AARON MUIRHEAD is hopeful that Ayr can begin to look upwards rather than fear for their safety next season after a full pre-season under manager Lee Bullen.

The Sheffield Wednesday hero was drafted in to replace Jim Duffy midway through the campaign, which is a notoriously difficult task to take on.

Ayr secured their Championship safety with a final-day victory over Partick Thistle on Friday night.

Muirhead bagged a double from the spot, while the unplayable Tomi Adeloye added another to seal the all-important three points in front of a packed Somerset Park crowd.

The 3-1 win meant that Ayr finished eighth for the second year in a row.

In the years prior, under Ian McCall, the Ayrshire club had been pushing for promotion via the play-offs.

And Muirhead reckons brighter days could be ahead for the Honest Men now they have some stability once more.

He said: “The scenes at full-time definitely showed everyone’s relief after a long, hard season. In the changing room as well, the scenes in there were good.

“We could have made it a lot easier for ourselves in the past few weeks, with Dunfermline being the most notable example.

“Last week we enabled ourselves to keep the fight in our own hands, so if we won, we stayed in the division. We’ve done that, so we’re happy.

“I could’ve had a hat-trick. It was a long night, I forgot about the one in the first half that their keeper tipped over.

“I was delighted to get two goals which have helped to secure out place in the Championship.

“The gaffer came in half-way through the season. It would’ve been hard for him to come in and implement what he wants from his team.

“I’m quite sure he’ll recruit in the summer and he’ll get players that he wants for next season. That’s over to him but hopefully once we’ve got pre-season under a belts we can start looking up the table.”

Muirhead scored both spot kicks awarded by referee Bobby Madden on Friday evening.

They were both won because of the brilliance of Adeloye, who turned in a superb performance to help Ayr cruise past Thistle.

The striker’s contract is up next month and will be sure to have options on the table.

But his performance on Friday was far from a surprise to Muirhead at his team-mates.

He added: “We know Tomi’s got that sort of performance in his locker. When he turns it on like that there’s not many defenders in the league who can deal with him. Credit to him.

“He ran out of steam at the end because of the work he’d put in.”

Partick Thistle skipper Ross Docherty hobbled off through injury. He revealed that was precautionary though, and he should be fine for Tuesday night’s play-off clash with Inverness.

He said: “I came off as my caff tightened up. I’ll see the physio but we’re thinking I should be okay.

“We had a couple out and it certainly didn’t go our way in the first half with injuries.

“We’ve got to be better than that though. I’m hoping that, now that we’ve made it into the play-offs, that we will be better on Tuesday night.

“The full focus is on Inverness now, and I’m hoping beyond that too. The boys have got to reset now.

“We played slightly better in the second-half, so we can take that as a positive.

“It’s cup finals now. You put form out of the window and we give it our best.”