Diamond Watches: Forfar 1-3 Airdrieonians
Updated: Jan 8
From the Ridiculous to the Sublime... To The That'll Do Fine
Airdrie recovered from two Cup calamities with a scintillating first half, before seeing out the game with a professional second period away to struggling Forfar.
Having gone into a cup double header on the back of a demolition job on Clyde, Airdrie emerged with more than a few bumps and bruises as they took to the Forfar field. It was a very strange League Cup finale for the Diamonds; having hit 16 shots against Clyde (8 on target) and scoring 5, they fired 17 at Edinburgh City and scored... none. It was a game with some frankly baffling misses, with Thomas Robert especially profligate with his wasteful finishing. Only 7 of their efforts were on target, leaving 10 sailing over, wide and wasted.
They then took to the Tony Macaroni and held their own against top flight Livi for 55 minutes, giving about as good as they got, before making the crucial error of taking the lead as Thomas Robert finished with real aplomb. Livingston smashed four past them for their cheek.
What was most pleasing, then, was the manner in which Airdrie started their return to League duty. No hangover in sight, no visible dents in the confidence, and the bit quite comprehensively between the teeth. They started with real vim and vigour, pinning their hapless hosts into their own half and subjecting them to an avalanche of attacks. They soon had reward for their effervescent, irrepressible dominance, after six minutes and a wonderful attacking move. Kyle Connell spun his marker and kicked off a neat interchange of one touch passing between Robert, Paul McKay and Gallagher, who returned it cleverly to the French youngster in the acre of space Airdrie's guile had carved out.
He finished beautifully, and suddenly the sitter misser of the Edinburgh City game had two for two. It has taken a few games for him to get going, but wow has Tam Rab got going. It's going to be a treat, a privilege, watching him play in the Diamond, and we can only hope we get in to grounds to appreciate him properly before he moves up, up and away.
Airdrie weren't finished. Not by a long shot. Connell tried a worldy, Carrick had a shot blocked and an excellent save was forced out of Marc McCallum by a fearsome Kerr drive.
21 minutes in though and the door was kicked in again. Paul McKay fought ferociously with Gary Irvine to gain control of a Connell through ball and the ball ricocheted off the Forfar man's outstretched arm and a penalty had to be given.
Dale Carrick, of course, took the spot kick, and Dale Carrick, of course, scored it.
2-0 up and cruising. You started to think the Clyde win was about to be blown out the water.
And then Forfar got one back. There was no warning from the opening 21 minutes, but within the 23rd the home side had struck back. A real flash of skill from Florent Hoti saw the Dundee United Loanee hit the bar. He was unfortunate not to score, but the rebound was snaffled by Chris Antoniazzi, who seized upon a moment of hesitancy by Leon McCann to head home beyond Max Currie, who might look back on it as one he could have got a hand to.
Anyone fearing a momentum shift were quickly reassured as Airdrie restored their two goal lead in short order. Good ball winning by Paul McKay sent Robert on his way, his close control and obvious trickery leaving the Forfar defence in a state of retreat. Airdrie's swashbuckling forward squared it to Kyle Connell, who finished excellently to make it 3-1 and kill off any realistic hope of a Forfar recovery. A composed, guided finish, a sign of the high confidence and sharp technique the Kilmarnock youngster clearly possesses. He is most assuredly benefitting from first team football at a senior level.
He nearly bagged another before the break as Airdrie continued to press the issue, heading wide at the back post after excellent play by Dale Carrick, who found his teammate with a lofted cross. It was a certain goal had the header been steered on target, so still room to grow for the exciting prospect, another we should be enjoying whilst he's here.
Forfar's goalscorer did well to carve himself a chance to reduce arrears once more, but Max Currie saved well from Antoniazzi's effort.
The second half was more often than not an exercise in game management, as Airdrie resolutely repelled their hosts increasingly forlorn attempts to reignite the contest. A tactical shift form Forfar, pushing through the centre of the pitch, saw them enjoying much more territory and possession than they had in the opening 45 minutes, but they found a defence and goalkeeper, aided and abetted by their hard working midfield and attackers, intent on preserving their advantage.
Granted, had Currie not been a match for some strikes from distance early in the half we might have been in for a far less comfortable end to the game, but a match he most certainly was. Indeed, only an excellent tackle prevented Connell from scoring again just beyond the hour, and substitute Griffin Sabatini was denied his first Airdrie goal by a good McCallum save on the back of an incisive surge from Kyle MacDonald.
Currie again had to look sharp when Jordan Allan's curled effort bore down on his goal, before watching a decently hit free-kick fly wide; it looked a very narrow miss from Forfar sub Daniel Scally. These came on the back of a further two saves by McCallum, denying Kerr and McKay respectively.
The Diamonds nearly put the cherry on top at the death when Kyle Connell set up sub Craig Thomson, but his shot was well over the bar. So only the three goals this time, and all in that blitzkrieg of a first half, but with 8 goals scored and only 1 conceded in their last two league games, Airdrie turn the attention to Cove Rangers.
The League 2 Champions are making their second trip to Airdrie, having scored two late goals to seal a 3-2 victory in a thoroughly dispiriting 2017 Scottish Cup encounter. Having lost their first league game of the season in Falkirk last time out, Paul Hartley's much fancied side will be looking to show a reaction, knowing that a win will return them to the top of the league. For Airdrie, it's a chance to leapfrog them into second place on goal difference and put their foot firmly on the coattails of the Bairns.
It's all set-up for a big game at the Penny Cars and Airdrie go into it on form. A bigger test now awaits them, as does a chance to make themselves a serious player in the early tussle at the top.
Over to you, lads.
Idle Hands Man Of The Match; Thomas Robert.
Airdrie For The Cup. Whit Cup? Any Cup.