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Partick Thistle 3 Aberdeen 1: Home comfort at long last as winless saga concludes

IT took Partick Thistle nine years to find their way back to the top division after being relegated in 2004.

Conrad Balatoni celebrates scoring as Thistle finally manage to win a league match at home. Picture: SNS
Conrad Balatoni celebrates scoring as Thistle finally manage to win a league match at home. Picture: SNS

They have no intention of making their return visit a fleeting one.

Newly-promoted sides tend to be among the favourites to go straight back down and if Hearts' situation has removed the threat of automatic relegation this time around there is still the new play-off spot for Thistle to contend with.

Having played against clubs in the SPFL Championship not so long ago, Alan Archibald and his players will surely not fancy having to beat that division's second-best side over two legs in what will be a nervy and closely contested play-off final to secure their status.

To that end, Thistle's predicament looks better than it did at the start of the weekend. Victory over Aberdeen not only lifted them above St Mirren and into 10th place but it also meant the removal of the sizeable monkey that had been perched on their backs since the start of the season.

Thistle's inability to win a league game at home had become something of an ongoing saga to the extent that the club had brought in a sports psychologist to see if there was something about playing in front of their own fans that was causing such anxiety.

Now that baggage has finally been shed - courtesy of a comprehensive win over a side considered the second best in the country - Thistle can at least see out the remainder of the season with one less thing to worry about.

They are far from in the clear yet, given their lead over St Mirren is just a solitary point with 11 games to go, but the sense of joy and relief that spilled out from Firhill at full-time on Saturday showed just how significant a result it had been.

"It's a great feeling getting the three points and getting our first home win is a big burden off our backs," said Conrad Balatoni, scorer of Thistle's first goal, with Lyle Taylor claiming the other two. "Hopefully we can kick on and make Firhill a fortress like it was last season. We want to be winning every week.

"The supporters want us to stay in this league just as much as we as players want to stay up too. Nobody wants to go back down. Nobody wants to finish in the play-offs either.

"The fans have given us great backing and we are doing our best for them. It was a good crowd today and they made themselves heard. They spurred us on.

"This win will give us the belief to go on now. We believe we can stay in this league. It's probably going to go down to the wire. I've not looked at the table but there are only two or three points between four teams. So we need to hope we can get a bit of momentum before the split."

Balatoni was not among those who chose to consult with the psychologist, believing the poor home record had been down to bad luck and carelessness rather than any mental block.

"I wouldn't say the home record had been getting us down. We knew a win would come but it was just taking longer than we anticipated. We were losing sloppy goals and losing concentration in the final five minutes. That had cost us two or three home wins already. Losing two late goals to Ross County was a killer blow. Losing a late goal to Kilmarnock was bad one too.

"But we knew if we got our act together and concentrated for 90 minutes we could do it. Luckily for us it's happened against a very good Aberdeen side. We have to try and keep our standards high."

That Derek McInnes' side had not lost away from home for three months only added to the surprise value of this result. An early missed penalty by Barry Robson set the tone for a disappointing afternoon, with Adam Rooney's second-half goal ultimately no more than a consolation.

There will be little time for the Aberdeen players to feel sorry for themselves, however, with Celtic visiting Pittodrie tomorrow. "We can bounce back on Tuesday," said Willo Flood. "It's been awhile since our last home game at Pittodrie.

"The fans have been great with us on the road the past month, travelling down to Glasgow a lot. It would be nice to put on a show for them back at home."

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