July 30, 2022
cinch League 1
Callum Smith 33
Craig Watson 39
Airdrie’s cinch League 1 campaign got off to a winning start as goals from Callum Smith and Craig Watson handed the Diamonds an opening-day victory over Peterhead.
Manager Rhys McCabe made an 11th-hour signing after Joshua Rae failed to recovery from a shoulder injury in time for the match, with 17-year-old Hibernian goalkeeper Murray Johnson joining on an emergency loan deal.
Midweek signing Ben Wylie started in the heart of midfield, with fellow new boy Lewis Jamieson named among the substitutes.
The Diamonds started brightly at a warm and sunny Balmoor, home defender Paul Dixon performing third-minute heroics to nip in front of Gabby McGill and nod the ball back to keeper Jack Newman as the Diamonds striker lined up a shot.
Newman held a McCabe free-kick three minutes later as Airdrie searched for an early advantage.
Craig Watson’s ninth-minute header shaved the post, and the woodwork was to deny the Diamonds again as they turned up the pressure on Jim McInally’s side.
Smith went close on ten minutes, before the Blue Toon had their first sight of goal a minute later, Johnson gathering a Connor O’Keefe strike.
Watson turned provider for McGill, who saw his close range header come back off the bar before the Englishman forced a spectacular save from Newman with another headed effort.
O’Keefe was proving to be a good out-ball for the hosts, and Cammy Ballantyne had to get back to make a fine tackle on 24 minutes as the striker burst forward.
The Diamonds defender almost made an impact at the other end four minutes later, jinking into the box before his square pass was booted off the goal-line.
Adam Frizzell saw his 28th-minute cross turned onto the bar by a home defender before Callum Fordyce had a looping header nodded off the line a minute later.
A goal was coming for the Diamonds, and it was Smith who grabbed his first of the season on 33 minutes, winning possession on the halfway line and racing forward before cutting in from the left and placing a precise finish beyond Newman.
The advantage was doubled six minutes before half-time, Watson leaping at the far post to power home a header from Justin Devenny’s corner.
David Wilson stopped Devenny with a well-time sliding challenge two minutes later, and the Diamonds went into the break with a two-goal lead.
A change of shape saw Peterhead get forward more after the interval, O’Keefe firing wide before Ola Adeyemo got through one-on-one with Johnson only to ripple the side netting.
McCabe went close with a long-range effort on 54 minutes, Newman producing another fine save to tip the Airdrie player-manager’s strike over the bar.
Jordon Brown failed to hit the target after getting through on goal two minutes later, with Watson blocking well from Adeyemo on 64 minutes.
Jamieson made his Airdrie debut after 72 minutes, and the St Mirren loanee showed his eagerness to shoot within minutes of coming on.
Adeyemo fired well over after taking advantage of a loose pass on 74 minutes, with McGill pulling an effort wide as the Diamonds broke.
Frizzell advanced with the ball with eight minutes remaining, his pass finding Jamieson who saw his shot deflected over.
A stoppage time McCabe free-kick went wide of the target before Newman blocked Jamieson’s shot with his legs, and the League 1 opener ended with three points and clean sheet for the impressive Diamonds.
Stuart Mathie at Balmoor Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.