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March 22, 2024

The New Saints vs Airdrieonians

Airdrie step into the unknown when they face Cymru Premier champions The New Saints in Sunday’s SPFL Trust Trophy final - but Nikolay Todorov says the Diamonds will give their all to get their hands on the cup.

After four away wins in the tournament, Airdrie will meet The New Saints at The Falkirk Stadium on Sunday afternoon, and will be hoping that last weekend’s win over Arbroath will prove to have been the ideal preparation.

Goals from Arron Lyall, Liam McStravick, Mason Hancock, Charlie Telfer and Craig Watson gave the Diamonds a resounding 5-2 home win to move back into the cinch Championship’s promotion play-off spots… and it could have been six had Todorov not been foiled by the offside flag.

“I’ve seen it back - maybe my nose was offside! We don’t have the perfect angle, but from the one that we’ve seen I wasn’t.

“It doesn’t really matter, we’ve won the game and that’s the most important thing at this stage of the season. I’m just happy that we managed to get the win.”

As soon as the dust had settled on last weekend’s victory, attention quickly turned to this Sunday’s showcase final.

Airdrie’s route to The Falkirk Stadium began in September with a 3-2 win over University of Stirling, with Josh O’Connor, Rhys McCabe and Liam McStravick on the scoresheet.

A 4-2 victory against Rangers B followed at Cappielow in November, Gabby McGill’s double adding to Calum Gallagher’s opener before McCabe stole the show with another outrageous free-kick.

A quick return to Greenock was on the cards, with a match against Morton which went all the way to penalties after a goalless 90 minutes, Josh Rae saving the decisive spot-kick to give the Diamonds a 6-5 win and a semi-final meeting with Raith Rovers.

Todorov was the hero on that February night at Stark’s Park, smashing home the only goal of the game after six minutes, but the Bulgarian insists the win was earned all over the pitch.

“It’s not just me for the semi-final, the boys were excellent. Especially when the goal went in very early in the game.

“We didn’t hold on, we kept on pushing, but it’s a team effort and I think since the start of the new year the boys have been excellent and we’ve been really enjoying it.

“We’ve got a cup final coming and we’re really excited. It’s been great so far in the cup, and we’re going to do all the right preparations. It’ll be a great day for everyone involved at Airdrie - hopefully we can make it an even better day!”

That means a first-ever meeting with The New Saints, a team based on the England-Wales border who play in the Welsh league from their Shropshire home.

Representing the towns of Llansantffraid and Oswestry, the side recently won their third consecutive Cymru Premier title, and their 16th overall.

Managed by former Middlesbrough defender Craig Harrison, The New Saints beat Hibernian B (3-0), East Fife (on penalties after a 2-2 draw), Arbroath (4-1) and Falkirk (0-1) en route to the SPFL Trust Trophy final.

The prospect of matching up against an unfamiliar opponent is a tantalising one for Diamonds striker Todorov.

“It’s exciting. We’ve got to the final, but the job’s not done - we want to go and win it. It’s a different opponent and it’s an opportunity to play against a team from a different division.

“We’ll see what their standard is - if they’re better or worse than us, it’ll only show on the final day. I think we need to look at it as an opportunity to face something that we’ve not faced.

“We’ll stick to our principles and prepare the best we can for the game, and we’ll see who’s the better team on the day.”

With an exciting end to the season guaranteed, Airdrie will be hoping to continue their play-off push with the added confidence brought by winning silverware. Few expected the Diamonds to be aiming for promotion in their first season in the Championship in a decade, but Nikolay is happy to be hitting form at the right time - and insists there’s more to come.

“I struggled myself in the first round of league games with injury, we’ve had changes of formation, the guys in there are young, so there are those little bumps - but it’s about how you overcome them.

“We’ve always been doing the right things. We’re showing, by doing that, what we can do, and I believe we haven’t hit our best form yet. In every game we try to improve and try to play better than the last one.

“That’s how we’re going to approach it, hopefully believing in that will get us on top and we’ll bring it home.”

Player-manager Rhys McCabe says there’s a buzz around the Excelsior as his squad gear up for Sunday’s final.

“Preparations have gone well, the boys are in good spirits, and ultimately playing in a final is not something you often get to do. The boys are really looking forward to going out there and showcasing what they can do.

“You don’t know how good or bad the team is in certain areas because you haven’t played them first-hand, so there’s that feeling of the unknown which is exciting.

“I’m looking forward to that, and I’m confident in what we can bring to the game on Sunday - and likewise I imagine they’ll be the exact same.

“We’re going to enjoy it, it’s an occasion. The boys will be approaching it with the mentality that it’s a chance to lift a trophy at the end of it.”

Two players are cup-tied for Sunday’s match - Kanayo Megwa featured for Hibernian B against The New Saints, and midfielder Arron Lyall turned out for Rangers B against Airdrie before joining the Diamonds in January.

Goalkeeper Josh Rae (head) and midfielder Murray Aiken (ankle) will miss out through injury, but recent absentees Cammy Ballantyne (groin), Lewis McGregor (ankle) and Gabby McGill (hamstring) will be given every chance to prove their fitness ahead of the short trip to Falkirk.

The man in the middle for the cup final clash is Matthew MacDermid. He has refereed an Airdrie match on just one previous occasion this season, taking charge of July’s 3-2 Viaplay Cup win at Inverness.

Match tickets are available using the link below, and our DiamondsTV video (subscribers outwith the UK & Ireland) and audio (pay-per-match worldwide) streams are also available. The match is also being broadcast live on BBC ALBA.


Sunday March 24, 2024




The Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk



Matthew MacDermid


Chris Rae, Scott Anderson

Fourth official

Calum Scott

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