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Saturday April 13, 2013

Irn Bru SFL Division 1

Airdrie United




Watt 35

Partick Thistle

Balatoni 89
Elliot 90


Airdrie have been relegated from the Irn-Bru First Division after a thrilling finale saw Partick Thistle move closer to the title.

Liam Watt gave the Diamonds the lead but two goals in a minute late-on from Conrad Balatoni and Christie Elliot won it for the Jags at New Broomfield on Saturday.

The result, coupled with Dunfermline Athletic's 1-0 triumph at Morton, means Airdrie are down pending the outcome of the league reconstruction debate.

Airdrie made five changes to the side thrashed 5-0 by Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park on Tuesday night as boss Jimmy Boyle searched again for a winning formula.

And there were some nervy moments in the opening 20 minutes for the Diamonds as the Jags, fresh from their win over promotion rivals Morton, started well.

In the 12th minute, midfielder Stuart Bannigan delivered a cross from the left flank which was guided over the bar by Steven Craig.

Six minutes later, Kris Doolan's fierce strike was brilliantly saved by the Diamonds' on-loan Celtic keeper Robbie Thomson with Stephen O'Donnell wasting the rebound.

Partick should have taken the lead in the 29th minute. Sean Welsh put the ball into the path of Doolan who was clean through on goal and had just Thomson to beat.

However, Airdrie defender Gregor Buchanan refused to give up and made a terrific sliding challenge to deny Doolan what looked to be a certain goal.

The home side then stunned Partick by opening the scoring in the 35th minute. Jamie Bain's fine pass was sliced to Watt by Balatoni.

The 19-year-old had his first shot blocked but kept his cool to control the rebound and find the bottom corner of the net with his second attempt.

And Watt was involved in the game's most controversial incident early in the second half. He was challenged just inside the area by Andy Dowie but referee Paul Robertson said no penalty.

Partick had loads of chances. Chris Erskine fired just past the post. Balatoni headed over a Ross Forbes corner. Stevie Lawless had an effort deflected wide with Dowie nodding straight at Thomson.

But their perseverance would pay off. With a minute left, Balatoni powerfully headed home a corner from O'Donnell.

And in the first minute of injury-time, a long ball forward was smuggled out by Doolan into the path of Elliot who scored and sparked scenes of wild jubilation among the travelling Jags fans.

That was game over and it's also the end for Airdrie's battle against the dreaded drop. If no league changes take place, the team will be in the Second Division next season.

Colin Paterson at New Broomfield.

Photographs © Robert Dalzell. Click to view full size.

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