Andrew D Duffy
Diamond Watches: Airdrieonians 0-1 Montrose
A Bleak Mid-Winter; Airdrie Fall to Fourth League Defeat
Not so much a bounce back, as a stumble sideways.
Airdrie followed up a despairing defeat in Methil with some fruitless frustration at home to Montrose as they failed to rebound from their prior loss. In a tight game of precious few chances, The Diamonds couldn't convert a positive first half into any goals. They found themselves subsequently punished for a midfield error by a Montrose side who merited their three points after a sturdy second half.
Compared to the East Fife match, where Airdrie started off slowly and eased up from there, this match started out with a significant degree of speed. Airdrie's pressing off the ball was much better, as was their retention of possession. They won a corner in the first five minutes, won some early midfield battles and a netbound Griffin Sabatini shot was even deflected over, after some great ball winning by Paul McKay.
That's not to say the home side were dominant. Indeed, Max Currie was forced into the first save after good forward play from the visitors. They also drew a series of good clearing headers from the Airdrie centre halves as the danger cleared.
An entertainingly even opening twenty minutes suggested this would be a tight game, likely decided on an error, or a piece of magic. Whilst not quite an act of conjuring, some fantastic football inside the 20th minute ended unfortunately with Gallagher screwing his effort wide. The move deserved a goal to go with it, as did a great driven ball from Carrick, but Robert's second touch betrayed his excellent first and scooped his shot over the bar.
Another chance gone, and Montrose nearly punished it. Milne played Cochrane in nicely down the channel. The Hearts loanee put in a good delivery and the header from the forward really should have been been on target. Having gotten off Airdrie's hook twice, Montrose failed to make a catch of their own.
The first half continued to ebb Airdrie's way then flow Montrose's. A lovely turn from Tam Rab saw him beat his man, or rather his men, before getting the ball to Dale Carrick, who also failed to get his shot away. Robert tried to sneak a freekick across the ground and into the bottom corner, but put it wide. Montrose raced down the other end and won themselves a corner, which came to nought. They managed another, which this time met a free head, who could only put it wide.
The half ended in stalemate, an even-handed encounter that could go either way in the second half. Indeed it did go one way. The way of Montrose.
Robert cheaply surrendered possession just inside the Airdrie half and a lovely reverse pass put McLean in behind the defence. A lovely finish to cap a fine goal, but coming as it did from an error, Airdrie had once again found themselves behind as a consequence of their own mistake.
Some huffing and puffing duly followed, but Airdrie's lung capacity wasn't large enough to blow an equaliser into the Montrose net.
Three of the front four were swapped out as Robert, Sabatini and Carrick were replaced by Thomson, Connell and O'Reily. It didn't change much. Stokes came on for MacDonald, to similarly innocuous results. The home side did come close to snatching a draw in the 87th minute from a long throw that was turned behind for a corner (which came to nought), but Montrose would have felt aggrieved, given they spurned two good chances to increase their lead and win the game. Indeed, one of those chances was only repelled by an excellent one handed save by Max Currie.
As such, on a strong second half showing, Montrose warranted their 3 points. Airdrie had failed to score in the first half periods on top and paid the price for an error against a team who took one of the chances they made. Eight games in and The Diamonds sit one point worse off than they were at the same stage of last season.
They rallied well in that campaign and finished third, well in contention after 28 games. That this season is only one match less could suggest we are in for a similar outcome. However, they are going to have to step things up significantly, and soon, to manage it.
Airdrie's first chance to right the ship comes in the delayed visit to Falkirk, but results from the rest of the card leave them only one point above the relegation playoff place. And yet, an unlikely win would see them jump to fourth in the table, ahead of Cove on goals scored.
It's a tight league and the wiggle room is dwindling quickly.
Idle Hands Man Of The Match? Gies peace.
Airdrie For The Cup. Whit Cup? Any Cup.