Things aren’t going so well for Partick Thistle. Not only are they languishing dangerously close…
Here we are. After the midweek round of fixtures, we now have one last set of games to look forward to until the Premiership concludes. It’s been an entertaining and memorable campaign, and going into the final game of the season there’s still the small matter of relegation to be settled. Typically of the year we’ve had, the battle to beat the drop has gone down to the wire.
Ross County currently occupy twelfth place with the knowledge that nothing other than a win over St Johnstone on Saturday will result in their relegation to the Championship. Partick Thistle are two points clear of the Highland club but with a far inferior goal difference – should County win, Thistle will also need three points against Dundee to avoid the drop. Hamilton are all but safe from the relegation playoff, three points clear of the Jags with a much better goal difference to boot.
It’s pretty simple, then – if Thistle can match County’s result, they’ll be safe. If Thistle slip up and Stuart Kettlewell’s side win, then they’re safe. So which way is it likely to go? We dug into the data to see how the bottom half of the table is likely to end up.
If the form table is anything to go by, then Dundee should be winning this game fairly comfortably. Neil McCann’s side have picked up ten points since the split, whereas Thistle have won just one of their last 13 games. Similarly, Dundee are favourites when the two teams’ head-to-head record is examined; the Dark Blues have won twice, while Partick Thistle have won once.
As the graph above shows, Dundee also have the advantage where expected goals (xG) are concerned, leading Alan Archibald’s side an xG/90 of 1.35, compared to Thistle’s 1.12. Over the last three occasions that the two sides have met Dundee average an xG of 3.02, nearly double Thistle’s tally of 1.55. This highlights the advantage McCann has had over Archibald this season – the Dundee manager knows how to set his up his team against Thistle and they will likely create lots of chances against the Jags. Expect Partick Thistle to lose this one.
Our prediction: Dundee 3-1 Partick Thistle
If Thistle leave Dens Park without any points, then Ross County’s fate will be in their own hands. Only a win will do for the Staggies, but it could prove too big an ask for them. History is on Tommy Wright’s side – St Johnstone have won one and drawn two of the last three encounters – and as they showed with their recent 5-1 dismantling of Motherwell, complacency is unlikely to be an issue. In addition, County have struggled for form of late while St Johnstone are enjoying a good spell – the Saints have lost just one of their last five, while Kettlewell’s team are without a win over the same period.
Both sides have a relatively low xG/90, with not much between them. St Johnstone’s average xG of 1.3 is slightly higher than County’s 1.18, which suggests a cagey match could be on the cards. Neither side are particularly renowned for their attacking flair and a low-scoring game should be expected.
A look at the average xG of each side in head-to-head fixtures offers some optimism for County fans – Kettlewell’s side have a clear advantage here, averaging an xG of 1.6 compared to St Johnstone’s 0.97. This means that whenever the two sides have met this season, County have generally created better opportunities than the Saints.
It’s a tricky one to call. On the one hand, the form table suggests St Johnstone should edge this one but Ross County normally attack more effectively than their counterparts. With survival on the line, don’t be surprised if County snatch a win. History might not suggest it, but the data says they might just beat the drop after all. But as this article was written by an unashamedly biased Thistle fan, we’re going for a draw.
Our prediction: St Johnstone 1-1 Ross County
Of course, finishing in eleventh place still doesn’t guarantee Premiership survival. But it provides another opportunity for a team to prove they deserve to be in Scotland’s top flight. That’s all either side can realistically hope for – it might prove to be a stay of execution, but it’s also a chance for redemption.
So there you have it. Partick Thistle aren’t likely to secure their own promotion, so it’s very much possible that Ross County will be the masters of their own fate. The Staggies’ current form and their head-to-head record against St Johnstone suggest it will be a difficult match, but County’s xG implies that they’ll probably create the opportunities they require to stay up. Whether or not they can take them will define their season.