Partick Thistle reckon they are better prepared to see out high-pressure matches than they were last season after the road to redemption opened up further following a Premiership play-off quarter-final victory over Airdrieonians.

Kris Doolan's side eliminated their Lanarkshire opponents by an aggregate score of 4-3 after a 2-1 second-leg victory at Firhill on Friday night. Brian Graham put the hosts in a commanding position with a double inside 47 minutes, but Arron Lyall soon hit back for the visitors. Having blown their chance at top-flight football last season with the late collapse against Ross County in the play-off final, the atmosphere was understandably nervous as the visitors put them under some late pressure.

On this occasion, however, they were able to hold firm and book themselves a place in the semi-finals against Raith Rovers, with the first leg coming in Glasgow this Tuesday evening. Four games now separate the Thistle players and the chance to exercise the ghosts of last term, and they believe they're a more balanced side to deal with the rigours this time around.

"That hurt never leaves the back of your head," said defender Jack McMillan of the events in June last year. "We speak about it now and again and it's still not nice. Thinking back it was 20 minutes of madness, that's what I call it anyway towards the end of that game. That is a factor for me personally. It definitely drives me on.

“Last year was different, we kind of steamrolled teams. I think that’s something we’ve added, especially since January. Before, we would try out-score teams with the attacking players we do have, Brian (Graham), Fitzy (Aidan Fitzpatrick) and Stevie Lawless before he got injured.
“Luke McBeth coming in from the juniors, defensively the big man is just a giant in the way he heads and clears everything - the big man has been a massive positive since coming in January."

At the other end of the park they certainly have the firepower to defeat Raith and whichever of Ross County or St Johnstone will be waiting in the final. Graham, their captain and talisman, scored his 25th and 26th goal of the season in the victory over Airdrie. That means Graham is now just one short of equalling his best single-season tally for his entire career, a feat he's close to achieving despite turning 37 later this year.

"Raith are similar to us in terms of the attacking players they have so hopefully we can keep it quiet at the back and Brian can nod one or two in for us again," said McMillan.

“It’s a pleasure to play with Brian, that’s his 26th goal. As an attacking full-back that’s your dream. I know when I get to the bye-line, anywhere in the box, he’s going to be there to tap or nod it in.
“Although he’s 36, he puts in a shift, the big man. He’s a big lad and good in the air - doing his defensive duties when he’s asked to do so."

Airdrie put in an impressive showing in the loss, controlling the vast majority of possession throughout the game. But they failed to create much in the first period and didn't take enough of their chances in the second.

The one player who did make the most of his opportunity was young Lyall. The loanee swept his finish into the corner shortly after Graham doubled the scoring.

The 20-year-old joined in January from Rangers until the end of the season. His future is very much up in the air with his contract at Ibrox set to expire this summer.

“Playing games develops you, but playing games at first-team level where it is competitive every week and you are trying to push for play-off positions – there’s three points on the line every week and it’s been massive for me," he said.

“Conversations need to be had, my contract is up in the summer. A lot of the finer details aren’t down to me – I just want to be playing football.

"You absolutely want to be playing at the top level, for as long as you can. If you can get your shot there, it's the biggest club in the country really. I'm going to take it if I can."