October 6, 2023
Airdrieonians vs Ayr United
Craig Watson says Airdrie will have to do a professional job when Ayr United visit the Excelsior looking to turn around a difficult start to the season.
As the first quarter of cinch Championship fixtures nears a conclusion, the Diamonds face back-to-back home ties against Ayr and Queen’s Park, with the Honest Men making the trip to Monklands this weekend.
With a disappointing return of just six points so far, last season’s runners-up will be aiming for improvement ahead of the next round of fixtures, while Airdrie hope to make it three wins on the bounce following 1-0 victories over Raith Rovers and Greenock Morton.
Watson operated in the centre of defence in both of those matches, after starting the season in a more familiar full-back role. The 28-year-old says he’s happy to play wherever required.
“Obviously first and foremost I like to be on, and I’ve just got to deal with it - and it’s good! I enjoy it, I’ve played there before. It’s completely different to right-back.
“With the style that we play, it’s not your traditional centre-back role. You’re getting on and you’re being expansive. It’s good to be there, and obviously getting clean sheets back to back is a wee bonus.”
With twelve points from their opening seven games, the Diamonds have made a promising start to life in the Championship after winning promotion via the play-offs in May.
A resounding defeat at Gayfield has been the only real blot on the Airdrie copybook so far, but Watson believes that two clean sheets since then proves that the side have learned their lesson.
“We’ve obviously had the game up at Arbroath - a bit of a reality check - made us remember how hard you have to work to get anything out of the games in this league, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
“It’s been a decent start. We can always improve, take the confidence from this first quarter and build on it.”
A 100% home record is the foundation on which Airdrie’s success has been built, with Saturday’s win at Cappielow the first on the road.
League wins over Partick Thistle, Inverness CT and Raith have given Airdrie maximum points at the Excelsior, and Watson wants that to continue on Saturday.
“It’s about the defensive unit working hard to keep that clean sheet. That’s our job. We’ve got enough quality up top for that to take care of itself.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing - it’s worked over the past couple of weeks, and long may it continue.”
Meanwhile, Lee Bullen’s Ayr United have suffered contrasting fortunes, with only two wins from their opening seven matches as the Somerset Park side adjust to life without last season’s Player of the Year Dipo Akinyemi.
Despite their disappointing start, Craig warns that Saturday’s visitors will be no pushovers.
“You’ve got to be ready for their best, every team will go in 100% in every game that they play, so you can’t look at what they’ve done so far in the season. They’re taking each game as it comes.
“It makes it bigger for them, given the start that they’ve had, so we’ve got to give them the utmost respect, train hard this week, and set ourselves up properly.”
Player-manager Rhys McCabe expects an entertaining match as the visitors look to improve their form and his own side strive to protect their home record.
“It’s really important that we approach it in the right manner. I know Lee Bullen well, and I know the end to Ayr’s season and where they finished means that how they’ve started isn’t what they would have liked.
“They’ll be coming with a point to prove and trying to get points on the board as quickly as possible.
“We’ve got a good return here at home, so we’ll be looking to continue that, trying to implement our style as we always do, and looking forward to hopefully getting three points on Saturday.”
Defender Aaron Taylor-Sinclair is again likely to miss out as he recovers from a calf injury, while midfielder Liam McStravick is expected to be fully fit after a scan on a knee injury revealed no serious damage.
Referee Iain Snedden takes charge of his first Airdrie match this season.
Match tickets and streaming details are available using the link below, with our DTVLive stream available to subscribers outwith the UK & Ireland, and audio commentary available to purchase worldwide.
Saturday October 7, 2023
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Chris Rae, Mark Harris