July 1, 2023
NL Cup semi-final
Dean McMaster 33
Josh O'Connor 36
Adam Frizzell 52
Calum Gallagher 79
Airdrie eased past a youthful Motherwell side to book their place in the NL Cup final for the third consecutive year.
Two goals in each half saw the Diamonds to a good win, with some nice passing play on display throughout the 90 minutes.
With Motherwell’s first-team in the Netherlands, coach David Clarkson brought a young side to Broadwood for the second semi-final, with Albion Rovers having progressed to the final earlier in the afternoon after beating hosts Cumbernauld Colts 2-1.
There were two new faces in the Airdrie line-up, Hibernian loanees Murray Aiken and Josh O’Connor earning their first starts for the club.
The Steelmen were first to threaten when striker Muhammad Adam charged down a Josh Rae clearance, but the spin on the ball saw it bounce to safety - and it was the first and last meaningful chance of the match for Motherwell.
Airdrie quickly took control of the match with some trademark slick passing in the middle of the park, and Calum Gallagher showed the positional awareness which saw him sweep the board at last season’s awards on eight minutes, but the striker was crowded out on this occasion.
O’Connor had his first sight of goal four minutes later, curling over after Aiken had teed him up.
Cammy Ballantyne joined the attack on 17 minutes, sending a powerful half-volley just over the bar before Well keeper Josh Bogan was alert to Adam Frizzell’s cutback four minutes later, saving well at the feet of Gallagher.
The breakthrough came on 33 minutes, Dean McMaster striding forward from the centre circle and riding two heavy challenges before playing a one-two with Gallagher and firing home in style.
Three minutes later the lead was doubled, a miscued clearance falling for Gallagher, who picked out O’Connor and this time the striker found the target.
Bogan denied Ballantyne after some outrageous Frizzell control saw the midfielder nutmeg two defenders in the box, and Lewis McGregor was unlucky with a near-post effort on the stroke of half-time.
The second half continued in a similar vein, Gallagher sending a looping header behind on 48 minutes as the Diamonds reasserted their dominance.
Bogan made a brilliant save to deny O’Connor a second a minute later, and on 50 minutes Gallagher opted for the spectacular finish only to see his overhead kick drift over the bar.
Airdrie weren’t to be denied much longer though, and Frizzell got his name on the scoresheet with a precise sidefoot effort on 52 minutes after McGregor had squared from the right.
Bogan once again showed his promise three minutes later, palming away a Ballantyne drive.
O’Connor went close again on 69 minutes before curling an effort straight at the keeper two minutes later.
Frizzell and McMaster’s incisive passing deserved a goal on 75 minutes, but the latter saw his effort squeeze the wrong side of the post.
Gallagher’s measured finish made it four with 11 minutes remaining, taking down a cross from the right and placing the ball into the bottom corner of Bogan’s net.
That saw the end of the goalmouth action, and it was more than enough to see the Diamonds into tomorrow’s final against Albion Rovers.
Stuart Mathie at Broadwood Stadium
Photos © Stuart Dalzell. Click to view full-size.