May 13, 2023
cinch Championship play-off semi-final
Gabby McGill 42
Airdrie will face Hamilton Accies in an all-Lanarkshire play-off final after Gabby McGill’s goal handed the Diamonds a 1-0 win at Falkirk - and a resounding 7-2 aggregate victory.
The sides will meet at the Excelsior on Wednesday night, followed by Saturday’s second leg at the ZLX Stadium after Accies came from 3-0 behind to beat Alloa Athletic 5-3 over their two semi-final ties.
With a place at the Championship at stake, supporters are in for two thrilling fixtures, but the Diamonds had a job to complete against Falkirk first.
With Josh Rae suspended after his red card in Tuesday’s fantastic 6-2 win, Kelty Hearts stopper Darren Jamieson answered the call and became the sixth goalkeeper to don the gloves for the Diamonds this season.
Aaron Taylor-Sinclair also dropped out after feeling a tight hamstring in the aftermath of Tuesday’s match, Rhys McCabe dropping back to defence and Dean McMaster filling the midfield berth vacated by the player-manager.
Jamieson was called into action after just two minutes, defender Finn Yeats bursting through the Diamonds defence before getting a weak shot away.
With a Falkirk side who had made five changes needing five goals to win the tie, the visiting defence were busiest in the early stages, Jamieson saving well from Callumn Morrison who found space to get a 10th-minute shot away.
Airdrie retaliated through Craig Watson, who rampaged down the right flank before squaring to Calum Gallagher, but the striker’s pass to Adam Frizzell was snuffed out.
Morrison went close again midway through the half, smashing in a strike from Kai Kennedy’s cutback, but on this occasion the winger missed the target.
Rumarn Burrell’s 33rd-minute curler was easy for Jamieson, with Gallagher firing wide at the other end three minutes later.
Airdrie should have taken the lead on 37 minutes, the impressive McGill slipping in Justin Devenny who took the ball past PJ Morrison only to be denied by a last-gasp block.
The Falkirk keeper saved well from Gallagher a minute later, but McGill had his side in front three minutes before the break.
Watson’s long throw into the box saw Brad McKay and Coll Donaldson challenge each other for a header, with McGill on hand to pick up the scraps, control the ball and knock past Morrison to put the Diamonds ahead.
Liam Henderson should have equalised two minutes later, but his point-blank header whistled past the post.
A stoppage-time Donaldson effort went over the bar, and the Diamonds took their handsome aggregate lead into the break.
Gallagher went close with a glancing header four minutes after the restart before Watson headed a Devenny corner-kick off-target.
Both sides made changes, and Falkirk looked to have more impetus with the tricky Ola Lawal finding good spaces, but there was no way past Jamieson who superbly turned a Sean Mackie volley over on the hour-mark.
Airdrie sub Lewis McGregor broke through eight minutes later, but a good recovery tackle denied the forward a shooting opportunity.
The former Morton man was causing problems for the home defence, and he combined with fellow sub Salim Kouider-Aïssa to tee up Frizzell on 70 minutes, but the midfielder’s effort was saved by Morrison.
As John McGlynn’s men resorted to long balls into the box, McCabe and Callum Fordyce were dealing with everything that came their way and forcing Kennedy into a wild 77th-minute effort which cleared the bar by a distance.
Jamieson dealt with a low cross with ten minutes remaining before Lawal headed over three minutes later.
The on-loan keeper plucked an 87th-minute cross out of the air in the last action of the match, and a different but equally effective second leg performance saw the Diamonds wrap up both legs of the tie and progress to the final.
Stuart Mathie at The Falkirk Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.