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Lewis Mayo reaping rewards from Under-21 summons ahead of Raith Rovers clash

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WHEN Lewis Mayo first arrived at Partick Thistle in January 2020, he could never have known what the coming months had in store for him. He would only make three appearances for the Jags before the pandemic took hold in March, shutting down all football as the nation grappled with the crisis.

At that time, Thistle’s fortune was very different. Ian McCall had replaced Gary Caldwell as manager a few months earlier and the club were embroiled in relegation, fighting tooth and nail for every point as they tried to beat down.

Of course, this opportunity would never materialize. Thistle’s fate was ultimately decided in a virtual boardroom after the season ended, and the Jags found themselves relegated to level three.

Now, however, the background music around Firhill is quite different. Thistle’s surge to the League One title last season is still fresh in fans’ memories, while an encouraging start to the new season – though it has seen a few hiccups in recent weeks – gives way to cautious optimism.

“When I first came here it was a relegation fight,” Mayo recalls. “The circumstances were unfortunate that we never got a chance to see the season because I think we felt we had started to gain some momentum.

“But this time it’s much more positive. We’re looking to try to push the top of the league.

“We’ve had a good start to the campaign this year – the last two results have been disappointing, but we know that these days we can beat anyone if we show up. So that must be our goal in every game. ”

A win over Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park this afternoon would certainly boost morale after recent losses to Arbroath, Inverness and Kilmarnock. But after being called in by the Scot Gemmill Scottish Under-21s earlier this month, Mayo says he feels confident.

“It’s a different kind of challenge – playing international football has its own style,” he said of the experience. “Teams do different things and try to hurt you in different ways and I think the two things go hand in hand: international experience helps you at club level, and playing competitive football at club level definitely helps you. to play for the 21.

“There are different requirements to play in different games and playing in the championship is very physically demanding; it’s very intense. The game is very fast and you get a lot of duels.

READ MORE: Stats Behind Partick Thistle’s Championship Campaign Start

“With international football the game can sometimes be a little slower. The game can be dictated by the form and build of the teams, which is sometimes more about patience and mental focus when trying to play forward and injure you. Like I said, they’re different styles and it’s a great learning experience for a young player.

“I think the other thing you get out of it is confidence. If you go and are successful internationally, you can bring that here, but there is also the confidence of being selected. There is a recognition there that what you do, you do it well and there are parts of the game that coaches love when they watch you.

However, it’s not just McCall and Gemmill who are keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old. Mayo’s parent club, the Rangers, are also on hand to offer advice and commentary after every performance.

“Billy Kirkwood is the loan manager,” he explained. “He was very good to me last year and that has continued this season.

“He’ll try to watch the games when he can and if he’s not at a game he’ll watch it midweek and then come back to me – which I do well, what I can work on. He tells me what is expected of me but also how to play in the environment in which I am.

Today’s opponents are a familiar enemy for Mayo, who spent last season on loan with rivals Fife Dunfermline. There are few in the Championship better prepared for the threats John McGlynn’s men pose and Mayo is well aware of the harsh scrutiny they will provide the Jags with.

“I played against Raith when I was on loan at Dunfermline last year and it was really tough games,” he added. “It’s a team that likes to try to play; they will be open and expansive. This means that they can sometimes open.

“We won one at East End 4-1, then they won the next one at Stark’s Park 5-1. These two games were very open, fast paced, lots of chances for both teams. Whichever team showed up that day, the other one has changed, so it sure won’t be easy.

“I think with the Inverness game and the Kilmarnock game, in both cases we got out of the flying traps, started at a high pace and looked dangerous. What’s disappointing is that in both games we lost that in the second half.

“We lost that intensity and that’s when we started to open up and concede chances. I think the learning curve has to be more clinical in both boxes, but the rebound from these games is that the training has been intense. It has been a high standard and we are all looking forward to it now. ”