AN injury-depleted Ayr United lost out 1-0 to relegation contenders Partick Thistle on Tuesday night in the first of their double header as the league comes to a close, writes Iain Martin.

With  Lawrence Shankland still recovering from his recent knock, striking duties were left to Moffat and Cadden this time around.

After an impeccably observed minute's silence for Lisbon Lion and Celtic legend Billy McNeill play got underway.

Partick looked like a team fighting for their lives as they pressured Ayr right from the start, but Ayr looked solid at the back with Michael Rose and Aaron Muirhead, along with Liam Smith at right back.

The visitors had their first real opportunity in seven minutes as Shea Gordon, breaking at speed from midfield, bore down Muirhead who backed away. He gave Muirhead the eye, went the opposite way and when it looked easier for him to score he ballooned the ball over the bar from 15 yards.

They didn’t have to wait too long before they managed to get the breakthrough they were seeking.   Thistle worked the ball through midfield then sprayed the ball to the left hand side followed by a long ball into the box where it was palmed away by Doohan only to fall to the feet of Gordon who fired the shot in to the top left hand corner of the net from 15 yards to make it 1-0 for Thistle in  16 minutes.

Spurred on by the goal, Thistle continued to press Ayr hard who were already beginning to look tired and slow to react going forward. Thistle were forced to make a substation in 33 minutes as Scott Macdonald having picked up a head knock earlier on was replaced by Chris Doolan.

Ayr had a shout for a penalty in 40 minutes as Daniel Harvie was bundled to the ground in the box by Aidan Fitzpatrick, but referee Newlands saw nothing amiss and waved play on, but replays showed there was no contact with the ball by the defender and Ayr had been denied an opportunity to level the scores.

The second half saw Ayr come out with a bit more desire and a change in line-up as Nicky Cadden was replaced by Declan McDaid. Both he and Moffat were getting a bit more penetration in to the Thistle box but were unable to convert any chances to solid strikes as Thistle set themselves up to defend in numbers and only to play on the counter-attack as they looked to hold on to their one goal advantage.

The whole game ground to a close with no further scoring and with Ayr being denied numerous legitimate free kicks claims as the referee seemed content to let the game flow rather than stopping and starting the action.

Thistle are now unbeaten in five consecutive games, and with the bottom of the league being so tight, move in to 6th position and out of immediate danger, while Ayr retained third position above Inverness Caledonian Thistle on goal difference alone.

Speaking after the game, manager McCall noted that he has to make the decisions as to whether they go out to win a couple of matches or concentrate on the guaranteed play-off games coming up, and with six players out due to injury this makes the selection even harder.

Next up for Ayr is the second part of the double header as they travel to Firhill on Saturday to face Thistle again which should be an interesting game given this result.

AYR UNITED: Doohan;Harvie, Kerr, Rose, Moffat, Crawford, Murdoch, Smith, Cadden, Miller, Muirhead. 

Subs: Hare-Reid, Forrest, McDaid, Ecrepont, McCowan, Geggan

PARTICK THISTLE: Sneddon; Elliot, Penrice, Anderson, McGinty, Bannigan, McDonald, Harkings, Gordon, Fitzpatrick, Cardle. Subs: Hazard, Spittal, Doolan, Slater, Storey, Mansell, Saunders

Referee: Alan Newlands

Attendance: 2429