August 19, 2023
Viaplay Cup round 2
Calum Gallagher 36, 82 pen
Josh O'Connor 89
Kyle Turner 6
Jordan White 7
Simon Murray 38
Eamonn Brophy 101
A thrilling Viaplay Cup encounter saw a battling Diamonds team narrowly beaten by Ross County after extra time.
Airdrie welcomed the cinch Premiership side to the Excelsior for what was the two teams’ first meeting since 2010.
Rhys McCabe, sidelined by injury, set out to capitalise on a perfect Viaplay Cup group stage performance and advance to the quarter finals by naming a team with two changes from the previous week’s victory against Partick Thistle.
McCabe made way for Murray Aiken whilst Gabby McGill made his first start after returning from injury as he took the place of Hibernian loanee Josh O’Connor.
Malky Mackay picked a Staggies outfit with only one change from last weekend’s win over St Johnstone, as former Diamond Kyle Turner replaced Yan Dhanda.
Referee Steven McLean’s whistle marked kick off, and was followed by a bout of County possession - putting the Diamonds defence under significant early strain.
The Airdrie defence was cracked open after only six minutes, when Turner whipped a fantastic shot into the top right of Josh Rae’s goal from just inside the box.
A second came in quick succession, when Jordan White tapped home into an empty net after a superb cut-back.
The pressure was maintained, and a chance for a third goal came when Josh Sims found himself free on the edge of the Airdrie box, only to slice wide following a Simon Murray cross-ball.
The Diamonds dug deep to ensure no chance of a quick third, and the first sight of goal for the home side came when McGill just failed to latch onto the end of a well-weighted Calum Gallagher through ball.
As time moved on, the Diamonds showed they were a side capable of giving their established Premiership opponents a tough time, as in the 26th minute a Taylor-Sinclair effort was saved at point-blank range by Laidlaw following a Gallagher header.
Another chance came minutes later, when a mazy Murray Aiken run found him able to cut across goal and skew a shot just over the bar.
Airdrie’s labour bore fruit in the 36th minute, when Gallagher tapped home from inside the six-yard box after an incredible run had led Adam Frizzell into the penalty area, allowing him to square for an easy finish.
The optimism, however, was short lived, as only three minutes later the goal was cancelled out by Simon Murray, who poked beyond Rae following an apparent push on Taylor-Sinclair and the referee overruling his assistant’s decision to award the Airdrie defender a foul.
The half time whistle sounded just after McGill and Frizzell had broken free from the County backline, however a two-on-one situation was won by Jack Baldwin, who blocked smartly as McGill attempted a square ball.
Neither manager made a half time change, and the second half was one which began in a significantly more subtle fashion than the first.
Despite numerous substitutions, no real chances were created until the 81st minute, when Josh O’Connor - who had replaced Lewis McGregor, showcased his blistering pace as he raced beyond two defenders before being tripped in the box.
The resulting penalty was expertly dispatched by Gallagher, who scored his third goal in two matches as he nestled the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Laidlaw the wrong way in the process.
With a newly-rejuvenated crowd behind them, The Diamonds controlled the last ten minutes of play, bombarding the visiting defence.
The pressure paid off in the final minute of normal time, when O’Connor managed to squeeze home from a tight angle for the equaliser, sending the scoreline to 3-3, the tie to extra time and the home fans into jubilant celebrations.
In a final half hour plagued by tired legs, the difference was made in the 102nd minute of play, when Eamonn Brophy was found free at Josh Rae’s back post to head a clever cross beyond the Airdrie goalkeeper.
Despite showing tremendous character and quality to battle their way back on two separate occasions, the Diamonds were defeated by a seasoned Premiership opponent in Ross County, who will advance onto the quarter finals with one eye on Sunday’s draw.
Airdrie will hope to continue their fine run of performances against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in a cinch Championship encounter next week, with the aim of notching another three points in the league.
Daniel Sutherland at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.