Football - Balatoni ready for Hearts challenge

Partick defender Conrad Balatoni is braced for a meeting with a Hearts side who are determined to defy the odds in the same way as the Jags did last season.

PA Sport
Football - Balatoni ready for Hearts challenge
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Conrad Balatoni is expecting a tough test against Hearts

Balatoni and his team-mates delivered a message to the doubters when they clinched the First Division title last season after feeling they had been written off in some quarters as too inexperienced.

Hearts have been classed as clear relegation favourites following their 15-point deduction for going into administration and the loss of most of their experienced players.

But they clawed back the first three points of their punishment last weekend with a 1-0 win over Hibernian and former Hearts youth-team player Balatoni is well aware of the quality in the Tynecastle squad, six of whom were named in the Scotland Under-21 squad for this week's friendly defeat by England.

"They have some of the best young talent in Scotland and that is proved by the under-21 caps," the 22-year-old said.

"A lot of people write them off just because of what's happened with the 15-point deduction, but I know they are a good side and they will be going out to prove everyone wrong, just like we were last season.

"Once people say you can't do something it just makes you want to do it even more. We will be ready for them coming out and trying to get the three points."

Thistle boss Alan Archibald believes Hearts will use being written off as a motivation tool.

"We definitely used that to our advantage," Archibald said. "People knocked us down and we used that to spur us on.

"I can see a lot of similarities in the Hearts squad. They are very young but there is a togetherness and unity similar to our own.

"You can see them all fighting for each other on the pitch.

"I watched them last week and they have a very, very tight group of boys. They have a unity and something to fight for and that shows on the pitch."

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