March 25, 2022
Airdrieonians vs Cove Rangers
Calum Gallagher believes Airdrie’s winning run can continue as the Diamonds face Cove Rangers in a top-of-the-table clash between two relentless sides.
All eyes are on the Excelsior Stadium this weekend as Paul Hartley’s league leaders come to town with a five point advantage over the second-placed Diamonds.
A home win would cut that gap to two points with five games remaining, and striker Gallagher is well aware of the importance of the tie.
“It’s certainly the biggest of the season for us, and obviously with the top flight not having a game it’s probably the biggest game in the country in terms of what it means for the outcome of the title race.
“It’s one that we’ve had our eye on, and in the approaching weeks we’ve had a really tough run of games that we had to get through first, but we’ve managed to do that in a bit of style so we’re hopeful that we can take that into the game on Saturday.”
Airdrie’s vice-captain is one of the first names on the team sheet every week, with his endless hard work off the ball allowing those around him to create opportunities - and as demonstrated when he bagged the extra-time winner in last season’s play-off semi-final against Cove, Gallagher has a habit of grabbing important goals at the business end of the season.
“Over the last five years I’ve had a knack of finding the net and hitting a wee bit of form in the latter part of the season where it has counted for us.
“Since I’ve been in we’ve always been at the top end and competing in play-off positions and big games, so it’s a good time to be on the pitch - and I’m pleased that I can contribute for the team!”
Much has been made of the way the Diamonds have gone about their business this season, winning 18 of their 30 league games to date with an abundance of flair, creativity, and more than a few outstanding goals.
Gallagher is quick to credit manager Ian Murray as the source of such entertainment.
“It definitely is the best side that we’ve had since I’ve been here. I see a lot of buzz online for the team this year for being the best Airdrie squad in a long period of time, and that’s a tremendous position for us to be in on the pitch.
“The gaffer needs to take a lot of credit for that, for getting the right type of boys in and getting strength in depth. It’s been a joy this year and we’re relishing every minute of it, and we’re hopeful in the last six games that we can go and achieve.”
With six games left of the regular cinch League 1 campaign, Airdrie’s form would surely have them leading the pack in most other seasons - but Saturday’s opponents Cove have been equally impressive and currently sit five points clear at the top the table.
As well as a 20-match unbeaten run, the Toonsers also hold the upper hand over the Diamonds thus far.
An 89th-minute Morgyn Neill header meant the points stayed in Aberdeen after a tight match at Balmoral Stadium in September, with Mitch Megginson and Fraser Fyvie also scoring late in a 2-0 win for Paul Hartley’s side at the Excelsior in November.
The sides met again last month, with Harry Milne and Callum Smith trading goals in a 1-1 draw at Balmoral.
Calum has been impressed by the former Highland League side, but says the message remains the same for the Diamonds - look after our own performance.
“Since they’ve come into the league I think they’ve been a real breath of fresh air. They’ve looked to play football in the right way, they’re well organised, they’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of technical ability.
“We have the utmost respect for them here, it’s by no means an easy game for us on Saturday. It’s a cup final, and we’re treating it in that manner, but at the same time we need to go into it relaxed and believe, and take our positive run into the game with us.
“Hopefully we can do ourselves justice on Saturday - regardless of result I think the performance is just as important, that we show up and demonstrate how we’ve been playing this season. I don’t think we’ve done that against Cove yet.”
Manager Ian Murray is looking forward to what should be a thrilling match-up as the title race moves towards its conclusion.
“We expect another really hard game against a team that are on a great run and are top of the league for a reason. We’ve had really close games against them throughout the season, and last season as well, so I expect no different this week.
“They’ve got great firepower, good experienced midfielders, a good spine throughout their team - as do we.
“The boys have done really well to remain calm and focussed thus far, and they need to do that on Saturday.”
Referee Gavin Duncan takes charge of his first Airdrie match this season.
Match tickets are available using the link below, and we have a special offer for online purchases which are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for all concessions.
Tickets sold in the public bar prior to kick-off will be charged at full price.
Cove Rangers supporters will be housed in the East Stand for this match, with the Diamonds support occupying the Jack Dalziel stand as usual.
Livestream access is also available for those unable to make it to the match.
Saturday March 26, 2022
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Graeme Leslie, Michael Bonner