January 26, 2024
Airdrieonians vs Partick Thistle
Airdrie return to cinch Championship duty with a home tie against Partick Thistle on Saturday, and Dean McMaster wants the Diamonds to keep their winning form going.
Midfielder McMaster was a standout performer in last weekend’s Scottish Cup win over Premiership side St Johnstone, and now has a fifth-round meeting with Heart of Midlothian to look forward to.
“Everyone’s buzzing! Obviously we wanted a big team to go and challenge ourselves.
“We put St Johnstone out so there’s a good buzz about the place. We just want to replicate the same, do our best against Hearts and try to get through.”
McMaster made his 50th Airdrie appearance in last weekend’s win, a tremendous achievement for a player who was only 19 years old when he joined on loan from St Mirren at the beginning of last season.
Having made the switch permanent in the summer, the dynamic midfielder has gone from strength to strength as his development in a Diamond shirt progresses.
Returning to the starting line-up after being rested in recent weeks, McMaster is quick to praise manager Rhys McCabe - despite not enjoying his stint on the bench.
“Obviously it’s not good, no-one likes to be on the bench - everyone wants to be playing, but I’ve played a lot this year. I’ve only missed three games.
“The gaffer knows what he’s doing, and he took me out for a period, kept me training hard and I’ve come back in and done well and played the way I usually play.
“He’s constantly giving me advice on what I need to do better, what I need to do to take my game to the next level, and what I can do to improve my overall game.”
With Partick Thistle visiting the Excelsior on Saturday, McMaster is keen to keep his place in the midfield - and is relishing the challenge of gaining ground on the side immediately above Airdrie in the table.
“It’ll be a tough game - it always is, you’re not going to get an easy game against Partick.
“They’re a good side, but we’re also a good side so it’s all about sticking to what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing really well recently - it’s good to get the results, but when the performances are there as well it gives everybody a wee lift.
“We’re not too high after the St Johnstone victory, we’re just focusing on the next game now and that’s what we’ll do this week.”
The sides have met twice already this season, with a 2-1 home win the outcome on both occasions.
James Lyon gave the Jags the lead when they came to Airdrie in August, with second-half strikes from Gabby McGill and Calum Gallagher turning the scoreline in the Diamonds’ favour.
The return fixture was played at Firhill on a snowy December day, with Craig Watson’s strike proving to be just a consolation for Airdrie after Ricco Diack and a Callum Fordyce own goal had put Kris Doolan’s side two ahead.
The Diamonds will be hoping that home advantage trend continues on Saturday, and Dean says both previous games could easily have gone their way.
“In the last game, the first half they were probably the better side but in the second half I thought we were great. We just couldn’t get that goal, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
“The game here, the gaffer and Dycey still reflect on that game and say we’ll take things from it and we’re still trying to progress it into games we’re playing each week.
“It’ll be a good game for the fans to watch, and even the neutrals that come along. Hopefully we’ll get the win.”
While the Diamonds were performing cup heroics against Premiership opposition, Thistle were doing the same with a 3-0 win over Ross County.
Airdrie player-manager Rhys McCabe says it’s no surprise with the quality and experience that the Glasgow side possess.
“We know that they’re on the positive side of an outcome, and so are we.
“We’ll go into it expecting a hard game, they’re a good side. Not long ago they were chasing to get into the Premier league, so we’ve got to remember they’re a good team.
“We’ll go in there and do our homework and be 100% ready.”
While defender Cammy Ballantyne (groin) and midfielder Murray Aiken (ankle) continue to make progress towards a return to full training, the Diamonds boss has new injury concerns following the St Johnstone match.
Striker Gabby McGill will miss 2-3 weeks of training after a scan revealed a knee ligament strain, and his replacement on the day, Calum Gallagher, later went off after feeling a recurrence of a recent calf injury. He will face fitness checks before Saturday’s match.
Referee Lloyd Wilson returns to the Excelsior having officiated September’s 1-0 win over Raith Rovers.
Match tickets are available using the link below, and our DTVLive video (subscribers outwith the UK & Ireland) and audio (pay-per-match worldwide) streams are also available.
Please be aware that behaviour deemed unacceptable will result in ejection from the stadium. Issues arising during the match can be reported anonymously - see the posters around the stadium for more information. Our unacceptable conduct policy can be viewed using the link below.
Saturday January 27, 2024
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Frank Connor, Brian Christie