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September 9, 2023

SPFL Trust Trophy round 3

University of Stirling




Ciaran McAninch 18, 54 pen


Josh O'Connor 36
Rhys McCabe 37
Liam McStravick 58


Airdrie needed three fantastic strikes to see off a plucky University of Stirling side as the Diamonds edged through to the fourth round of the SPFL Trust Trophy.

Player-manager Rhys McCabe returned to the starting line-up following a spell out injured, starting in a three-man defence alongside Mason Hancock and debutant Joe Cassidy.

The Diamonds boss made a number of changes throughout his side, with Gavin Gallagher and Liam McStravick also starting after impressive debuts at Tannadice last weekend.

The home side were first to threaten through winger Ben Heal, but he sent his first-minute effort wide of Josh Rae’s post.

Airdrie responded through Hancock, who rose highest for an Adam Frizzell corner only to see his header go narrowly over.

Returning captain Frizzell was pulling the strings in midfield, but for all the nice play Airdrie produced in the attacking third, they were unable to penetrate a stuffy University of Stirling defence in the opening half hour.

McStravick and Josh O’Connor were both denied by blocks as Airdrie attempted to find a way to goal, but it was the hosts who took the lead on 19 minutes when a slip allowed a low ball to be drilled across the face of goal, and Ciaran McAninch was on hand to turn home at the far post.

O’Connor had a half-hearted penalty claim denied three minutes later, and McStravick saw another effort blocked before forcing a good save from keeper Yan Gromov Godik on 27 minutes.

Gabby McGill fired wide after good work by O’Connor on the half-hour mark, with Godik holding a Nikolay Todorov header two minutes later.

The Diamonds did find an equaliser on 36 minutes, Frizzell shrugging off a couple of challenges in the middle before picking the perfect pass for O’Connor, who drew the keeper and slammed home to level the tie.

A minute later Airdrie were in front, and it was another ridiculous Rhys McCabe free-kick which saw the Diamonds take the lead, this time from around the 35-yard mark and straight into the postage stamp.

Todorov and Frizzell both had chances to increase the lead just before the break, but Godik showed safe hands on both occasions.

University of Stirling started the second half pushing hard for an equaliser, and on 53 minutes they had the perfect opportunity when referee Alan Muir awarded a penalty after striker Cameron McKinlay had gone down under McCabe’s challenge.

Scorer McAninch stepped up to double his tally, sending Rae the wrong way with a well-taken spot kick.

Frizzell sent a powerful effort well over the bar and Todorov had a shot charged down as Airdrie tried to regain the lead, but it took a moment of magic from recent signing McStravick to grab what turned out to be the winner.

Accepting a pass from Murray Aiken on the corner of the 18-yard box, the midfielder swept a curling first-time effort across goal and in off the upright, leaving Godik stranded.

Cassidy did well to deny McAninch a shot at goal five minutes later, and McKinlay fired straight at Rae on 67 minutes as Chris Geddes’s side showed no signs of throwing in the towel.

A number of substitutions disrupted play before Marcus Lavery and McGill traded efforts at either end.

McGill saw a 73rd-minute header spin just wide after an audacious cross by Frizzell, and Godik made a fantastic stop to keep out Todorov’s header two minutes later.

Frizzell tried to add another spectacular goal when he spotted the home keeper off his line on 85 minutes, but his lofted effort landed on the roof of the net.

Godik did well again a minute later, tipped round the post from Airdrie sub Dean McMaster.

University of Stirling substitute Abel Manomey almost fashioned a spectacular equaliser with his first involvement, skipping into the box before sending in a wayward effort.

The last chance of the match fell to O’Connor, who shot wide after a smart one-two with Frizzell.

The final whistle sees Airdrie into the hat for Thursday’s fourth-round draw, and we wish our opponents well with their Lowland League campaign.

Stuart Mathie at Forthbank Stadium.

Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.

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