February 10, 2023
Airdrieonians vs Dunfermline Athletic
League leaders Dunfermline Athletic are the opposition for Airdrie’s third successive home game, and defender Cammy Ballantyne hopes to make it three Excelsior wins out of three on Saturday.
The Diamonds welcome James McPake’s side to Airdrie for a rearranged fixture after the scheduled tie in December fell victim to the weather.
Summer signing Ballantyne has had a stop-start season with injury and suspension disrupting any consistent run of appearances, but the former Montrose man was back in the side for last Saturday’s victory against Clyde.
Despite performing well whenever he has featured, the 25-year-old says there’s room for improvement.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, personally. Getting three sending-offs isn’t great at all, but when I’ve been playing I feel like I’ve played quite well.
“I’ve said that I need to try to get my numbers up - I might be involved in goals but I want to be getting my numbers up personally.
“I feel as if, from the start of the season, I couldn’t get into a rhythm. That’s down to myself having a couple of suspensions - so now I’ve got over my injury, hopefully that’s me and it’ll be a clean slate right to the end of the season.”
A stylish 4-0 win against Alloa followed by the more workmanlike 1-0 defeat of Clyde has seen Airdrie move up to third place in the table - with three huge games against the top two coming up.
Ballantyne knows that presents an opportunity for the Diamonds to get themselves right back in the mix.
“It’s a big three, four weeks coming up. Obviously it’s Dunfermline back to back and then we’ve got Falkirk after that, so if we go and put three wins back-to-back then we’re right back in the title race.
“We’ll just take each game as it comes, and that starts on Saturday against Dunfermline.”
The sides have already faced each other once this season, with Nikolay Todorov and Adam Frizzell trading second-half goals in a 1-1 draw at East End Park in August.
With December’s postponement delaying the pair’s second meeting, that match feels like a distant memory to Ballantyne.
“It was ages ago now! It was a tight game, two good teams going at it. We probably got the better of the first half and they got the better of us in the second half, so I think a draw would have been the right result on that day.
“They don’t lose many games - they’re a good team and they’re well organised - but at home when we’re at it, I fancy us to score against anyone.”
And with a series of potentially season-changing matches looming, Cammy thinks the Diamonds are finding their best form at exactly the right time.
“It’s the business end of the season - if you’re going to put a run together, it’s now. You can shoot right up the table.
“Even if you’re not winning the title, you’re in form going into the play-offs, so it’s a good time to string some wins together and get in a good run of form.”
Player-boss Rhys McCabe knows Saturday’s opponents well, having spent two years at East End Park earlier in his career.
“Dunfermline’s defensive set-up and record this season has been incredible, so we know that it’s going to be more of that on Saturday. We’ve got make sure that we can come up with a few ideas to go and try to penetrate them.
“We’re on a good run of form, confidence is high and we’re creating chances and scoring goals, so I’m looking forward to it - it’ll be exciting!”
The manager has no injury worries ahead of the tie, with ex-Pars striker Gabby McGill showing no ill effects from a slight niggle which saw him withdrawn at half-time against Clyde.
Referee Gavin Duncan has already officiated one Airdrie match this season, September’s 5-0 home win over Clyde.
Match tickets and streaming details are available using the link below.
Saturday February 11, 2023
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Graham McNeillie, Andy Milne