January 13, 2023
Kelty Hearts vs Airdrieonians
As Airdrie prepare to visit Kelty Hearts this weekend, Craig Watson believes the Diamonds can show their promotion credentials with a run of results.
With each side enjoying a 1-0 home win in their meetings so far this season, defender Watson and his team-mates will look to buck the trend when they travel to New Central Park on Saturday.
The match comes after a mixed start to the year for the Diamonds, last Monday’s 5-2 home defeat to FC Edinburgh followed by a composed performance to secure a 3-0 win at Peterhead on Saturday.
Watson says the time is right to get into the winning habit.
“It’s been a mix - very low last Monday after a very disappointing defeat, but then great from the lads to bounce back.
“We’ve had to be really patient up at Peterhead and wait for the break, which came eventually. Credit to the boys.
“Into the second half of the season, every three points is so crucial. You’ve got to have that winning mentality right from the start.”
The Balmoor victory saw a welcome clean sheet as goalkeeper Josh Rae returned to the side after a long lay-off, but there was also a defensive reshuffle as Watson moved to the right-back position with Cammy Ballantyne and Jay Riley missing through injury and suspension respectively.
“I’m not happy with it under the circumstances of Cammy being injured, but it’s great being back - I do enjoy right-back and getting up the pitch a lot, although I don’t think it was a day for bombing up and down the line!
“It’s unusual, usually Peterhead is a really good pitch. To be fair for the time of year, it’s decent. It’s playable at the end of the day, which is the main thing.”
Pitches will also be in focus this weekend, with the narrow dimensions of New Central Park playing a part in Airdrie’s performance last time out. In a match where the Diamonds could never really get going, Alfredo Agyeman secured the points for the home side with an 85th-minute winner.
Although Airdrie fared better in the return fixture in November, when Calum Gallagher scored the only goal of the game, Watson is looking forward to a first appearance at Kelty having missed the October meeting.
“I’ve not played on that pitch yet, so it’ll be good to tick another stadium off.
“It’s narrow and we do like to use width with our full-backs and our wide players, but it’s the same for both teams so there’s absolutely no excuses there.
“They’re a tough team, they’re hard-working and they’ve been doing not bad. It’s just about us trying to get that style of football that we want, but at the end of the day I think everyone will agree that as long as we get the three points, it doesn’t really matter how we play.”
And as the Diamonds look to record back-to-back wins on the road, Craig reiterates the importance of consistency.
“Off the back of last season, after doing so well, we know how important it is to be consistently good after Christmas. We went so long unbeaten last year, so we need to take a bit of inspiration from that.
“We’ll take it week by week - it’s a cliche, but it’s business end now. We need to do it.
“If we add consistency we’ll cement our place at the top end of the league, where we all feel we should be.”
Player-manager Rhys McCabe is looking for a better performance as his side make their second visit to Kelty this season.
“They’ve picked up their results since we last played, so it’s going to be a difficult game away from home. We’ve got to go and approach that with the mindset that we’re going there to get three points.
“We know from past experiences what their strengths and weaknesses are, so we’ll look to capitalise as best we can.”
The Diamonds boss is without the injured Cammy Ballantyne, although the defender is making good progress after picking up an injury against FC Edinburgh. Striker Lewis Jamieson also missed the trip to Peterhead with a groin strain, and his progress is being monitored.
Saturday’s referee is Mike Roncone, who recently took charge of the 1-1 away draw with Falkirk.
Match tickets are available using the link below.
Saturday January 14, 2023
New Central Park, Kelty
Stuart Stevenson, George King