PARTICK THISTLE can’t say they weren’t warned. Just a week ago, a Lawrence Shankland-inspired Ayr United side dumped them by two goals to nil at Firhill. Seven days on, the venue had changed, but the result was the same.

The on-fire striker scored twice to give Ian McCall’s side a flying start in the Championship, and if you didn’t know beforehand, you might not have believed which newcomers to the division had come up from League One, and which had dropped down from the Premiership.

It would be tempting to describe Thistle’s performance on the day as X-rated for their sizeable support that travelled to Somerset Park, but it could more accurately be summed up as 12A, in that the Ayr goal was only very occasionally at mild peril.

A quick glance at the teamsheet before the match revealed a Thistle bench containing just four players; a young goalkeeper, a transfer-listed defender in Niall Keown and two outfield youngsters. One of which, 17-year-old Aidan Fitzpatrick, was his side’s most impressive performer on the day despite only being on the field for around half an hour.

Illness and injury had played their part in that of course, but therein lies the point, and new arrivals are imperative if this squad are going to be properly equipped for the slog of a tilt at the Championship title. Those who were on the park on Saturday looked a million miles off it, a fact recognised by Chris Erskine afterwards.

“It’s another eye-opener for us,” said Erskine. “We’ve spoken loads of times about how tough a league this is going to be this year, and this proved that it is going to be even tougher than we thought.

“We are light in numbers, of course we are, and we could do with a few more in, but that’s not an excuse. We’ve had plenty of pre-season games, and we’ve had most of the bodies we have in for a while now.

“We never got going at all, we defended badly and found ourselves 2-0 down very quickly, and in any league and any game it is hard to come back from that.

“We can’t let that set the tone for the season. We wanted to get off to a good start and be up challenging.

“Everyone in that dressing room knows that it has to be much better than that.”

Ayr were well worth their victory, but Thistle’s carelessness played a huge part in both goals. The first after just eight minutes came from the spot, as Sean McGinty clumsily toppled the outstanding Robbie Crawford, allowing Shankland to hammer past Cammy Bell from 12 yards.

The game was over as a contest midway through the half, as Max Melbourne – who was like a fish out of water playing on the right – failed to clear his lines. He presented the ball to former Thistle prospect Declan McDaid, who squared to Shankland. The rest was a formality.

Speculation over the in-form forward’s future continues to grow arms and legs, with Dundee the latest club to be credited with an interest. Given that he was considering alternative career paths not so long ago after difficult loan spells at St Mirren and Morton before his release from Aberdeen, it has been quite a turnaround.

“I qualified as a personal trainer last year because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and I was fearing the worst with football,” Shankland said.

“I didn’t leave school with a lot, I was only interested in football really, so I did it to get a qualification.

“It’s the way football is, it changes so quickly. It can turn from being bad to good just like that, so you just need to keep working hard and that’s probably the most important thing for me.

“I’ve been working hard and doing the basic things right, and it’s starting to pay off.

“It’s always nice when people are interested, but I’m signed here for the year and I don’t really think about it too much.

“I’m enjoying my football here, I’m scoring goals and the team is off to a winning start, so I’m happy with that.

“It’s out of my hands. Until the gaffer speaks to me about something, then I’ll pay attention to that.”