August 12, 2023
Gabby McGill 63
Calum Gallagher 71
James Lyon 31
Goals from Gabby McGill and Calum Gallagher saw Airdrie secure a convincing 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle in the first cinch Championship match at the Excelsior in over a decade.
Following an unlucky defeat at Dunfermline’s East End Park in the first fixture of the 23/24 season, Airdrie manager Rhys McCabe sought to set the record straight and turn in another fine performance in the hope of grabbing some well deserved points against last season’s cinch Premiership play-off finalists Partick Thistle.
Dean McMaster replaced Charlie Telfer in the midfield, while Josh Rae resumed his spot in goals upon return from suspension. Former Diamond Kerr McInroy dropped out of the visitors’ side through injury, to be replaced in the middle of the park by James Lyon.
Referee Craig Napier’s whistle was greeted by a roar from both sets of fans, as a relatively even start to the match unfolded.
Each side attempted to set an early precedent as they drove forward, however the first to spark real fear in the opposition was Airdrie, when in the seventh minute, a delicious left-footed Adam Frizzell cross found Gallagher at the back post, who volleyed narrowly wide.
The home team seemed galvanised, as Cammy Ballantyne hounded the Thistle defence before winning the ball and gifting it to Gallagher, who screwed a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Soon afterwards, another chance came as Lewis McGregor just failed to latch on to the end of a superbly weighted Rhys McCabe lofted ball.
Callum Fordyce came close to breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute as he rattled a shot off the underside of the bar, however contrary to the screams of players and fans alike, no goal was given.
The first of the afternoon came 11 minutes later, when an angled Thistle shot was palmed away by Josh Rae, only to be bundled over the line by James Lyon, who was on his toes in the box to react to Rae’s smart save.
Matters then went from bad to worse for Airdrie when in the 36th minute, player-manager Rhys McCabe was met with a nasty high challenge from behind, resulting in him being stretchered off the park to be replaced by Murray Aiken.
A flurry of Thistle goalmouth action came just prior to half time, when Brian Graham flicked a header narrowly wide of Rae’s post, a minute before he had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be chalked off by the assistant referee’s offside flag.
The sound of the whistle left both managers with plenty to ponder as Kris Doolan’s side went down the tunnel in the lead, but far from home and dry as McCabe’s Airdrie continued to poke and prod his team’s backline.
The second half began in a slightly more subdued fashion, as the home side adapted to life without their manager on the pitch.
The first real chance of the half came after a swift Thistle break, resulting in a ball being squeezed across goal only for Fitzpatrick to hit the roof of the stand.
A real positive came for Airdrie on the hour mark, as striker Gabby McGill returned from injury to replace Josh O’Connor. His presence was marked only three minutes later as he bundled the ball home for the equaliser after Mitchell had denied Ballantyne in the box.
What followed was exquisite possession football by the Diamonds, keeping the away side cooped up in their penalty area for minutes at a time, and carving out numerous opportunities.
The pressure paid off in the 72nd minute, when Calum Gallagher broke his goalscoring duct by expertly heading beyond Mitchell who was rooted to the spot, following a sumptuous Craig Watson delivery from the right touchline - sending the home fans into raptures.
A cagey affair followed, as five minutes prior to the end of normal time, Alston curled just wide of the Airdrie post, before Justin Devenny and Charlie Telfer replaced Gallagher and McMaster respectively.
Seven minutes of additional time began with McGregor narrowly missing an angled lob following a swift counter attack.
Although the Diamonds’ optimism following this chance appeared to be short lived as Brian Graham headed into the net, Thistle celebrations were cut short by the offside flag once again.
Three minutes of play followed before the referee’s whistle sounded to mark a huge victory for Airdrie, and set a precedent to the rest of the league that the newly-promoted side were not there simply to take part.
Daniel Sutherland at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.