From Misery To Happiness; Airdrie Demolish Clyde With A Smörgåsbord Of Goals As They Return To Winning Ways
Now that is more like it.
After disappointing back to back defeats, Airdrie went into this game under something of a cloud. This match felt much more significant than you'd expect it to so early in the season, and Clyde found themselves arriving in similarly stormy weather, on the back of two defeats of their own after their surprise opening day victory over Partick Thistle.
Given the nature of the three games played between the sides last season, one expected a closely fought, competitive fixture, with momentum swinging in each direction throughout the 90 minutes. Given the form the two sides went into this with, one expected two nervous sides bedding themselves into a game and trying above all to avoid costly mistakes. One even expected that a share of the spoils was in the offing.
One was well and truly, completely and utterly, soundly and profoundly, wrong.
Airdrie smashed Clyde to pieces, scoring three goals in twenty first half minutes before adding two in a professional second half of comprehensive comfort. Let's get something out of the way; Clyde were abysmal. An utter wreck. Their wretched performance was bereft of quality, but most galling for the Bully Wee will be the absence of appetite, the completeness of the capitulation. At times it was like a training game. At times the sides looked leagues apart. All game, it was far, far too easy.
Duly noting that important caveat, let's not lose sight of the fact that Airdrie had a very, very good day at the office. Only the two changes were made to the lineup, Sabatini and Robert in place of MacDonald and Thomson, but this was night and day compared to the lacklustre loss to Dumbarton. Airdrie were right at it from the off and everything that once was lost had now been found; pressing, harrying and harassing? Check. Pushing and haranguing into errors? Check. Hunting, hassling and chasing? Check.
Verve, skill and craft in attack? You better believe that's a check.
The appetite was clear within the first minute, albeit Crighton was overly eager to impose himself on the game with a vicious foul on David Goodwillie that earned him the earliest of early bookings. That he was able to get through the game largely untroubled in spite of this speaks to the anonymity of the Clyde attack for the majority of the game, but, with greater self discipline, the Diamonds set about dismantling their opponent with a fizz and vigour that was truly joyous to watch.
Usually, I'm watching these games with a notebook and pen in hand, compiling the bones upon which I will build these reports. There are precious few notes in my book this time, though. I sat back and watched a thoroughly pleasing performance and didn't want to miss a minute of it.
Before eventually opening the scoring, Airdrie showed plenty signs of promise. The midfield was running over the top of their Clyde equivalent (if you can even call that a midfield) and pressing them back deeper and deeper. Two fairly hard to tell penalty claims came and went without reward from the referee as the charmed life of the Clyde goal travelled relentlessly and inevitably to its doom.
Gallagher's shot was blocked by Tom Lang. Kerr flashed a header wide from a corner. Coupled with the two penalty shouts, you felt like something had to give.
And boy, did it give.
A lovely one-two between the excellent Kyle Connell and fantastic Leon McCann saw a cross fired into the near post by the irrepressible left back. Calum Gallagher had the freedom of the Penny Cars Stadium to slam his header past a helpless David Mitchell.
Clyde, for the first and final time, launched a response of their own. Goodwillie charged towards the edge of the box and played in Syvertsen who really should have done better with his effort, which meekly trundled to David Hutton. The Airdrie keeper still made a meal of it, though, spilling it out in front of himself and prompting a scrambled clearance out for a throw in. A Jamie Bain cross was headed over by David Goodwillie, too, but this was to prove the last meaningful attack from Clyde, at least whilst this game remained a contest.
Thomas Robert, who has up to this point taken time to adapt to what is his first foray into senior fooballl, seized his first competitive start with clear and obvious intent. He had already tormented Clyde's beleaguered players, appearing here, there and everywhere as he roamed across the pitch, but inside the 30th minute he tigerishly won the ball, drove a terrified Clyde defence backwards as he dribbled towards the 18 yard line before playing an exquisite pass through for Dale Carrick, who finished terrifically to double the lead.
The players nearest Robert rushed him immediately to celebrate his integral role in a quite lovely Airdrie goal; quite right, too. What a ball it was.
Having bailed out his defence with some neat close control, robbing David Goodwillie before skinning two onrushing Clyde players, Callum Fordyce threatened to add a cherry on top with a second league goal of the season as he got on the end of a cross but headed narrowly wide of the goal. The third was most assuredly coming, though, and come it did on the precipice of half-time. A corner kick caused bedlam in the Clyde box and, eventually, Dale Carrick lofted the ball deftly to Calum Gallagher at the back post. He took it on his chest then lashed it into the roof of the net, sending Airdrie into the break with a three goal lead over their dispirited, disheveled and despairing visitors.
One presumes Ian Murray had the easiest half-time team-talk of his managerial career before sending his team back out to pick up where they left off, which the duly did. Gallagher stuck a header onto the bar after great play by Leon McCann, another of Clyde's tormentors in chief.
Griffin Sabatini can count himself among that number, the impressive, unflappable central midfielder turning over possession all day long, keeping the ball for fun and strolling through the game at an absolute canter.
It was the Swiss who won the ball back just inside the Clyde half before skipping past an opponent with consummate ease as he took the ball to the edge of the box before laying it off to Calum Gallagher. Airdrie's number 9 threaded a quite delectable ball through the heart of the Clyde defence, linking up wonderfully with Dale Carrick, who was hauled down for an obvious penalty kick.
Carrick picked himself up, dusted himself down and bagged his second goal of the game, his fourth in as many League games and the goal which ended this match as a contest. After 52 minutes, Airdrie had an unassailable lead. After 71 minutes Thomas Robert was subbed off, having played so well you half expected the cardboard cut outs to rise to their feet and applaud him off the park. An exciting showing from the young man and hopefully a sign of things to come as Airdrie continue to nurture this promising talent.
Six minutes later and you'd have forgiven the Clyde players if they had applauded the next Airdrie substitutions, as Carrick and Gallagher were both withdrawn before either could snaffle a hattrick. Airdrie now had Craig Thomson, Dean Ritchie and Eoghan Stokes on the park, and it didn't take them long to combine with deadly effect as they created the fifth and final goal for Kyle Connell.
The Kilmarnock loanee had a great afternoon, nearly putting it on a plate for Robert on the hour mark, combining brilliantly with McCann for the opener, even going for a worldy when he tried to lob the Clyde Keeper from inside his own half. He more than earned his first senior goal, showing great instincts and desire to get on the end after Stokes and Ritchie had combined to feed Thomson, who used his significant turn of pace to hit the byline and flash a dangerous ball across goal. Connell timed his front post run perfectly, the ball ultimately going in off his torso.
In truth, it could have been more. Fordyce saw a second header fail to hit the target by a narrow margin. David Mitchell had saved well from a fierce Carrick shot earlier in the half, one of many he made in the second 45 to keep Airdrie from piling the misery too high on their blighted, besieged visitors. He prevented Eoghan Stokes grabbing a goal of his own when he came out smartly to block the Irishman's attempt after late sub Euan O'Reily (on with Kyle MacDonald for Sabatini and Connell to see out the final five minutes) turned sublimely to set him away. Sean Crighton must have thought he'd added a sixth in the dying seconds, only for Mitchell to save the Captain's goal-bound header with his foot.
For all their attacking verve, Airdrie showed a ferocious determination to keep a clean sheet, of which Eoghan Stokes' flying block was emblematic, as he took a sore one protecting the home goal from Goodwillie's desperate attempt at a consolation.
With that, Airdrie go into the League cup games (and an International break of huge significance; C'mon Scotland!) showing two wins and two defeats, four goals conceded and eight scored in their ledger. Wednesday sees Edinburgh City visit before we finish our group at Premiership Livingston's Tony Macaroni Arena/'Spaghettihad'/Almondvale and the hopes are that we take this momentum with us into those games and, more importantly, don't lose it before visiting Forfar on the 21st.
Sure, one win, even a thumping win, doesn't necessarily Make Airdrie Great Again, but perhaps some hope has been restored and this bold new direction can start us on a path to a more perfect Airdrie.
Idle Hands Man Of The Match? Ooft. I was hoping you wouldnae ask. Gallagher for his two goals? Carrick, likewise? McCann? Sabatini? Connell? Awk give it to the wee man with joie de vivre sown into his boots; Future France International Thomas Robert, for that sensational first 45 minutes.
For now, treat yourself to a swatch of the Diamonds TV highlights, which, glare aside, is a cert to put a smile on your face. Unless, of course, you support Clyde. In which case, erm, maybe lie down in a dark room?
Airdrie For The Cup. Whit Cup? Any Cup.