July 9, 2022
Premier Sports Cup Group E
Justin Devenny 39
Cammy Ballantyne 43
Adam Frizzell 60
Airdrie got off to a flyer in Premier Sports Cup group E, knocking three past Cowdenbeath with no reply on a hot day at Central Park.
The match was Rhys McCabe’s first competitive fixture in charge of the Diamonds, with the manager naming himself in the starting line-up alongside assistant Callum Fordyce. There were debuts for summer signings Josh Rae, Cammy Ballantyne, Euan Deveney and Dean McMaster, with Justin Devenny also making his first start as an Airdrie player following a promising loan spell from Kilmarnock last season.
The successful pre-season NL Cup campaign showed the Diamonds fans that manager McCabe was keen to provide entertaining, fast-passing football, and the Group E opener was no different.
A couple of corners inside the opening two minutes signalled Airdrie’s attacking intent, and although a stuffy home defence proved resilient for most of the first half, the goals eventually came for the Diamonds.
McCabe himself played in a back three, but was keen to get forward for setpieces, firing over after 12 minutes as a corner broke to the manager on the edge of the box.
Aiden Gilmartin should have done better with a close range effort five minutes later, but could only find the side netting.
Goalkeeper Mason McReady showed safe hands as a 25th-minute Fordyce cross veered toward the top corner, and Gabby McGill sent a shot wide a minute later from a defensive mistake.
Ballantyne, playing as an attacking wing-back, almost grabbed a debut goal on the half-hour mark, getting a touch on Callum Smith’s neat flick, but the defender couldn’t shape his body to steer the ball home.
Adam Frizzell fired straight down McCready’s throat four minutes later as the Diamonds began to turn up the pressure.
McCready was in action again on 39 minutes, making a good reflex save from Fordyce’s header, but a minute later the on-loan Partick Thistle man was beaten.
McGill picked out Devenny with a cross from the Airdrie left, and the midfielder leaned in to send a powerful header beyond the Cowdenbeath keeper and into the net for Airdrie’s first goal of the season.
Three minutes later the score was doubled, Samuel Newman making a meal of a Fordyce cross and allowing Ballantyne to nick the ball and touch home from close range.
Airdrie started the second half as they had the first, McGill shooting wide on 48 minutes before Smith headed straight at the keeper three minutes later.
Frizzell, impressing in the attacking midfield role, was unlucky with a curling 52nd-minute effort after skipping through the home defence.
The midfielder found the net eight minutes later, Ballantyne showing great persistence to win the ball on the touchline before cutting back to Frizzell, who controlled well and picked his spot.
Devenny fired over before Airdrie came close to adding a fourth on 65 minutes, McGill’s angled effort cleared off the line before Deveney had his shot blocked from the loose ball.
Euan Thomson was booked for a bad challenge on Dean McMaster four minutes later, and the midfielder was helped off the pitch shortly after receiving treatment. With outfield sub Calum Gallagher already on, the Diamonds were forced to play the last 20 minutes with ten men.
McCabe curled in a lovely free-kick following the foul on McMaster, with the ball coming back off the bar.
As the hosts continued to try to make inroads, the ten men of Airdrie managed the remaining time well, and the match fizzled out with no further incident of note.
The result and performance point to an impressive opener for the Diamonds, who welcome FC Edinburgh to the Excelsior on Tuesday evening.
Stuart Mathie at Central Park.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.