July 22, 2022
Arbroath vs Airdrieonians
Airdrie face Arbroath in a winner-takes-all final Group E match on Saturday, and Salim Kouider-Aïssa is hoping to play a part in helping the Diamonds through to the knockout stage.
With both sides unbeaten after three matches, Airdrie can win the Premier Sports Cup group with a victory over the Championship side, having recorded an impressive 2-0 home win over St Mirren in midweek.
Striker Kouider-Aïssa was an 80th-minute sub against the Premiership side, making his first appearance since sustaining ligament damage in a league match against Alloa Athletic last October.
The striker was pleased to make a long-awaited comeback.
“I’m delighted to be back, it’s been a long eight months! I’ve been working hard behind the scenes and I just wanted to get back as soon as possible.
“The club have obviously showed faith in me throughout my injury, and all the players and staff have been with me every step of the way - so a special mention to them, and I can repay them on the park hopefully.”
Taking up good attacking positions and using his physicality to his advantage, Kouider-Aïssa looked back to his old self during his 15 minute cameo - and the 26-year-old says he’s ready for whatever is asked of him as he fights back to full match fitness.
“I’m feeling confident. I’ve been back in training since the first day of pre-season, it took me maybe two weeks to get used to it then the body gives in a wee bit!
“I’m feeling good, so I’m not going to say no if the minutes come thick and fast. Obviously it was the first game, so maybe adrenaline gets you by a wee bit.
“Hopefully I can get more minutes as the weeks come on.”
Having despatched a Premiership club already, the Diamonds now face a Championship challenge as they take on Dick Campbell’s Arbroath.
The Red Lichties have enjoyed life in the second tier since winning promotion from League 1 in 2018-19, and topped the table for much of last season before losing out to Kilmarnock in the title race.
An impressive home record has been the foundation of the Angus side’s success, and Salim says the traditionally windy conditions at Gayfield may force the Diamonds to adapt their game.
“It’ll be a tough one. They’re obviously good at home, and we can’t play our usual style of play every game, there will be times in the season where we’ll need to roll our sleeves up.
“Maybe Saturday’s going to be one of them, maybe it’s not - but we need to be going into every game expecting the worst, and maybe Saturday’s going to be that.”
Manager Rhys McCabe is also expecting a difficult 90 minutes, but believes his side are capable of getting the required result.
“I’ve been up there a few times and played, and conditions are tough. Arbroath play the conditions really well and they’re good at it, to give them their credit.
“You saw last year how tough teams found it to go up there and get results, so we’ll be under no illusion it’ll be a tough game.”
The Diamonds player-boss is without the suspended Cammy Ballantyne for the trip to Angus, but has no further injury concerns ahead of the match.
Referee David Dickinson is in charge of the final Premier Sports Cup Group E tie.
Match tickets and livestream access can be purchased using the links below.
Saturday July 23, 2022
Gayfield Park, Arbroath
Sean Carr, Michael MacDermid