April 22, 2023
cinch League 1
Calum Gallagher 62
Craig Wighton 58
Kyle Benedictus 🟥 64
Kevin O'Hara 🟥 62
Airdrie will compete in the cinch Championship play-offs after gaining the point required in the third 1-1 draw with champions Dunfermline Athletic this season.
The Diamonds were unable to penetrate the Pars’ deep-lying defence after the visitors went down to nine men with 18 minutes remaining, with Craig Wighton and Calum Gallagher trading goals before Kyle Benedictus and Kevin O’Hara saw red.
There were two enforced changes to the Airdrie line-up, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Gabby McGill dropping out with hamstring and back injuries respectively, player-manager Rhys McCabe and midfielder Charlie Telfer their replacements.
Any notion that Dunfermline were only there to make up the numbers was quickly dispelled as James McPake’s men quickly took control of the game after being welcomed onto the park by an Airdrie guard of honour.
With four minutes played there was almost disaster for home goalkeeper Josh Rae, who delayed his clearance long enough for Paul Allan to close down, the ricochet off the Pars striker clipping the underside of the bar.
Airdrie retaliated through Craig Watson, who nodded Justin Devenny’s corner just over on six minutes.
Two minutes later the Diamonds hit the woodwork too, Telfer homing in on goal but visiting keeper Deniz Mehment getting enough on his strike to deflect it onto the crossbar.
Ex-Diamond Josh Edwards was getting forward often on the left, and his 12th-minute cross was just too strong for Allan.
On-loan Celtic defender Ewan Otoo tackled well to dispossess Devenny after good work by Callum Smith three minutes later, before the home fans were hopefully claiming for a penalty after the big defender obstructed Gallagher.
Chris Mochrie saw a weak effort gathered easily by Rae on 20 minutes, with the keeper having to look a bit more lively to palm out a low drive from Allan two minutes later.
The Airdrie keeper was in action again on 26 minutes, getting enough on Edwards’ cross for the danger to be cleared.
The Diamonds looked to be through on goal a minute later, Gallagher bearing down with Smith in support, but the league’s top scorer chose to square for his strike partner and the covering defender blocked the pass.
Devenny then almost found the net with a near-post effort after Adam Frizzell had danced across the by-line, and Airdrie continued to pile on the pressure with a rasping effort from Gallagher on the half-hour mark, Mehmet diving full length to tip round the post.
Telfer was next to have a go, sending another powerful effort just wide.
As half-time approached Otoo saw a header go wide from a corner kick before McCabe’s free-kick clipped the defensive wall on the way over the bar.
Mehmet proved unbeatable again just after the break, throwing out a hand to deny Smith after the striker had found himself unmarked in a good position.
As Airdrie continued to attack Smith saw another effort deflected behind, with Callum Fordyce nodding over from the resultant corner.
Gallagher was denied again on 54 minutes, his downward header beating Mehmet but bouncing back off the base of the post.
The Pars took the lead against the run of play on 58 minutes, Joe Chalmers lofting a pass from the halfway line to find Wighton, who did well to lift the ball over the outrushing Rae.
Airdrie took only four minutes to level the tie, Devenny’s corner kick looping over the visiting defence to find Gallagher, who stabbed home at the far post in familiar style.
Dunfermline’s troubles worsened on 63 minutes, Frizzell touching the ball through to Smith who was dumped to the ground by Kyle Benedictus, with referee Greg Aitken left with no option but to show the Pars captain a straight red card.
Devenny once again found Mehmet in good form on 67 minutes, the Turkish keeper saving his powerful left-footed effort.
The visitors were reduced to nine men on 71 minutes, substitute Kevin O’Hara seeing red after taking out Watson with a knee-high challenge on the touchline. As Dunfermline raged over the decision, Chris Hamilton was booked and assistant manager Dave McKay also saw red.
With a two-man disadvantage, Dunfermline spent the remainder of the match camped in their own box as Airdrie tried to unpick the packed defence.
Airdrie sub Ben Stanway saw an effort blocked before Mehmet saved from Watson, Lewis McGregor also seeing an effort blocked after coming off the bench.
As the clock ticked down Fordyce fired wide before Watson lashed a strike over the bar. McCabe repeated the feat with the final attack of the match, and the points were shared for a third time.
The draw sees Airdrie confirm their place in the play-offs, giving the management the opportunity to rest key players in the final two matches of the regular season.
Queen of the South are next up for the Diamonds, who will be looking to maintain their form after today’s result stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches.
Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.