THE message on the T-shirts summed up the way the players were feeling as they re-emerged after the game to celebrate with the fans. “Kids v Experience – We got this” These were players who felt vindicated.
They had always believed in themselves but they were irked that others hadn’t been as convinced.
“The T-shirts weren’t my idea,” said the jubilant manager Alan Archibald. “I’m not a big fan of all that but I can see where they are coming from because
“I think the press and other teams, ex-managers, other managers, you all wrote us off. We went into the Morton game eight points behind and it would have gone to 11 if they won and in every paper we picked up Morton were going to win the league and they just kept getting battered and battered by that. We kept it all in-house, we never spoke about it but I think they were a bit disgruntled at how easily people were writing them off after what had been seven months of a great season under Jackie [McNamara] so there was no need for it.”
The theory was that Morton, with so many seasoned pros, guys who had been over the course before, would have the mettle. But that suggestion simply gave the young Thistle side more of an incentive. A goalless draw yesterday would have sufficed. But having got themselves into the position where that was all that was needed, the Jags wanted to do it in style and thanks to two
second-half goals – a header from Andy Dowie and then an exquisite finish from Chris Erskine – they ultimately strutted over the finish line with a swagger.
The party had started long before the match did and it went on long after it had finished. With Partick Thistle’s ascension to the SPL all but guaranteed, the hordes descended on the Falkirk Stadium and by the time the match had finished they had run through their entire repertoire of songs several times and even taken part in a conga.
But they have had to wait some time for their rise from the ashes. Nine years it has taken then to get back to the top flight and they did it even while contending with the departure of McNamara part way through the campaign. They did it despite the fact they had games piling up and had to withstand the pressure of making those games in hand count.
“Yeah, it has been a long hard few months but hopefully we get the trophy next week and we will put a show on for our own fans at our own place,” said Archibald.
“I’ve told the players to go and enjoy it. I won back-to-back titles and looking back I hardly have a picture with a trophy. You think it’s going to happen all the time but it doesn’t and I stressed that to them. It’s good for them, the club and the punters as well. They deserve it after so long away from the SPL.”
The first half gave all the indications that the travelling support might have to settle for a draw, with Partick trying to find a way through but failing to click when it came to the final pass or shot, while Falkirk were an under-par version of the side who had been lauded last week at Hampden.
But coming out for the second half there was a more blatant desire from Thistle and within four minutes, Dowie had headed home a Ross Forbes corner.
Falkirk manager Gary Holt insisted that was the decisive moment and he was right as Thistle seemed to offer a collective sigh of relief. Any pressure that had been there was gone, they still had some work to do but they could also turn what was left of the match into one of the party games.
While the fans danced on the sidelines, the players all seemed to want to get on to the scoresheet. While others were denied by the woodwork, the bobbly pitch or a rush of blood, Erskine, pictured left, was the picture of calm as he concluded matters.
Conor McGrandles lost possession in midfield and Erskine was sublime as he charged forward, leaving Johnny Flynn on his backside as he skipped by him and while he later admitted he had been in two minds as to whether to try a lob or simply rattle it low, the fact Mark McGovern stayed up made things easy for him and he was clinical with his strike.
It was a going-away present from the guy who already knew his place in the SPL was secured for next term, having agreed to join former manager McNamara at Dundee United. It was also a finish that made it clear why the Tannadice club were so interested in enlisting his services.
Experience may not be everything but this season is an experience that none involved at Partick will forget.