PARTICK THISTLE and Ayr United played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Firhill as both sides looked to fine-tune their starting line-ups with the Betfred Cup on the horizon.

Ian McCall opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation at Firhill, with loan signing Declan Glass on the right, summer arrival Connor Murray on the left with a midfield three of Ross Docherty, Stuart Bannigan and Shea Gordon.

Both sides came out with attacking intent and it was clear from the off that both sets of players were taking the game seriously, and it wasn’t long until the first chance of the match fell the way of the visitors.

Glass was robbed in possession by a firm but fair challenge from Patrick Reading, with the Ayr left-back immediately jumping to his feet and driving at goal. He drifted inside to open up the space for a shot, only to drill it wide of the near post.

After 15 minutes, Mark Kerr’s men had the lead. The Jags gave away a free-kick right on the edge of the area, and Joe Chalmers stepped up to rifle his shot over the wall and into the back of the net, giving Jamie Sneddon little chance of stopping it.

Undeterred, Thistle continued to play the game on their own terms and kept asking questions of the Ayr rearguard. Glass, in particular, looked dangerous in the final third; stroking the ball about and showing off a couple of neat touches early on.

The home side were rewarded for their approach with 24 minutes on the clock. The Ayr defence failed to clear a lofted corner from Glass and in the ensuing stramash the ball fell to the feet of Docherty, who rifled a powerful shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards.

Murray, Gordon and Glass were pressing and harrying their opponents throughout, giving them little time to settle on the ball while Brian Graham took up the role of target man up top. At the other end, Tam O’Ware survived a few hairy moments unscathed but looked a little off the pace at times.

As the half wore on, it was Ayr applying some serious pressure but the Jags defence held firm before Graham almost nudged his side ahead, courtesy of a mix-up at the back from the Honest Men. A Darren Brownlie header from the halfway line dropped behind the last man as Gordon trudged back from an offside position. Graham muscled his way onto the ball and bore down on goal but his powerful drive was tipped over the bar.

The two sides came out for the second half unchanged and it wasn’t long before Ayr regained their lead. A long ball over the top beat James Penrice, and Aaron Muirhead’s low drive across the face of goal took a deflection off Sneddon and rolled into the net.

Thistle kept chasing the game though, and really should have been level five minutes later. Some expansive play down the left led to Penrice cutting the ball back for Graham, but the striker made a hash of his shot as it trickled harmlessly wide.

A triallist was brought on for Ayr around the hour mark and almost won himself a deal with his first touch of the ball. The left winger broke beyond Ricky Foster and was slipped through for a one-on-one but Sneddon stood firm to deny the mystery man.

With 25 minutes to go, McCall shuffled the deck. Ciaron McKenna and Joe Cardle were brought on for Gordon and Foster but the team’s shape remained largely the same.

Glass tested Sinisalo with a powerful effort from a narrow angle following a corner and only a timely intervention from O’Ware ensured Muirhead didn’t break into the box for a one-on-one with Sneddon as the game became increasingly frenetic and end-to-end.

Murray had a pop with a low drive from the edge of the area as Thistle searched for an equaliser that was palmed away by Sinisalo as the Jags bombarded the Ayr box with cross after cross, so it was perhaps little surprise when Graham headed in Thistle’s equaliser from a ball out wide.

Docherty slipped in the middle of the park but got to his feet quickly enough to send an excellent ball through to send Murray scarpering through on goal. His initial cut-back was blocked, but Penrice’s delivery in the aftermath picked out Graham at the back post for the centre-forward to nod the ball home.

McKenna did well to shepherd the Ayr triallist away from goal after the winger appeared to be through on goal and Cardle almost handed the Jags the lead with 10 minutes to go but skewed his shot wide of the far post.

Glass’ afternoon was cut short after a painful looking coming-together and after giving it a few minutes, he hobbled off to be replaced by Thistle triallist Charlie Reilly.

With the clock winding down, the momentum was with McCall’s men and Graham spurned a glorious opportunity to win with just a couple of minutes to go. Some tenacious play from Cardle sent the forward scarpering through on goal and he attempted an ambitious chip, only for substitute goalkeeper Dale Reid to calmly catch the ball.

Another gilt-edged opportunity fell the way of the former Ross County man deep into stoppage time but the chance broke down when a last-ditch tackle from Muirhead robbed him of the ball.