Brian Graham has been around the block. The veteran striker, about to embark on his 18th season as a professional footballer, has tasted plenty of thrilling highs and bitter lows in that time – but he is in no doubt when it comes to pinpointing his most painful defeat.

Partick Thistle’s 3-1 loss in Dingwall earlier this month that put an end to the Jags’ thrilling run through the play-offs and consigned Kris Doolan’s men to another season in Scottish football’s second tier, and it could hardly have unfolded in more dramatic circumstances. Thistle were 3-0 up on aggregate and cruising in the Highlands before 20 disastrous second-half minutes saw Malky Mackay’s men draw level and eventually retain their top-flight status via a penalty shoot-out.

The match has already gained almost legendary infamy amongst the Thistle support, and fans are unlikely to forget about it anytime soon. It is a feeling that Graham can sympathise with, given the 35-year-old ranks it as the most painful afternoon of a career that includes losing a Scottish Cup final to St Johnstone when he was a Dundee United player in 2014.

“That was the worst,” Graham stated matter-of-factly. “That was worse than losing the Scottish Cup final with Dundee United.

“It was horrific because we were so close – 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go. We were on the cusp of doing it and then a couple of dodgy decisions, and then the next minute it was level.”

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Graham played an unfortunate role in sparking County’s comeback. It was his hand that the ball struck with 20 minutes to go, resulting in referee Nick Walsh pointing at the spot after a short trip to the pitchside monitor, and it is safe to say the decision still rankles with the centre-forward.

“I’ve grown up playing football where I’ve been told to get tight,” he explained. “My arms aren’t around him and I’m close to him, and I’ve been elbowed in the face.

“It’s hit his arm and then my sleeve – how they can give that as a penalty through VAR is absolutely ridiculous, especially when they’ve chopped off a first-half penalty for us. This is the first I’ve spoken about it openly. I didn’t even speak about it to my wife and I haven’t watched the game back, but to give that penalty against us was absolutely ridiculous.

“I spoke to [the referee] when he went over to the monitor. I told him I had been elbowed in the face and I asked him after, ‘How can you give that as a penalty?’. He said, ‘There wasn’t much in the elbow’.

“I didn’t know the ball had hit me on the sleeve, I had only felt the contact in my face. If you are hit in the face then you raise your arm, it’s natural behaviour. To give that penalty… everyone I’ve spoken to about it says it was never a penalty. 

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“If he doesn’t give the penalty then we probably go on to win the game. For us as a squad, we have to reflect too. We should have kicked it into the corner right from kick-off, it was silly to go and try and play.

“We got caught by a quick throw-in, we don’t defend it properly, it’s 3-2 and then it’s game on. The whole place gets a lift from it. It’s football though, there is no point in looking back. It’s what we can do moving forward now.”

Graham had to try and shrug off the defeat pretty quickly, all things considered. After the long trip home from Dingwall on the team bus – “there wasn’t much talking” – Graham found himself up at the crack of dawn the following morning with football on his mind once again.

“Honestly, I never got much of a rest because on the Sunday we lost to Ross County I got home about one and then I was back up at six to go through to Oriam to do my A license for four days,” Graham said.

“I had done four days the week before while the first leg was going on. I was still going to Oriam so it was a hectic, hectic schedule – and it didn’t pay off.

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“On the Monday morning I was in a bit of a head fog and a bit all over the place. Brian Rice was one of the tutors on the course and he said, ‘I know how you’re feeling, just get on there and do your coaching stuff. Get the guys up for it and it will help you’.

“And to be fair, it slightly did. It was something else to focus on for the week and allowed me to try and put it to the back of my mind. It was difficult to do that though because we were so close.”

Graham has seen a few of his team-mates depart the Wyre Stadium At Firhill this summer after Scott Tiffoney, Kyle Turner, Ross Docherty and Kevin Holt each agreed moves elsewhere once their contracts had expired, but insists he was never inclined to follow them out the exit door.He had the opportunity, too. Only last week, an unnamed Scottish club made a bid to try and pry the striker away from Thistle – a matter of days later, Graham signed an extension that will keep him in Maryhill for another two years.

Graham said: “There was a bid for me on Monday morning that the club knocked back. The gaffer spoke to me on Thursday morning to say he wanted to offer me a new deal and it was sorted by Thursday afternoon. It was done very quickly.

“I didn’t want to leave the club because I have been through so much with the club. I feel really at home here and I’ve really enjoyed my time, so it was a no-brainer to extend my deal.

“My kids love coming here and they feel part of it. My wee boy is eight and he loves singing the Partick Thistle songs. They loved the journey of last season – with the big crowds the place really came alive and it felt special.

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“We won League One when the stands were empty but then in big games we saw the benefit of the crowd. We were excellent in the first leg and maybe that’s what killed us as well because we probably should have been out of sight.

“The [bidding] club came in for me on Monday and I hadn’t heard anything from the club. Then the gaffer phoned me Thursday morning and offered me a new deal. It was a Scottish club and Gerry [Britton, Thistle’s chief executive] knocked it back right away.

“I still had a year left but I never looked too deeply into it. I’ve been through a lot with the club and to leave now might have tarnished my reputation at the club – and I don’t want to do that.”