Partick Thistle midfielder Adam Barton can see benefits of Premiership split
Partick Thistle midfielder Adam Barton admitted he initially struggled with the concept of a top and bottom six in the Ladbrokes Premiership but says he now sees the benefits.
The 26-year-old signed for the Jags last summer from Portsmouth and wondered about the structure of the Scottish top flight.
Barton noted that the split, introduced in the 2000/01 season, normally guarantees four Celtic versus Rangers fixtures albeit there was a four-year absence of Old Firm league games after the Govan club re-emerged at the bottom tier of Scottish football following their financial problems.
The Firhill player also acknowledged that it keeps competition alive further down the league.
Thistle are ahead of all the clubs who have been involved in the relegation battle this season, sitting in sixth place, two points ahead of Kilmarnock with four games before the split, and hoping to secure a top-half finish which guarantees safety.
Ahead of the visit of Ross County on Saturday, Barton said: "It took me a while to get my head around it. Although it is a simple thing to understand, I didn't quite realise why they did it.
"Speaking to a lot of people it is about Celtic and Rangers and more games for those two to play against each other. I don't know but I think that is the reason for it.
"For us, it is almost like a little league and we are at the top of it. That's how I see it.
"We are winning our league and I think that is how most of the players feel about it.
"If it wasn't the case that there was a split we might be a mid-table team that is not fighting for anything.
"I guess that way it is good."
Stuart Bannigan and Gary Fraser (both knee) and Jason Banton (groin) remain out for Partick.
Jim McIntyre wants his Ross County team to turn up the pressure on their opponents as the Staggies bid to squeeze into the top six.
The Dingwall outfit are languishing in ninth but can claw themselves to within three points of Alan Archibald's Jags with victory at Firhill.
He said: "We know if we beat Partick we go three points behind them. That's the thing we have got to concentrate on this weekend.
"That will be tough. Thistle are unbeaten in five and have only lost two in 10, so they have shown the consistency that is required to get you into the top six.
"But equally we know if we can win it will narrow the gap and put that wee bit of pressure on them."
McIntyre's injury-hit squad could be boosted by the return of four players.
Goalkeeper Scott Fox (back), defenders Paul Quinn (hamstring) and Jay McEveley (knee), as well as midfielder Martin Woods (ankle) are all in contention.
However, Tim Chow misses the game through suspension, with Tony Dingwall (knee), Ian McShane (groin) and Chris Burke (illness) still unavailable.