Two Away Games In Three Days Return Contrasting Results For The Diamonds
Cove Rangers V Airdrieonians
On the back of two defeats, Airdrie made their first visit to the Balmoral stadium under something of a cloud, and returned home with nary a glimpse of blue sky in sight.
The continuing suspension of Kyle Turner was compounded by fellow red card recipient Sean Crighton and the pre-game warm up injury to Paul Paton, further exacerbating the adhesive nature of the wicket upon which The Diamonds found themselves.
The home side, who had left Airdrie with a point in November, dominated the ball and had most of the chances. Indeed, in the first half, Fraser Fyvie hit the bar from a free-kick that looked destined for the net then inexplicably missed an open goal from a yard out due to a miskick.
A tight offside call against Kyle Connell aside, Airdrie hadn't managed to muster much in the way of attacks in the opening 45 and were fortunate to be level going into the break. The irony of the second half was that, whilst improving their performance and making more chances of their own, Airdrie nonetheless saw their goal breached twice in a six minute spell by cheaply conceded goals to Cove substitute Jamie Masson.
Max Currie had to look lively just inside the 9th minute to push a Fyvie drive over the bar, but it was a save you'd expect the keeper to make. Kyle Connell showed a good touch and turn of pace to get in around the Cove defence and towards goal in the 22nd but his shot, like Fyvie's earlier effort, was meat and drink for the goalkeeper.
Whilst surrendering possession to their hosts, Airdrie were not looking overly troubled in what was a pretty dull opening 45. Cove did finish the stronger, though, with the crossbar-rattling freekick and goal-line Fyvie fluff.
A persistent spell of pressure just before the hour mark nearly brought an Airdrie goal, and Kyle Connell will want that particular shot back; keep it low and he likely scores. Less than five minutes later Cove took the lead, with a low cross being left by Callum Fordyce. It was a costly lapse in concentration from the acting Captain, as Masson nipped in behind him and in front of McKay to finish off the cross from Ross.
A really neat touch from Mitch Megginson fed Fyvie as Cove broke on Airdrie inside the 71st minute, and the Airdrie defence were caught out big time. Masson nabbed his second on the game and that was pretty much that. The Toonsers have an enviable home record since entering the SPFL and they saw this particular game out with relative ease.
Airdrie were left little time to lick their wounds; having departed from the hard place, they now faced a trip to The Rock.
Dumbarton V Airdrieonians
Having lost three on the bounce for the first time in the season, you would have understood if Airdrie's ebb was at its nadir. Instead, they took to the field for their long-delayed trip to Dumbarton with a calm, measured and patient air about them. Granted, the confidence had clearly been knocked. Their play at times was overly patient, borderline tentative. They were still without Captain Sean Crighton and the injured Paul Paton, but Kyle Turner was back in, having gotten off to such a short, sharp start at Peterhead. He quickly justified the excitement around his loan signing from Dunfermline, showing composure on the ball, an eye for a pass and a willingness to take the ball under pressure. Better than that, he could actually keep a hold of the thing under pressure, too.
Though The Diamonds seemed happy to move the ball and comfortable in their majority share of possession, they weren't pressing the issue. Dented confidence on their part, combined with a resolute but reticent home team, left the game a bit dry to begin with. Airdrie had the better ball players, clearly, and they looked in patches like they were more than capable of putting some passages of play together, but there was only ever really a sense of danger; the danger itself wasn't really materialising.
nearly 20 minutes had elapsed before it looked like Airdrie might spark into life, with Jack McKay doing brilliantly well to bear down on a Dumbarton defender and force him into a panicked clearance. He did even better to block that clearance and thus play in Calum Gallagher, restored to the starting lineup against his former side. He nutmegged his man and weaved his way into space against a back pedaling defence, but the shot was blocked.
Thomas Robert was looking intermittently lively, beating his man now and then, nipping into the game when the mood took him and drifting out again when it did not. It felt very much like he could change the game at any moment, but just when you thought he was about to turn that undoubted talent up to 11, he would rein it in and relent.
It was The Sons who almost lit up the match when Ruaraidh Langan roared a shot goalward from distance, but it zipped narrowly over the bar. Had that gone in, Airdrie could have been staring down the barrel of consecutive defeat number four. The second half, though, found Airdrie step things up a gear as they pushed their increasingly flagging hosts with greater vigour.
A lovely bit of play from Robert had Gallagher through on goal, but for the timely and crucial block from a stretching Dumbarton limb. Gallagher was again denied when Morgan Neill intervened to cut out the danger after substitute Dale Carrick dummied craftily.
Tiredness was creeping ever increasingly into the home side and they soon found themselves giving away numerous freekicks, although the yellow card Jamie Wilson picked up had more to do with stupidity than fatigue when he barged Max Currie to the ground long after the Airdrie keeper had collected a long ball.
Turner's speed of thought was really starting to tell, winning a freekick off Langan with a sharp turn that caught his midfield counterpart out. Both sides made changes as the packed League One schedule began to tell, and 71 minutes in Ally Roy and Craig Thomson replaced the solid Scott Walker and the industrious Jack McKay. It was to be a telling double sub.
Within ten minutes, the subs had combined to win the game for Airdrie. Paul McKay had fed Thomson down the Airdrie right and the winger beat his man easily. He fired over a dream of a cross, to which Sam Ramsbottom sold himself rather cheaply, and Ally Roy was on hand to grab another goal with the simplest of close range headers.
The relief was palpable.
Kyle Connell, an earlier substitution, nearly seized on the momentum to double the Airdrie lead and kill the game off, but his effort flew just past the post a couple of minutes later. It would have been an excellent goal and would have sealed a precious three points for the visitors, but instead they would have to tough it out.
It's not to everyone's liking, the old 'game management' thing. It can appear a bit unseemly, a bit grubby, and it it truly appalling to be on the other end of, but boy did Airdrie do it well. They kept the ball in the corner, or out at the shy line, or forced the hand of the increasingly frustrated Dumbarton players who gave away sloppy freekicks. So effective were the Diamonds in their efforts to wind down the clock that Ross Forbes lost the plot, booting Kyle Connell after the referee had already given Dumbarton a freekick and Connell a yellow. Forbes bagged himself a marginally early finish with is kick out as the home team saw out the final few minutes with ten men.
Airdrie got the win they craved. They got the win they needed. They had a few days rest ahead of them after their double duty, with a home game against league leaders Falkirk awaiting them the following Tuesday, and spirits must have been high. Afterall, it was only Falkirk. Everybody knew Airdrie weren't going to be losing to them...