May 11, 2022
Queen’s Park vs Airdrieonians
Calum Gallagher enjoyed a week to remember ahead of the cinch Championship play-off final - and wants the Diamonds to dig deep once again as they face Queen’s Park for a shot at promotion.
Following Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at Montrose, Gallagher was on the scoresheet on his 100th appearance as Airdrie registered an astonishing aggregate win on Saturday.
The Diamonds’ vice-captain was then named cinch League 1 Player of the Month for April after netting five goals in four matches.
Gallagher was understandably pleased with his achievements.
“It’s been quite a week considering where we were on Tuesday night. It’s went from really low to really high.
“With the Player of the Month, it’s nice to be recognised to an extent, but at the same time it’s been made possible through the hard work of the team and the manager and the staff. It’s just really been a year of everyone pulling in the same direction.
“With the 100 games, it’s always been a target of mine to finally reach that with a club. I’m thrilled, and hope to now look forward to the 200 - if my legs will manage it!”
Gallagher also grabbed the late goal that took last week’s semi-final to extra-time, with the Diamonds running out 6-5 winners on aggregate after an unforgettable match at the Excelsior.
The 27-year-old striker praised the squad’s self-belief as they turned round a 4-1 aggregate deficit with 20 minutes remaining, but also took the time to single out a special performance.
“Obviously their early goal takes the wind right out our sail, but we react well. We lose the second, and at that point we had to steady the ship until half-time.
“We didn’t have anything to lose at that point - and I think if you speak to everyone individually, no-one didn’t believe that we could do it.
“I think I would be doing him an injustice if I didn’t mention him by name - Callum Smith just carried us. We needed some inspiration on the pitch, and it’s one of the best individual performances I’ve ever seen.”
Saturday’s dramatic scenes set up a nailbiting final against Queen’s Park, led by Diamonds legend Owen Coyle. The Spiders claimed their place in the final with a superb last-minute win over Dunfermline Athletic.
Matches between the sides have been nothing if not tight this season - the pair have met six times between league fixtures and the early-season cup competitions, with only seven goals spread over the meetings.
With the cup matches both drawn over 90 minutes, Airdrie won on penalties in July’s Premier Sports Cup match at Firhill while Queen’s Park were victorious in the SPFL Trust Trophy shoot-out in September.
A 0-0 league draw at Firhill followed, but the Diamonds were victorious when the sides met at the Excelsior again in December, Kerr McInroy netting the only goal of the game.
Charlie Fox and Scott McGill exchanged goals as the sides drew again in Maryhill in January, while a good home performance in March saw Airdrie to a 2-0 win, with Callum Smith and Dylan Easton on the scoresheet.
Gallagher says the previous results point to another close encounter.
“Based on our experience with Queen’s Park this year, I’ve found them to be really well organised. They don’t concede many and all of our games with them have been really tight.”
“We know that if we play to our full ability, I don’t think there’s a team that can live with us. It’s just making sure we bring the best out of ourselves on the day.”
Calum has joined everyone else at the club in expressing his gratitude for the magnificent backing given by the Diamonds support over the course of the season, but warns the New Broomfield faithful that patience may be key over a tense two-legged final.
“I think we would all like to have the game wrapped up in the first minute, but that can’t be our expectation.”
“If it takes to the last kick in the last minute of extra-time or the last penalty in the second leg, then so be it - we just need to make sure that it’s for us and not against us.”
Manager Ian Murray is prepared for another tough away fixture.
“Queen’s Park are a good side with good individual players. They’ve had a little bit of upheaval themselves this season, but I think they’ve done fantastically well to come from League 2 into League 1 and be in the play-off final in their first season.
“We’re going to go to a very hard venue - not just for the surface but for the team that we’re playing against as well.
“It’s a final - we know if we don’t turn up and we don’t do our jobs properly, it could be a long evening for us. We also know that if we do turn up and recover our energy quickly and are ready for the match, then we’re a hard team to beat.”
The Diamonds boss was pleased to report no fresh injury concerns as he goes into Thursday’s match missing only defender Luke Lyons and striker Salim Kouider-Aïssa.
Referee Gavin Duncan has been in charge of two other Airdrie matches this season - both recent 1-1 home draws. The whistler officiated the March tie against Cove Rangers, and April’s final league match against Peterhead.
Match tickets are available using the link below. Fans are reminded that tickets are available online ONLY and there will be no cash gate on Thursday evening.
Thursday May 12, 2022
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
Dougie Potter, Stuart Stevenson