Back With A Bump; Airdrie Stumble Back Into League Business With Defeat At Balmoor
5 minutes. That's how long it took for the excitement and joy of Airdrie's return to League action to drain away. That's how long it took for the frustration, the exasperation, the head-shaking and the eye rolling to slouch back into place, like a prisoner returning to their old cell.
The last time Airdrie kicked off after an imposed suspension, they did so with a comfortable 2-0 win over Peterhead, so hopes were high of getting off to a strong start as we round the corner on the mad dash to the League 1 finish line. Airdrie had added two outfield players whilst waiting for the resumption of league business, Jack McKay and Kyle Turner, with both coming into the starting line up.
Unlike the reverse fixture from October 2020, this afternoon was far from comfortable. That was guaranteed inside the fifth minute, when Kyle Turner went in high on former Diamond Ryan Conroy at the nearside touchline. Nothing else had happened in the game up to that point, and in truth not much else happened after it, either. It was a fulcrum upon which the entire match would turn, and turn it certainly did.
Turner might have gotten away with it if it had taken place somewhere else on the pitch, further from the referee and further form the dugouts, but he didn't. He went in too high and we got to watch a player we were all looking forward to seeing play, walk off the park instead.
With bullet firmly lodged in foot, Airdrie set about 85 minutes of football a man down. Couched in two lines of four, the aim was to hit their hosts on the counter as the pattern of the rest of the game set in.
Peterhead dominated the ball and moved it laboriously as they tried to make their numerical advantage count, but were largely restricted to pot shots and fairly aimless crosses. If nothing else, Airdrie seemed well drilled and organised, keeping a relatively coherent shape and maintaining good discipline. They struggled to retain possession and they weren't able to offer much in the way of an attacking presence even when taking the numerical deficit into account, but they did come closest to scoring in the first half when Calum Gallagher spun brilliantly in the box and hit the bar.
He really ought to have kept it down and give Airdrie a lead to defend, but the quick reactions of Max Currie had been required just before that to deny Isaac Lane a clear run at goal which would surely have given the hosts a pre-halftime goal. Indeed, Airdrie got away with one 40 minutes in when Andrew McCarthy was put through, only to fire badly wide from 10 yards or so out.
The second half was always going to be tough for the depleted visitors, and so it duly proved. A good save from Max Currie denied Layne in the opening minutes of the half and then the Diamonds spent significant time down to 9 men. Thomas Robert was withdrawn on a stretcher after a prolonged period of time down on the far side, suffering from an incident that the Peterhead cameras did not catch. His replacement, Euan O'Reily, eventually took to the field and provided something of a threat for an increasingly leggy looking Airdrie side, his pace and willingness to drive at the home defence at least giving some respite, even if he was unable to make anything of his driving runs and forays forward.
It was feeling increasingly like something had to give, with Airdrie relying on the poor quality of their hosts. Alas, the other shoe did duly drop and Ian Murray will be disappointed that, when it did come, the goal was a bit of a gift. Jack McKay fluffed a clearance right to the foot of Hamish Ritchie who moved it to Jordon Brown for a neat finish beyond Max Currie.
Nearly 70 minutes in, a man down and already flagging, Airdrie were now a goal down, too. Despite further substitutions and the adoption of a more defensive posture from the hosts, the Diamonds were unable to create much in the way of sustained pressure. They found no way through a Peterhead side who were more than up to the task of repelling the fairly lacklustre attacks their visitors could mount.
Ahh, that old familiar feeling.
The football is back, alright.