PARTICK THISTLE took a significant step towards the League One title after scraping past Airdrie 1-0 in a nervy encounter in Maryhill, courtesy of Brian Graham’s first-half goal.

The home side were dominant for the majority of the first half, with Airdrie clinging on for dear life for large spells, before the two sides reversed roles in the second, with Thistle holding on to seal a priceless three points and maintain their grip on pole position.

“At this stage of the season it’s about getting the three points and that’s what we did,” said Jags boss Ian McCall, whose side have now opened up a four-point lead at League One’s summit.

“It can turn around very quickly. It [the league title] is never over until nobody can catch you and that will be the mindset on Tuesday [when Thistle play Cove Rangers].”

The Diamonds were given an early warning of what was to come. Straight from kick-off, Scott Tiffoney burst down the left and floated a cross into Graham that the big centre-forward nodded narrowly over the crossbar.

That set the tone for what was to follow. Thistle advanced menacingly in possession, looking for gaps to exploit and finding them regularly. Tiffoney – who was once again the most dangerous player on the pitch with his electric bursts of pace – almost teed up Zak Rudden for the game’s only goal, only for the 21-year-old striker to glance the ball over.

The hosts continued to knock on the door. Some neat play through the middle resulted in Joe Cardle being released down the right and the winger’s cut-back fell invitingly to the feet of Rudden. The striker’s effort was pushed away by Max Currie and rolled into the path of Graham, only for the Airdrie goalie to deny him from close range.

Thistle were undeterred, though, and a few minutes later were rewarded with the breakthrough. A Cardle corner was flicked onto the back post by Steven Bell where Shea Gordon was rushing to meet it, only for the midfielder to see his header crash off the underside of the bar. It dropped in the six-yard box and Graham pounced to prod the ball home.

It really should have been 2-0 minutes later. Rudden burst past the last man as he barreled down the right wing, making a beeline for goal. He elected to try and beat Currie, who blocked the striker’s effort on goal, ignoring the unmarked Cardle just a few yards to his left.

The visitors found themselves pinned back but went close to levelling the scores right on the cusp of half-time. Kyle Turner’s superb driving run from midfield resulted in the on-loan Dunfermline man threading the ball through to Ally Roy, but Jags keeper Jamie Sneddon was alert to the danger and reacted quickly to close down his opponent.

Thistle captain Ross Docherty was next to have a go, bulleting a header at goal following a Cardle corner minutes after the restart, forcing Currie into producing a remarkable reaction stop to tip the ball over when it looked destined to nestle into the back of the net.

The momentum soon shifted, however. Now it was Thistle who found themselves pinned back, forced to defend resolutely as they were subjected to wave after wave of attack. But for all their intent, or all the dangerous positions they found themselves in, Airdrie lacked the sufficient guile to split the Jags defence open or seriously test Sneddon.

The hosts were given a terrific scare at the death when Callum Gallagher lashed an effort that rebounded off the far post with virtually the last kick of the game as Diamonds manger Ian Murray was made to settle for a defeat in his side’s first post-split fixture.

“Our intensity, our work-rate and our endeavour in the second half was a huge improvement on the first,” he said.

“I felt overall we were probably worth a point. Maybe not for the first half but certainly for the second.”