October 31, 2023
Kai Fotheringam 20, 52
Despite flashes of good play, Airdrie were beaten by a Dundee United team who consolidated their position as league leaders on a cold Hallowe’en night at the Excelsior.
Rhys McCabe made three changes from the side narrowly dispatched by Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the weekend in the hope of giving Jim Goodwin’s table-topping side a Hallowe’en scare.
Cammy Ballantyne made his return from injury to replace Mason Hancock in defence, while McCabe himself made way for Murray Aiken and Lewis McGregor was preferred to Calum Gallagher.
The visitors named only one change from their Friday night hammering of Arbroath as Declan Glass found himself back in the Tangerines’ starting XI.
Referee Euan Anderson’s whistle was followed by a fast Airdrie start, as Adam Frizzell picked up his usual pockets of space amongst the visiting midfield, allowing early chances to be created for the likes of McGregor and Nikolay Todorov.
Despite this, the best early chance fell to United, as Ballantyne’s missed header saw them through on goal before some exceptional tracking back allowed him to make up for his initial error.
The quick start fizzled out soon after this, as the match remained even with chances sparse until the 20th minute saw the first goal of the night.
A deep cross from the left-hand side spelt danger for Josh Rae in the Diamonds’ goal, as he palmed it away only for the loose ball to be poked home by Kai Fotheringham, prompting wild celebrations amongst the travelling Arabs’ faithful.
An immediate response was near when Frizzell scooped an audacious acrobatic effort just over Jack Walton’s crossbar from inside the box.
The home pressure was cranked up after this, as a superb driving run from McGregor preceded a long-range shot being deflected narrowly wide.
McGregor remained in the thick of the action as the Diamonds’ best chances of the night fell at his feet. The 34th minute saw an Airdrie corner cleared as the ball popped up just on the edge of the box for him to unleash a venomous volley which was well saved by Walton.
Only two minutes later some intricate attacking play from the home side allowed Todorov a chance to run at the United backline, before he squared to McGregor inside the box, whose one-on-one effort was superbly saved by the busy visiting goalkeeper.
His opposite number, however, seemed to outdo him just prior to half time, as the outrushing Rae produced an incredible reaction save to deny Glenn Middleton as he was through on goal - giving himself a head knock in the process.
The half-time whistle allowed the Airdrie manager a chance to debrief his side on how to break down a very stubborn defence, despite seeming the most deserving of a goal and most likely to score going into the break.
The second half began in less than fortunate fashion for the Diamonds, as an ankle injury to young Hibernian loanee Aiken forced a swift substitution, and he was replaced by Gabby McGill.
Things soon went from bad to worse for Airdrie as Dundee United seized upon a loose ball amongst the home backline, allowing Fotheringham a chance to lift beyond Rae for both his and his side’s second goal of the night.
Despite marksman Calum Gallagher’s replacement of Todorov, Airdrie struggled to create chances for the remainder of the match, and the Terrors were content with sitting back and protecting their 2-0 lead.
Barring a superb Frizzell cross which was headed over by Gallagher in the 74th minute, no real chances were afforded to either side until only a minute before the end of regulation time.
Substitute Elliot Dunlop raced onto a through ball on the right wing and squared for the striker, whose goalbound strike was blocked expertly by a determined defence.
The final whistle saw United race further away from the rest of the chasing pack with the exception of Raith Rovers at the top of the cinch Championship table.
Airdrie’s next fixture finds them hoping to return to winning ways against a host of ex-Diamonds at Stark’s Park on Saturday against United’s closest rivals in the table - Raith Rovers.
Daniel Sutherland at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.