February 11, 2023
cinch League 1
Gabby McGill 29
Calum Gallagher 39
Robbie Mahon 50 OG
Callum Smith 🟥 60
Kyle Benedictus 60 pen
Matthew Todd 66, 82
Nikolay Todorov 86
Airdrie dominated league leaders Dunfermline Athletic for 60 minutes, but the Fifers left with all three points after the match turned on a controversial red card.
Player-boss Rhys McCabe went with the same starting XI and bench which had beaten Clyde a week previously, while ex-Diamonds Josh Edwards and Kyle MacDonald started for the Pars.
End to end play in the early stages saw MacDonald fire over from a good position after four minutes before Deniz Mehmet gathered Callum Smith’s header two minutes later.
The sides continued to trade shots as McCabe’s free-kick was blocked by the wall and Lewis McCann screwed an effort across the face of goal.
Mehmet saved from Smith again as the lively striker linked well with fellow ex-Par Gabby McGill, and Edwards intercepted an Adam Frizzell through ball as Airdrie started to take control of the match.
The visitors did have the ball in the net after 17 minutes, but the stand-side linesman correctly indicated a push in the build-up. A minute later Mehmet was tested again, claiming Aaron Taylor-Sinclair’s knockdown from Charlie Telfer’s corner kick.
A booking for Josh Rae followed as the Diamonds keeper raced from his box to challenge Edwards, catching the wing-back as he cleared into touch.
Frizzell was next to threaten for the home side, sending a stinging effort over the bar on 23 minutes before seeing another good chance blocked five minutes later.
Within seconds the Diamonds were ahead, skipper Callum Fordyce the architect as he played a lovely ball over the top for McGill. With the Dunfermline defence caught flat-footed, the Yorkshireman raced through on goal and got the vital touch to take the ball past Mehmet into the net.
Pars boss James McPake moved quickly with a double-substitution, but it didn’t stop the flow of play as McGill was unlucky to see a looping header drop the wrong side of the post on 34 minutes.
The in-form striker looked to have broken clear two minutes later, but Calum Gallagher chose to try for the spectacular instead of feeding his team-mate, his shot from just over the halfway sailing inches over the bar.
Telfer looked to continue his scoring run on 36 minutes, forcing a good reflex save from Mehmet who reacted well to smother the loose ball, but the keeper was helpless two minutes later as Gallagher doubled Airdrie’s lead, a nice passage of play ending with Frizzell’s perfect pass to the Diamonds’ number 9, who fired home from the penalty spot to make it 2-0.
Dunfermline sub Robbie Mahon fired high and wide as an entertaining first half drew to a close.
Rae made a stunning save shortly after the restart, diving full-length to tip McCann’s shot away from the top corner after a nick from the boot of Cammy Ballantyne.
As Fordyce dealt with the resulting corner, the Diamonds broke at pace with Euan Deveney advancing down the left and crossing for McGill. The striker challenged Mahon for the header, which squeezed in at the near post with an own-goal officially awarded.
The Pars were incensed when Rae slid out of his box on 56 minutes, referee Gavin Duncan awarding a free-kick after adjudging that the keeper had handled outside the area, but calls for a second yellow card were futile as any infringement was accidental.
Four minutes later the red card was out, and it was an incredibly harsh call for Callum Smith when the ball touched his hand in the box as he rolled over on the ground with his back to play.
The penalty award may have been the correct decision by the letter of the law, but any contact by the blindsided Smith was purely accidental and the red card decision surprised everyone.
Dunfermline captain Kyle Benedictus netted the spot-kick with aplomb to spark the unlikeliest of turnarounds.
As Airdrie attempted to regroup, Ballantyne had to be lively to head clear the loose ball after Rae’s 63rd-minute punch spun toward goal, and two minutes later Edwards was unlucky to hit the side netting after sprinting to reach a cross.
Matty Todd made it 3-2 on 66 minutes with a measured finish from outside the area, but Airdrie could have increased the gap again when substitute Justin Devenny raced on to a 68th-minute cross only to see his volley fly over the bar.
The visitors were in the ascedancy now, and it took a good Rae save to deny Chris Mochrie an equaliser before recent signing Ewan Otoo recovered well to block from Telfer.
Further changes for both sides followed, but Dunfermline’s tails were up and they got an equaliser on 81 minutes. There was a slice of luck about it as Todd’s long-range effort took a deflection en route to goal, leaving Rae helpless.
With the scores level both sides pushed for a winner, Fordyce knocking an effort wide with five minutes to play, but it was the league leaders who grabbed the vital goal a minute later, a surging run down the left leading to a low cross which substitute Nikolay Todorov turned home from close range.
A harsh lesson for the Diamonds, who had looked good for their three-goal lead before the visitors took full advantage of the extra man.
The sides meet again at East End Park next weekend as Airdrie look to make amends for a painful defeat.
Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.