Ayr United 0 Partick Thistle 5 - Jags cruise into Premiership play-off final after crushing ten-man Ayr
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Ruthless Partick Thistle cruised into the Premiership play-off final after easing past 10-man Ayr United at Somerset Park to complete another 8-0 aggregate success.
Leading 3-0 from the first-leg last week, the Jags added five more goals to seal a commanding victory over the Honest Men and move within 180 minutes of a return to the top-flight for the first time since 2018.
First-half strikes from Jack McMillan and Scott Tiffoney killed off the tie as a contest after Dipo Akinyemi was sent off for the home side for lashing out at Aaron Muirhead near the halfway line. Tiffoney then grabbed his second and Thistle’s third after the break before Stevie Lawless and Kevin Holt added a touch of gloss to the scoreline in a one-sided affair.
The Maryhill club have now found the net on 15 occasions across their last four play-off fixtures and will be formidable opposition for the Premiership side who finish in the relegation play-off spot - either Kilmarnock or Ross County.
Manager Kris Doolan insists his side have an inner belief that will carry them far in the game and reckons they have what it takes to create history by becoming the first team to reach the top-flight of Scottish football after finishing the regulation league season in fourth place.
He told BBC Scotland: “It’s a statement of the way we want to play, of how good we can be and what’s coming. That’s how we’ve approached every game, we’ve attacked the play-offs and we’ll get stronger as the games go on.
“The fans backing gives the players more energy and you see, time after time, guys like Stevie Lawless still playing as well as he did 10 years ago when we won the Championship and supporters appreciate that. (Scott) Tiffoney is such a threat and on the counter-attack he can be frightening. That’s the key for us, as soon as we can turn the ball over and find him then we know he can finish but we’ve got pace throughout the team.
“When you’re winning, your legs don’t feel as tired. We’re scoring a lot of good team goals, which is great. For once, it’s our turn now to watch and see who we will face in the final. I’ve been in that position as the Premiership side before when your ending a season and you’ve been used to losing. That becomes a habit, but on the flipside, I’ll be telling my players that winning breeds winning.
“We’ve created a winning environment and we’ll continue to build that day-in, day-out. You can’t just turn it on on a matchday, you have to compete like that in training as well. You’ve got too look after yourself physically and mentally in the play-offs and be positive, take the game by the scruff of the neck and that’s what we’ll do.”
Ayr knew they faced a major uphill battle after a crushing first-leg defeat at Firhill and a bumper crowd of around 6,000 packed into Somerset, with the home support praying for a miracle to happen. But any faint hopes of resurrecting the semi-final tie quickly evaporated when Jack McMillan headed home from close range on the rebound after Aidan Fitzaptrick’s effort was initially saved by goalkeeper Charlie Albinson.
The match rapidly went from bad to worse for Lee Bullen’s men when top-scorer Akinyemi was given his marching orders after 25 minutes for his reaction to being held by Aaron Muirhead. The striker raised his arms in anger and sent the Jags defender tumbling to the turf, with referee Colin Steven immediately brandishing a straight red card.
Thistle continued to assert their dominance as they aimed to pile more misery on the hosts. They did just that when the lively Tiffoney added a third when he slotted home at the back post after connecting first-time with Fitzpatrick’s perfectly weighted cross.
Tiffoney rubbed salt into Ayr’s wounds after the break when he was teed up by McMillan and had the simplest of tasks by tapping home into an unguarded net from six-yards out. Ayr had accepted defeat by this stage, but the visitors weren’t for stopping in their pursuit of more goals.
Stevie Lawless made it 4-0 on the night after Albinson had palmed away Kevin Holt’s cross and with the home side offering little resistance, defender Holt was eager to get in on the scoring act himself as he headed home from a corner to record an emphatic success.
Next up for Thistle is a return to Firhill on Thursday for the first-leg of their play-off final. In contrast, it was a chastening evening for Ayr as they faced up to another season in the Championship and manager Lee Bullen felt Akinyemi’s early dismissal didn’t help their cause.
He stated: “Firstly, I want to congratulate Partick Thistle. They were excellent over the two games and fully deserved to go through. I wish them all the best in the next round, but from our point of view it’s still very raw and a sore one to take.
“We lost an early goal which didn’t help but the red card certainly gave us an impossible task after that. I’ve not seen it back yet, so I’m not going to comment on it until I watch it. We’re hurting so badly at the moment.
“Over the summer, we’ll sit down and look back at the season as a whole and appreciate the high points, but it feels like a failure right now. We’ve let too many people down. Yes, we’ve had a lot of good times this season but it’s tough to get by these last two games.”
Partick Thistle (4-2-3-1): Mitchell, McMillan, Holt, Brownlie, Turner, Tiffoney (Mullen; 59), Graham (Dowds; 59), Lawless (McKinnon; 66), Fitzpatrick (MacKenzie; 66), Muirhead (Hodson; 71), Docherty
Unused: Sneddon (GK), Owens, Stevenson
Ayr United (4-4-2): Albinson, Reading, McGinty, Musonda, McAllister, Dempsey (Maguire; 62), McAlear (Smith; 45), Ashford (Murdoch; 45), Mullin, McKenzie (Mitchell-Lawson; 62), Akinyemi
Unused: McAdams (GK), Kirk, Hewitt, Bryden, O’Connor
Referee: Colin Steven
GlasgowWorld Man of the Match: Scott Tiffoney (Partick Thistle)