March 18, 2021
Peterhead vs Airdrieonians
Airdrie’s league campaign gets back underway against Peterhead on Saturday, and manager Ian Murray believes the Diamonds are in a strong position.
Following a break in play due to the Covid pandemic, Airdrie have another eight matches scheduled, with four more post-split fixtures to come if all teams have played 18 games by April 23.
It’s a complex scenario, but Diamonds boss Murray will take each game as it comes as his side aim for promotion.
“The enforced break was obviously disruptive, but because it was such a long break it felt a bit like coming back for pre-season after the summer.
“It would actually have been worse if it had been two or three weeks, on the physical side at least, but getting back later than we had hoped has had the knock-on effect of reducing the number of games.”
With two weeks of training under their belts, Murray is impressed with his squad’s attitude.
“They’re looking really good, they’ve all come back in great condition after working really hard on their own. To be fair, we knew they would.
“It was really important that they came back ready, but it’s pleasing to see in training that the guys we needed to be firing really are.”
With the transfer window also being extended due to the stoppage, Airdrie have taken their time to bring in the right players to bolster the squad.
In addition to goalkeeper Andrew McNeil (subject to paperwork), the Diamonds have brought in Jack McKay and Kyle Turner, on loan from Chesterfield and Dunfermline Athletic respectively.
Murray is happy with his mid-season business.
“We were really pleased to get Jack McKay - we’re obviously familiar with his brother, and Jack is similar in that he can play a number of positions. Airdrie fans will remember him as a striker, but he can also operate at right full-back or wing-back, and he has the athleticism to succeed in those positions.
“Kyle Turner joined us on Tuesday to bolster our midfield and fitted in straight away at training. He’s really hungry, and we’re excited to see him playing in League One. He’ll be a vital cog in our team going forward, and we’re sure Kyle will take that in his stride.
“I’ve been really impressed with how both players have been fitting in at training, and they both look sharp.”
To say this has been an unusual season would be an understatement - in addition to the shutdown and fixture changes, League One sides have been playing in empty stadiums.
Murray believes there’s little point in dwelling on the situation, preferring to concentrate on footballing matters.
“If I’m being brutally honest, both times we’ve stopped I’ve been fairly relaxed about what would happen - it’s outwith my control and I’m not an expert on these matters, so I can’t say what’s right or wrong.
“What I can do is get the players ready - we potentially have eight games left to play, and in any league if you’re five points off the top with a game in hand at this stage, you’re in with a chance.
“We need to manage ourselves, we can’t control what happens elsewhere, and we’ll make sure we do that.”
And so after a nine-week lay-off, Airdrie resume their promotion challenge with a trip to Balmoor Stadium on Saturday, knowing that the old cliche remains true - there are no easy games in League One.
“It’s another tough game, every game against Peterhead has been really close over the last two years.
“In the first game of the season we scored from two set-plays, and while it was a great three points I wasn’t overly chuffed with the performance.
“I watched Peterhead against Partick Thistle just before the break and they won comfortably - it was no fluke, they were very comfortable in the game - so it’s going to be a difficult game but it’s one we’re capable of winning.”
Eoghan Stokes will face a late fitness test after picking up a knock in training, with Reece Murdoch missing out under similar circumstances. Unfortunately Josh Kerr will not feature in the remaining matches as the defender faces a hernia operation.
Ian added “It’s a shame for Josh, but I’ve been in the same position myself - he needs to go and get the operation to get himself ready for the summer. We’ll help him with that and we look forward to getting him back in for rehab.”
Referee Steven Kirkland is the man in the middle at Balmoor, his first Airdrie game of the season.
Fans can watch Peterhead’s live stream of the match on Blue Toon TV using the link below.
Saturday March 20, 2021
Balmoor Stadium, Peterhead
Graham McNeillie, Scott Anderson