Diamond Watches: Cove Rangers 0-2 Airdrieonians
Updated: May 17, 2021
Play-Offs Sealed With A Game To Spare
Two second-half goals, a clean sheet and the play-offs signed, sealed and delivered; Airdrie couldn't have asked for much more from their last away game of the regular season.
Having lost 2-0 in their last visit, and drawn 1-1 in the reverse fixture, Airdrie managed to get a crucial win against Cove Rangers, one which bolsters their promotion push and gives them a chance to finish second top of the division before the playoffs get underway.
The first half wasn't one that would linger long in anyone's memory, with minimal chances created and not much in the way of action, goalmouth or otherwise. That's not to say it was completely without incident, though; there was that lovely Leon McCann nutmeg on Cammy Logan out by the left touchline. After some persistence by Turner, it eventually came back to McCann, who's cross come shot had to be tipped over by McKenzie in goal.
21 minutes in and Airdrie should have made more of some complacent Cove play, nicking possession from a lackadaisical Ross Graham in the middle of the pitch. Carrick played it first time into Gallagher who travelled with menacing intent towards a retreating Cove defence. Connell, who had done so well to put Graham under the initial pressure in the first place, made a good run to Gallagher's left and the striker might have laid in his partner, but he elected to go for goal. It was understandable, given that he had made it to the edge of the box, but the shot that did come was badly mishit and entirely harmless.
On the half hour mark, Kyle Connell did brilliantly to bring down a lofted Carrick cross, controlling nicely and spinning well to get his shot on target, but without the requisite power to beat Stuart McKenzie. A Kyle Turner shot came through a raft of bodies on the back of a corner kick just after the McKenzie save, but the keeper was again able to repel the effort and the danger abated.
As the half drew to a close, Daniel Higgins almost gave the home side the lead with a thundering effort from a good 30 yards or so, blessedly battering his effort off the post and away. Cove kept it alive, but the resultant effort from Rory McAllister curled comfortably wide of the opposite upright.
No scoring at half-time, but the second half saw the net ruffled almost immediately. Calum Gallagher did brilliantly to knock a header on for the half-time substitute Thomas Robert, who drove to the byline and cut a fine cross in to complete the one two. Gallagher showed his game intelligence by following it in and taking up space on the six yard line to guide a clever header down and in to put the Diamonds in front. A very decent goal and an instant impact from Tam Rab.
A few minutes later Airdrie were pushing to increase their lead. Robert won the ball off Ryan Strachan in the heart of the Airdrie box, before the ball eventually found it's way to the advancing Leon McCann. Kyle Connell took over possession and cut back inside, curling his shot wide of the goalkeepers left hand post.
An hour in and Cove should have had an equaliser. McAllister was played in behind an uncharacteristically caught out Airdrie defence and found himself one-on-one with Max Currie as he moved towards goal from the angle of the box. The Toonster's top scorer should have done better, but Max Currie did very well to make the save from the shot, blocking it onto the post and away.
A match that had bene tight throughout became much more stretched in the final 20 minutes, with Cove substitute Broque Watson heading off the post inside 74 minutes and Kyle Turner was blatantly fouled in the opposite penalty box inside the 79th. The referee, quite preposterously, gave a goal kick.
Inside the 90th minute the game was settled. Callum Fordyce, a solid contributor once more this season, did really well to play in Ally Roy as Airdrie launched a 3 vs 3 attack. Roy took the ball into his stride and hit it with a bit of violence. It was met by McKenzie but, despite the shot being straight and at a good height for him, the keeper couldn't hold it. He pushed it back into the oncoming danger and Dean Ritchie, fresh from the bench, steamed in to pick up the loose ball in the box.
14 days later, the young midfielder had stuck it away, but not before he twisted, turned and swiveled his way into his shot. It was quite the thing to watch, but what an impressive bit of composure, confidence and skill from the 20 year old who tucked his first Airdrie goal away after what felt like an eternity.
2-0. Game over. Playoffs secured. One match to go and second place in sight.
This season has some way to go yet and promotion might, just might, lay in wait.