Andrew D Duffy
Diamond Watches: Airdrieonians 1-0 Queen Of The South
Airdrie Emerge Triumphant From Royal Appointment; Another Ally Roy Goal And A Resolute Performance Continues Unbeaten Pre-Season Streak After The Visit Of Queen Of The South
Conventional wisdom dictates that pre-season games exist purely as an exercise in gaining fitness, building familiarity and settling in a squad that will have morphed to varying degrees since the end of the prior campaign.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the actual results in any such programme are of much less concern, that winning losing or drawing barely even matters.
Well, following a redoubtable, resolute and robust Airdrie triumph over Championship side Queen of The South, conventional wisdom can hereby get tae; we're on to something here, ladies and gents. Airdrie are on the march...
With tongue momentarily dislodged from cheek I can attest that, of course, it's never wise to read too deeply into a pre-season performance. Nevertheless, it's entirely fair to welcome green shoots for precisely what they are; healthy signs of early growth, an allotment flush with potential, green buds of promise that, with proper care and encouragement, could yet yield a successful harvest.
Whether or not these saplings bloom remains to be seen. It's entirely possible that their promise is suffocated by a cruel, merciless winter frost. Yet, for now, this Airdrie fan can't help but feel buoyed by a strong showing in a stern test from a Queen of The South team who have more games in their legs and a higher division to call home.
Granted, Queen of The South were perhaps more advantaged than most by the unconventional end of last season and looked likely playoff participants had it panned out as planned, but they remain undoubtedly stronger than Kelty Hearts or Albion Rovers, not to mention many of the sides we will face come the commencement of League business.
The Doonhamers from Dumfries dominated the opening 5 minutes, securing a succession of corners before Airdrie could launch their first attack in minute 6, responded to with an immediate counter that yielded corner number 4 for the visitors. Currie, starting in the home goal for the first time this pre-season, missed it, but his side escaped any punishment, surviving the flurry without much fuss.
Having failed to muster even the customary goalmouth stramash, the visitors fell behind in the 9th minute to a lovely Airdrie goal.
A surging run from Leon McCann was crudely halted and the Diamonds took full advantage, Ally Roy finishing a sharp move after collecting Dale Carrick's sumptuous through ball and adding yet another handsomely taken goal to his burgeoning pre-season collection.
Queens can't say they hadn't been warned; Craig Thomson should have capitalised on slack defending a minute prior with a great chance, slashing narrowly wide with a powerful drive. The goal they did score engendered a swelling of confidence in the home players, who looked refreshingly tidy in possession and composed on the ball as the game struck an encouragingly even keel.
We almost bore witness to a quick fire second as Airdrie moved at pace following some great ball winning by Callum Fordyce, who moved it on to Josh Kerr. Kerr fed Dale Carrick who burst forward and cleverly squared the for Eoghan Stokes; the Irishman's first touch was far superior to his second, which slammed the ball high and wide with his left. You could see, and hear, his frustration at not having put that one away.
Having carried on his fine form in front of goal, Ally Roy gave away a silly freekick, the kind of daft foul that really grinds the gears; an opposition player going nowhere fast, back to the action, wide on the touchline, no significant danger, becomes a chance to whip a cross deep into your box purely down to a lapse in judgement (can you tell this kind of foul drives me berserk? Because it truly, sincerely does). Thankfully, the Airdrie defence once again displayed the requisite fortitude to repel their Championship foes, thus rendering my indignation rather silly in retrospect.
A great tackle by Eoghan Stokes on the half hour mark launched what appeared to be another incisive Airdrie attack, only for the verve to fizzle out due to an uncharacteristically loose pass from the centre of midfield. Soon after, Leon McCann did brilliantly well to stop a dread-inducing Queens counter which sprung from Airdrie's first corner, with the left back winning the race and coming away with the ball too, for good measure.
A Kyle MacDonald block bailed out a rare moment of hesitation amongst the Airdrie Centre Halves, conceding a 5th corner to Queen Of The South, who finished the half the stronger, without actually creating a goal-scoring opportunity. Indeed, it was Airdrie who produced the last attack of the half, a freekick from wide left, deep in the attacking third. Stokes put in a dangerous delivery but alas the offside flag went up and thus ended the opening 45 minutes.
Come the second half and the inevitable onslaught of personnel changes, it would be churlish in the extreme to deny that Queen of The South had more of the game; more of the ball, more of the territory and more of the chances.
That being said, it's a testament to the discipline of the Airdrie squad that said chances were decidedly few and far between. Positionally and structurally, as individuals and as a cohesive unit, Airdrie looked well drilled, well coached and decidedly determined to keep that sheet pristine.
Was it just me, or did Airdrie experiment with a back three during at least part of the second half? Certainly at one stage it looked like it to me, with Harlain Mbayo joining Fordyce and Crighton, both of whom played the full 90. Mbayo did his case no harm whatsoever and did his part to ensure the Airdrie goal emerged unscathed.
Queens pushed Airdrie deep many times, but failed to craft themselves many opportunities to test sub goalie David Hutton. They did, however, crash one off the crossbar in the 50th minute. James Maxwell beat Kyle MacDonald far too easily and Aidan Fitzpatrick befuddled his marker with some fine skill before striking vehemently at the Airdrie goal. Were it against any other side, I'd go as far as to say it deserved a goal, but it wasn't, so it didnae.
MacDonald's lovely long pass soon after sent Airdrie on their first foray forward but Gallagher, who had showed some neat ones, was on this occasion let down by his first touch; a good one and he was through one on one to seal the match.
In all, it was quite a bitty second half, an inevitable consequence of the raft of changes and the effective break up play from Airdrie's central sitters, Griffin Sabitini and Paul McKay, who replaced the also impressive Sean Kerr.
Airdrie's trialist, on for the second half, displayed some encouraging pace, guile and close control to weave and twist his way into the box, only for Rohan Ferguson, formerly of this parish, to cut out the cut back before it could reach a current Diamond.
70 minutes in and the ever green goal machine Stephen Dobbie took the field. At the age of 37, this exemplary professional showed clear signs that his class is indeed permanent; his game intelligence, positional awareness and deftness of touch were obvious. Thankfully, Airdrie's resistance was such that he never really got the chance to threaten a goal, another feather for the cap of the backline and the midfield.
The game wound down, but not before a superb Kyle MacDonald tackle halted an ominous Queens counter attack from an Airdrie corner. After an unwelcome period of injury time at the end of the 90, Airdrie came away with a win, a clean sheet and a sturdy performance.
Had we also seen a close to settled starting XI come the real stuff in October? Maybe. You'd certainly fancy the first team come the competitive fixtures to be quite close to that which started on Saturday. We shall but see. Idle Hands Man Of The Match Award goes to Griffin Sabitini.
Now, the artificially intelligent elephant in the room. The Pixellot system seemed significantly more, ahem, eccentric in the camera work than it had for the Rovers game the Tuesday before.
There were more instances of failing to follow the ball, of focusing on an area of the pitch that was momentarily sans action, of whirring to a penalty box when the ball was flying in the opposite direction.
It's worth remembering that the system seems to have more experience covering Basketball, a sport that takes place in a much tighter playing area, an indoor environment that does not contend with the glare of the sun, the shadow of the stand or the whipping of the wind. A sport which moves in a quick succession of tight short passes between players that rarely sees long, back to front, A-Z movements of the ball.
When the ball is moving through the centre of the field and the passing of the footballers is tight, short and sharp, there's not a problem. When a long pass is played down the channel, when a goalkeeper takes a goal kick, the system can struggle. When the ball is stationary ahead of a set-piece, like a free-kick, a corner kick or the aforementioned goal kick, the camera starts to search for movement that isn't happening because it obviously doesn't understand the pause.
One shudders to think how it might handle the delay and build up to the taking of a penalty kick...
In a smart move, the club released a statement regards the feedback they've had for the system over the two test events thus far--
"Having now had two trial runs with our new DTVLive streaming service, we have taken your comments on board.
We are aware of a number of recurring issues with the system and have today been in dialogue with Pixellot in an attempt to resolve these. Pixellot developers will monitor the stream from tomorrow evening’s match against Albion Rovers before making adjustments to the system.
We appreciate your feedback on this matter, and thank you for your patience while the service is optimised.
As a result, we have decided to make tomorrow’s match stream available free of charge to all supporters. You’ll still need to log in to the DTVLive platform, but no payment will be required to access the stream"
That the Club have listened to the feedback is a good thing. That they have made contact with Pixellot to try and resolve this is a good thing. That Pixellot will be monitoring the stream to capture in real time the issues we've all seen can only be a good thing and shows a willingness on their part to resolve them.
That the stream for the second Monklands Derby of this preseason will be free of charge is a gesture of goodwill that speaks to the honest and sincere desire of the Club to reward those who have paid their money and persevered with the system through what have always been trailed as tests ahead of the commencement of League action.
The Pixellot system has not been fantastic thus far but a genuine willingness from the operator themselves and from the Club to make it as effective as possible is welcome, right and deserving of credit. There is no streaming system anywhere in the World that will provide an experience as good as actually being in the ground, nor any that would match the production values of major television broadcasters. Fans should, and in my experience do, appreciate that. We aren't looking for something perfect, nor expecting a flawless, as-good-as-being-there experience. Here's hoping that, as long as we're locked out of the stadium, as long as it's unsafe to gather together and sing and cheer and hug (and moan), we get the best out of the Pixellot system and enjoy the action that's ahead.
Based on our performance on Saturday, we could be in for quite the season...
Get signed up and logged in for the stream tonight as Airdrie take on Albion Rovers for the second time. It's a freebie and we're on an unbeaten run... Whisper it, but we might just have ourselves a team here.
Airdrie For The Cup. Whit Cup? Any Cup.