Airdrie Found Wanting In Dispiriting, Frustrating Defeat At Methil
Well. That was a sore one.
Airdrie surrendered three points with a meek, meandering and mystifying performance against East Fife, for whom a 2-0 victory was more than merited.
In a game that was endured more than it was watched, the players turned in their worst performance of the season. Airdrie had surprised most with their attacking verve this season, an approach that wasn't really anticipated going into the campaign. Buckles had been swashed against Clyde and Forfar. Even in defeat at Firhill, there were thrills. The second half against Cove Rangers saw a sparkle from the Diamonds and it was the same team who took to the field on Saturday in hopes of picking up where they left off.
Alas, they most assuredly did not.
Football was notable largely by its absence in the opening period. My first note came in the 17th minute, when East Fife blew a great chance to take the lead on account of a dreadful header from Jack Hamilton. It looked like Airdrie had gotten away with one and the hope was they'd start to get control of the football and play the match on their own terms.
And maybe they would have, if not for the underside of the crossbar. 24 minutes in and Thomas Robert slapped a fierce freekick off the bottom of the bar and, crucially, away from danger. That was what they needed to settle them down. That would have changed the momentum, arrested the flow, allowed them to establish their rhythm. Instead, they were stuck playing into the hands of East Fife, who had them engaged in a pitched battle which suited the home side far more.
Having been sucked into playing East Fife's game, Airdrie were duly suckered. Having had fair warning, and having escaped unpunished after a horrible Max Currie clearance 2 minutes earlier, an excellent cross from Ryan Wallace did for the Diamonds. This time Jack Hamilton couldn't miss and it was 1-0 on the 29th minute.
The response, if it was to come at all, would have to come in the second half, as Airdrie failed to snap out of their clumsy, cobbled together performance. A Sean Crighton header was about as good as it got after falling behind, but it was smartly saved by Long. Aimless balls out the back hadn't been a feature of Airdrie's play this season, so quite why Sean Crighton was engaging in it now was anyone's guess. They consistently sailed out of the park and out of danger. As the highly excitable East Fife commentary team pointed out, they would take that all day long.
If the second half was an improvement, it was only by the most marginal and relative degree. Airdrie started with a slight uplift in tempo, but whilst they were enjoying more of the ball, they were still failing to do much with it. 56 minutes in Leon McCann took a throw in just inside his own half, Thomas Robert failed to control it and was out fought far too easily, but the loose ball should have been mopped up by Sean Crighton. Instead, the captain hammered his clearance off the bottom of Jack Hamilton's foot and the bounce of the ball saw the Livi-loanee in one on one. He slid it under the lifted foot of Max Currie to double the lead and kill off any realistic prospect of a rescue job.
Indeed, a few minutes later, with a save from Currie and some bodies-on-the-line blocking on the edge of the box, Airdrie could count themselves fortunate not to be further behind. They did at least make a few chances to halve the arrears and resurrect the game, but failed to take them. Sabatini managed to travel into the box with space to spare, but his shot was screwed badly wide. This came after a few headers from corners and throw-ins, as well as a Thomson effort 74 minutes in which was deflected behind. Crumbs, in all honesty, providing very little comfort.
The scoreline didn't get an worse, nobody seemed to pick up an injury and it's hard to imagine them playing quite as badly again for the rest of the season.
That's about as kindly as one can put it.
Idle Hands Man of the Match? You must be joking. East Fife's Ryan Wallace, I suppose.
Montrose at home awaits and getting back to winning ways will be far from straightforward. The performance, though, simply has to be better.
Airdrie For The Cup. Whit Cup? Any Cup.