July 29, 2023
Viaplay Cup Group E
Josh O'Connor 73 pen
Josh O’Connor’s second half penalty handed Airdrie a 1-0 win over Bonnyrigg Rose - and the honour of being the only club in the country to achieve a perfect Viaplay Cup group stage record.
The result will see the Diamonds enter tomorrow’s knockout draw as a seeded side after progressing from the group stage for the first time since its reintroduction.
Manager Rhys McCabe was without suspended captain Adam Frizzell, while Lewis McGregor and Dean McMaster dropped to the bench. McCabe, Calum Gallagher and Murray Aiken were the replacements drafted in as an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation was adopted to combat the tight New Dundas Park pitch.
With only 18 seconds on the clock, Charlie Telfer was somewhat harshly cautioned following a robust challenge in the middle of the park, and things almost went from bad to worse for the Diamonds two minutes later when Smart Osadolor took advantage of a miscue at the back, but Josh Rae was on hand to beat away his angled strike.
Neil Martyniuk fired over from the resultant corner before O’Connor had his first sight of goal on ten minutes, putting a long-range effort over the bar.
Airdrie were forced into an early change when Nikolay Todorov was unable to continue following a clash with goalkeeper Paddy Martin.
Callum Fordyce went close with a 26th-minute header which was just too high after the defender had got on the end of a Telfer free-kick.
O’Connor’s pace and positioning continued to cause problems for the home side, and it took some good defending to stop the forward getting a shot away after picking up McCabe’s long pass.
McCabe himself saw a free-kick blocked by the wall on 32 minutes before Cammy Ballantyne and Craig Watson combined to block a powerful effort from Lee Currie.
Former Kelty Hearts man Reis Peggie came close to breaking the deadlock just before half-time, a fine curling effort bending just beyond the far post.
The early second-half chances fell to Airdrie, Gallagher denied by a superb Kerr Young challenge on 51 minutes before O’Connor unleashed a vicious shot a minute later, the strike clearing the bar with Martin beaten.
Ballantyne tackled well on 53 minutes, following up with a fine pass to pick out Telfer, who dragged his effort wide of the target.
Osadolor got the break of the ball after being well tackled by substitute McMaster on the hour-mark, but the well travelled striker sent a shot well over the bar.
At the other end O’Connor almost teed himself up for a wonder goal, skipping away from a challenge on the touchline before nutmegging a defender, but his touch was heavy and Martin gathered before the Hibs loanee could shoot.
Martin saved well from the striker ten minutes later to save the linesman’s blushes with O’Connor clearly in an offside position.
A minute later the lively frontman had won a penalty for his side, rounding Martin after beating his man, only to be brought down. Although it seemed O’Connor had an empty net to tap into, referee Chris Fordyce settled for a yellow card for the former Falkirk keeper.
Player-manager McCabe handed the ball to O’Connor, who netted with aplomb for a well deserved goal.
Substitute Luke Mahady almost hit back immediately, but Rae did well to turn his powerful angled effort onto the post.
McCabe replied with an audacious attempt from well inside his own half, but the free-kick drifted wide with Martin stranded.
Gallagher found space to attempt to lob Martin a minute later, but the keeper managed to get hands on the ball to deny the Diamonds striker.
Telfer went close twice in the dying stages, shooting wide after a pirouette on the edge of the box then sending a first-time strike just over the bar.
Airdrie sub Lewis McGregor should have wrapped it up in the 90th minute, but the winger was stretching for Ballantyne’s square ball and Martin gathered.
O’Connor’s goal proved to be enough as the final whistle sounded, and Airdrie await tomorrow’s draw in confident mood after a perfect start.
Stuart Mathie at New Dundas Park.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.