The Unbeaten Run Falls At Firhill In Narrow Defeat To League Leaders
Alas, it would seem I won't be collecting my winnings on the 12/1 bet I placed that Airdrie would win the league.
Had The Diamonds managed an away victory, I just might have been in the money, but Partick Thistle built on their new found status as league leaders with a win that felt incredibly significant in the tussle at the top.
The home team started with the confident air one would expect from a team that had propelled itself to the summit on the back of a winning and unbeaten run, crafting out a chance straight from kickoff when Zak Rudden won a flick-on to set Scott Tiffoney away down the left. He played in a decent cross which Brian Graham got his head onto, but the experienced striker couldn't keep it down.
And thus a pattern for the first half was set. Max Currie had to look lively to tip a Zak Rudden header over the bar, again after a Tiffoney cross. He produced a fantastic double save to thwart first Rudden then Graham after a dangerous Thistle move down the Airdrie left. Airdrie could barely get out of their own half and were hanging in there against an onslaught of attacks from a Thistle side who looked an entirely different animal than that which had fought the league campaign up until the suspension early this year.
A corner kick just passed the half hour mark brought the inevitable Thistle goal, with Brian Graham on hand to tap in a ball which had ricocheted off the crossbar following a Thistle header at the back post.
Currie had to be alert to stop Thistle doubling their lead when Rudden cut in from the touchline on the Airdrie left to bear down on goal. The shot was kept low, but the striker will feel he should have done better, hitting it straight at Max Currie who saved with his feet. His counterpart Jamie Sneddon had to be similarly quick off his line when Kyle Turner broke well from midfield and threaded a pass through for Ally Roy, who was very nearly onto it. Had he managed to get there first, he was either getting his shot away or winning a penalty from Sneddon, but the Thistle goalkeeper won the race and managed to smother a rare Airdrie chance and, a corner here and a freekick there aside, the half was seen out comfortably by the hosts.
Objectively, the first 35-40 minutes from Thistle was the best display any side has put in against Airdrie all season. If not for heroics from Max Currie, the game would have been out of site by the break. If they can muster that level of performance in the run-in, it's hard to see past Thistle for the league. That being said, Airdrie were poor on the ball when they did get it. Yes, they were harried and pressed by Partick, but The Diamonds were loose in possession, often seeming panicked and rushed.
The second half was a much less one-sided affair. Unsurprisingly, Thistle tired. Despite spending a lot of the first half chasing the ball, Airdrie seemed to have the edge in stamina and put their hosts under more pressure, especially through set pieces.
Thistle did have a few chances to kill the game, of course. Max Currie made a good save to stop a headed goal from a corner and Zak Rudden thumped one horrifically over the bar when it seemed a certain goal on the counter attack. Yet Airdrie continued to push their tiring hosts back, refusing to yield and bombarding their box with crosses which just wouldn't quite land. Thistle were defending well, managing to fend off and crowd out Airdrie's forwards, even if it got quite frantic for them at times.
In the end, it was only the post which preserved Thistle's lead and denied Airdrie a point, when a long throw bounced through to Calum Gallagher. His shot from 12 yards at the angle looked a goal all day, but in reality was just off target, smacking off the post and away.
Sweet relief for Thistle and a bitter end for Airdrie, but they had given their hosts a scare and could at least take positives from the narrow nature of the scoreline, the improved second half showing and the palpable relief of their table topping hosts.
Awk, promotion by winning the league is fine and all, but it's a bit dull. The playoffs will be much more fun.