PERHAPS Partick Thistle should have had the players picking their team all season. Whether it was them or Gary Caldwell who put the 11 out at Palmerston, they made a fine job of it as they secured their Championship safety with a straightforward win against Queen of the South that condemns the hosts to the relegation play-offs.

Gary Caldwell wanted men he could trust at Palmerston, and that’s exactly what he got as goals from Lewis Mansell, Scott McDonald and a Stuart Bannigan penalty sealed a remarkable sixth-placed finish for the Jags. It has been a season of turmoil and ups and downs for the Firhill men, but contrary to their huge following’s worst fears from years of bitter experience, they secured their safety in the simplest of fashions.

For Caldwell, there was relief, but no joy taken from slipping Thistle’s neck from the noose of a relegation play-off.

“It’s not something we’re happy with in terms of where we finished," Caldwell said. "We want to be fighting at the other end of the table, and we have a big summer ahead of us to make sure we assemble a squad capable of doing that.

“There’s no joy in finishing sixth. I didn’t come here to finish sixth. I came here to be successful and get this team back in the Premiership where they belong.

“There’s relief because the position we were in just after Christmas was pretty grim, but we’ve stuck together as a club and the ones who have come in have galvanised the group.

“Every one of those players can be proud of how they performed since January, they deserve a lot of credit."

Thistle settled any nerves early on as they got the goal they so desperately craved after quarter of an hour.

Blair Spittal was given acres to turn on the edge of the box and curl in a beauty of a low cross that Mansell prodded towards goal. Leighfield blocked the initial effort, but the striker picked himself up to fire the rebound into the roof of the net.

They doubled their lead just before the break, and with a fair bit of good fortune too.

Spittal again was the creator, firing in a low cross from the right that Scott Mercer attempted to lash clear, but succeeded only in belting the ball off McDonald’s knee and in.

The home side didn’t have any answers after the break, and in fact, it was Thistle who went close to extending their lead as Spittal crashed a long-range effort off the bar on the hour.

Queens finally carved out a chance soon after, and what a chance it was. Mercer got down the right and dinked a cross onto the head of Lyndon Dykes, but from point-blank range Sneddon threw up his right hand and deflected the ball clear.

With a little over quarter of an hour left, Thistle made sure as McDonald was tripped in the area by Barry Maguire just as he was about to pull the trigger. Referee Andrew Dallas pointed to the spot, and rather leniently allowed Maguire away with a booking. Bannigan stroked the penalty home and leapt into the crowd as a season of frustration gave way to joy and relief.

As for Queen of the South, they will have to muster a reaction ahead of a play-off first-leg against Montrose at Links Park on Tuesday night.

“I’m not going to make excuses, it was the worst performance off the season,” said an emotional Gary Naysmith.

“Partick Thistle thoroughly deserved their victory. They wanted it more and I’m at a loss why we put in such a poor performance. We got what we deserved.

“My job is to get the players ready to play Montrose and they are a team on the crest of a wave. They are going to be extremely difficult games.

“We let the supporters down and we have to rise to the challenge.”