AS first-division leaders St Johnstone, closely pursued by Partick

Thistle, travel far and wide today in search of more of the points that

have premier-division football marked all over them, third-placed

Airdrie and the pack must continue the chase.

And, as seems to be the only solution nowadays, the cheque books and

pens were poised yesterday as silver tongues tried to persuade old faces

to don new shirts in different pastures.

Following their defeat by Thistle at Firhill last week, Airdrie

decided that their defence needed to be shored up. The experienced

Stewart Auld of Clydebank moves to Broomfield, with the tidy sum of

#35,000 changing hands for the 31-year-old centre half. He goes into the

side against Alloa at Broomfield today, with young Derek Grant probably

being the one to step down. The Clackmannan side have injury problems

involving striker Mungo McCallum, John Gibson, and Steve Ramsay.

Clydebank, of course, quietly were fancied to be challenging at the

top. So far, it has not happened, and they also moved for a new player

yesterday -- surprise, surprise, from Airdrie.

And strictly speaking, the player is not all that new to Kilbowie.

Sammy Conn played for Bankies in the premier division, and last night,

he was mulling over a move back as a full-time player at Kilbowie. If he

goes, then a trip to Kirkcaldy to face Raith Rovers will be his first

duty back in the Bankies' strip. Defender John Maher, however, will be

missed after a nose operation.

The Starks Park club did not exactly get the cheque book out, but they

did manage to obtain the services of Dundee defender George McGeachie on

loan for a month. Probably the fact that central defender Sean Dennis is

out with a knee injury, Ronnie Coyle is suspended, and Stevie Simpson is

doubtful spurred manager Frank Connor into action.

Clyde, in the middle of a bad league run, yesterday were trying to

persuade Ayr United midfielder Jim Cowell to join their ranks, but

without a great deal of success. And with Billy Reid suspended after

having been ordered off last week, changes definitely are on the cards

for the Firhill match against Hamilton Accies. The Douglas Park side add

youngsters Pat Donaghy, Scott Archer, and Alan Prentice to their squad,

and manager Jim Dempsey promises two new faces and a couple of

positional changes.

Leaders St Johnstone will keep their successful formula for the visit

to a Meadowbank side who have drawn their last three matches, and always

are difficult to beat in Edinburgh.

Partick Thistle have injury doubts about Chic Charnley and Charlie

Adam for the trip to face Ayr United who are just beginning to reap the

benefits of full-time football, and who have a settled side which has

taken five points from their last three games.

Albion Rovers make the trip to Brockville to face Falkirk without

sweeper Robert Clark, who is suspended. The home side are still missing

the injured Stuart Burgess, Sam McGivern, and Jim Holmes.

Morton manager Allan McGraw was positively beaming as he announced for

the first time this season that he had everyone available for a home

match against bottom-of-the-table Forfar. And since this will be the

first game in charge for Forfar's new player-manager Bobby Glennie,

nothing can be taken for granted.