Kris Doolan insists his Partick Thistle side will be looking to play on the front-foot and grab the bull by the horns in tomorrow night’s play-off semi-final second leg at Somerset Park, despite their commanding position in the tie.

A Jack McMillan goal and a brace from Brian Graham secured a 3-0 win over Ayr United on Friday night, leaving the men from Maryhill tantalisingly close to a shot at promotion to the cinch Premiership.

The first goal is always important in every game of football but in matches like this, it can prove particularly decisive. If Thistle get it, they will leave their opponents with a mountain to climb but if the Honest Men can break the deadlock on the night, it has the potential to allow doubt to creep into the away side that can throw them off their stride.

Doolan has lost just one of his 16 games in charge since the club legend replaced Ian McCall as manager back in February, and Thistle’s propensity for seizing the initiative has played a large part of putting together that impressive run. For that reason, the 36-year-old will be looking for more of the same from his charges tomorrow night in Ayrshire.

“It’s like tournament football where if you win, you’re through,” he reasoned. “Our mentality is you need to win every game, we have to win every game of the play-offs, that’s the way we want to play, that’s the way we want to think about it.

“So we’ll aim for the first goal like we always do in every game and we’ll go from there. But our game plan isn’t to go and see what happens from Ayr United.

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“We know what’s going to happen from Ayr United. We know they’re good at home, they’re going to want to attack, they’ll be met head on by the way we’ll attack. Just because we’re away from home won’t change anything to do with our approach to the game.”

Long-serving midfielder Stuart Bannigan missed the first leg after picking up an injury but Doolan is hopeful that his fellow hall-of-famer will be fit in time to contribute to the team’s cause against Lee Bullen’s side.

“He’s starting to get there,” Doolan added. “We will make a wee judgment on him during the week to see how we think he is but he’s on his way back.

“Stuart is such a big player, we know that, he’s such a big player for us, he covers a lot of ground. When you look at the distances he covers and the high speed he covers, he does an awful lot of work.

“The quicker he can get back in…. every team needs a Stuart Bannigan in their team because he does so much work for us. But I think everybody will be delighted to see him whenever he comes back, that’s for sure.”

Doolan – who was in attendance at Tannadice on Wednesday evening as Kilmarnock defeated Dundee United 3-0, all but relegating Jim Goodwin’s side – has previous play-off experience with Thistle, of course. He insists that remaining calm and composed is crucial when trying to navigate the path to promotion that can be particularly perilous, and he sees that same mentality reflected in his squad.

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“I was quite relaxed,” he recalled. “Even as a player I could always think clearly, I could block crowds out.

“You kind of learn to deal with big crowds at big games and score goals in big games because you can handle pressure. And I think that’s helping me personally but I can then hopefully pass that on to players because there are methods to use, there are ways to go about things, but ultimately I think it’s about finding what helps us all relax without taking your focus off what’s the biggest thing, which is Ayr United.

“I think that’s the key to being in the play-offs. I’ve been in the play-offs before, it’s nerve wracking, it’s tense. I don’t think it helps if that’s the way you’re constantly behaving because it rattles through everybody.

“I think as long as you think straight and think clearly, you are relaxed but we’re confident. But we’re confident in a sense that we’re not overconfident, but there’s that confidence amongst the group that we trust each other to be professional and also to keep our heads focused on what is next at hand which is Ayr United.

“We don’t get too carried away because there is a lot to play for still but there’s that confidence within the group and within the club that we’ve got good players here who can take us a long way.”

Doolan does not have far to look in search of an example. Goalkeeper David Mitchell let in a soft goal from range in the first leg against Queen’s Park, but has shrugged off that error and recorded back-to-back clean sheets – including a couple of vital stops in last week’s match with Ayr at Firhill that kept his side’s three-goal lead intact.

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“David knew,” Doolan explained. “He made a comment straight after the game about he should have done better. We don’t dwell on mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, we know that, I think it’s about just having wee words of wisdom here and there to try to pick them back up and focus them again.

“But for me he’s got that professionalism. David made a slight mistake, got punished, hands up and we moved on, we scored the winner. It didn’t affect the game, it didn’t affect the outcome thankfully. But the way he reacts the next game, clean sheet, clean sheet, that shows how big a player he is.

“Again, going back to that mentality, if you’ve got the right mentality as a footballer then if there are mini-setbacks along the way it doesn’t derail anything.

“Everybody will make mistakes, everybody will drop their levels at some point for different reasons but with the right mentality you bounce back stronger and normally push on again in the next game.”