November 12, 2021
East Fife vs Airdrieonians
It’s top versus bottom in Methil as Airdrie travel to face East Fife on Saturday - but Rhys McCabe says the Diamonds will have to dig deep to protect their position at the cinch League 1 summit.
A 3-1 win over Peterhead sent the Diamonds to the top of the table last weekend, with favourable results elsewhere seeing Ian Murray’s side a point clear of second-placed Queen’s Park.
Midfielder McCabe believes that Airdrie are finally fulfilling their potential - and he’s enjoying the journey.
“Obviously it’s been a good start, I think collectively as a team. It was quite a slow start - with the new faces coming and stuff, it took a wee while to gel.
“We’re reaping the rewards now, playing some good football and winning matches, so it’s been good.”
In a typically tight League 1 campaign, only five points separate the top six after 13 games. Every positive result comes from hard work as much as skill, and that was the case last weekend as the Diamonds battled to victory against a dogged Peterhead side.
Dylan Easton opened the scoring for Airdrie just before half-time, with Kerr McInroy and Callum Smith adding to the tally after the break. A late consolation for the visitors wasn’t enough to affect the result.
McCabe recalls a hard-fought but deserved three points.
“We were talking about it after the game - it was one of those games where they made it really stuffy. They sat in and tried to make it hard for us to play our normal football.
“I think it was always going to be something that when we got that first goal it kinda opened the game up a bit, and that’s exactly how it played out - once we got the first we went out in the second half and played our own football and really deserved the win.”
And so the new league leaders face struggling East Fife this weekend, although Darren Young’s side have recently taken steps to arrest their alarming early-season form.
Airdrie were 3-0 winners when the sides met at the Penny Cars Stadium in September, Scott McGill adding to Calum Gallagher’s double.
The Fifers’ ranks have increased since then, with former Diamonds Ryan Wallace and Kyle Connell returning to add firepower upfront.
Recent positive results against Cove Rangers, Dumbarton and Queen’s Park have boosted the Methil side as they aim to fight their way out of relegation trouble, and McCabe doesn’t expect an easy ride on Saturday.
“It’ll be a tough game, I think every game in this league is hard. Obviously the run that we’ve been on, teams are starting to realise that we play nice football, and they try to nullify that as best they can.
“It’s important that we don’t drop our standards and try to kick on.
“East Fife had quite a poor start but they’ve picked up a few good results along the way. Like I said, every game in this league is tough, so we’ve got to make sure we’re on our A-game and go out and get the win.”
With just over a quarter of the season gone, there will no doubt be a lot of twists and turns before the medals are handed out in May, and Rhys says confidence and momentum can go a long way to keeping the Diamonds in the title hunt.
“It’s the old cliche - you never get too high, you never get too low. Obviously we came off the back end of a bad result at Alloa. We just never really played well and we hold our hands up, but the important thing was that we bounced back.
“I think, especially in the second half showing at the weekend, we showed that the confidence is back and we’re looking to take that into the game on Saturday.”
Manager Ian Murray is also wary of the threat posed by Saturday’s opponents on their home patch.
“Every game is very difficult, we keep saying that, but I think East Fife are vastly improved from when we played them on our pitch.
“The last thing we can do is go into games thinking we’re too good to get beat by anybody, and that certainly won’t be the message to the players. In fairness to the players, it’s not something that they’ve been guilty of this season.
“We just need to make sure we’re on it, communicating well, and we’re organised, and let our ability take care of the rest.”
The Diamonds boss reported no new injury concerns, with defender Josh Kerr still receiving physio treatment on a calf knock and striker Salim Kouider-Aïssa facing more tests to discover the extent of his knee injury.
Referee Alan Newlands takes charge of his first Airdrie match this season.
The match at the Locality Hub Bayview Stadium is an all-ticket affair. Tickets and livestream access can be purchased using the links below.
Saturday November 13, 2021
Locality Hub Bayview Stadium, Methil
Graeme Stewart, Terry Ormiston