Firhill, the 23-year-old expects a reaction from Stuart Taylor’s team.

“I mean, absolutely [we’re expecting a reaction],” he said. “I think every game is going to be tough and tight and I don’t think you get anything easy in this league. And I think you’re right, that the fact that we beat them 6-1 last time at their place, we’re expecting this game to be a tough game.

“But we just need to keep on doing what we’re doing, we’re on a good run of form, we have been good solid defensively, we have showed we can score a lot of goals on our day so we got into this weekend with a lot of confidence but also you try to balance that with a bit of humility and you don’t forget the things that are getting you those results, you just keep trying to do that.”

McKenna adds that as the goals were flying in in the reverse fixture at the start of last month, he didn’t feel a sense of schadenfreude at getting one over a team where his talents weren’t recognised to the extent he would have liked. Instead, he insists, the overriding feeling was one of relief.

“I think you just start really enjoying it, I think as you would expect,” he explained. “After maybe three or four goals you start to feel a bit of relief. Because so many times games, most games are tight so you don’t really feel you can relax ever, if you’re one goal or two goals up or drawing you’re always in the game, you’re really feeling focused.

“I think when you’ve managed to get a little bit of a lead, you just feel a little bit relieved and you start enjoying it more and I think it really helps when we were shooting into the goal with the Thistle support behind the goal and every time we scored they just erupted.

“That’s the moments in football that you play for, that’s the moments in football you love and you see all the fans going crazy and the whole team is going and celebrating in front of them. You just want to keep trying to recreate that moment, I think that is how all the boys felt, we just wanted to keep driving on.

“From our point of view it is brilliant, and you don't get many games like that so when you do, you just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After recording six clean sheets in their last seven league outings – David Moyo’s late consolation goal for Accies is the only goal Thistle have shipped in that period – McKenna says the Jags are taking confidence in their newfound resilience at the back.

Five consecutive clean sheets is a record that any defence at any level of the sport would be proud of but McKenna is keen to point out that every member of the team deserves credit for tightening things up at the back.

He said: “Obviously the back four and the goalkeeper get a lot of credit for that but it’s the whole team, just the way we work as a team. The strikers up front put in a shift pressing the ball and a lot of the times that stops a lot of the attacks before they even get started.

“Of course, the back four and the goalkeeper get a lot of credit for that but I think you need to credit the whole team and it's something that the whole team prides itself on, not just the defenders.”