November 4, 2023
Callum Smith 44
Nikolay Todorov 55
Airdrie were unlucky to leave Stark’s Park with only a point to show for their efforts after a superb performance in a thrilling match.
Manager Rhys McCabe made a number of changes with Callum Fordyce, Lewis McGregor, Liam McStravick and Murray Aiken missing out. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, McCabe himself, Mason Hancock and Dean McMaster came in to replace them.
Former Diamond Callum Smith started in attack for Raith Rovers, but there were only places on the bench for Scott McGill and Dylan Easton.
The visitors were first to threaten, though Nikolay Todorov and McCabe were forced to shoot from distance, the striker firing wide on four minutes before a minute later the Diamonds player-manager saw his shot deflected onto the head of Charlie Telfer and gathered by Kevin Dąbrowski in the Raith goal.
The hosts replied through Sam Stanton, who shot wide from 18 yards on the seventh minute, and Aidan Connolly who skewed his header allowing Craig Watson to clear, but the ball was fired back in only for Josh Rae to make a fine reaction save.
It would prove to be an afternoon on which the goalkeepers were in the spotlight, and Dąbrowski did well to palm away a stinging Adam Frizzell effort on 17 minutes before Rae saved Stanton’s curling strike three minutes later.
Midway through the half Todorov shook the home crossbar with a vicious spinning effort from the edge of the six yard box, and on 28 minutes Dąbrowski produced a wonder-save to keep out McCabe’s netbound effort.
The Diamonds lost Hancock to injury ten minutes before the break, forcing a reshuffle as McStravick replaced the defender, who left the field on a stretcher.
As half-time approached, Smith gave his side the lead, latching onto Aidan Connolly’s clever dummy and steering the ball first-time beyond Rae.
The Diamonds went in at the break wondering how they were behind, but encouraged by the number of chances created.
The trend continued after the restart, Telfer sending an angled strike just over the bar on 50 minutes before Kanayo Megwa showed good defensive awareness to break up an overload in the Raith attack.
Some good footwork from McStravick five minutes later led to Todorov squeezing in a shot at the back post, but Dąbrowski was again on hand to turn the ball behind for a corner.
The keeper had no answer from Frizzell’s setpiece though, Todorov rising highest in a crowded box and sending a powerful header into the net for a well deserved equaliser.
Rae confidently claimed Connolly’s near-post cross on 57 minutes before a timely interception stopped Frizzell’s pass freeing McStravick.
Former Airdrie player of the year Easton joined the fray on 62 minutes, but his first sight of goal ended with a shot which screwed horribly wide.
Dąbrowski denied McStravick on 70 minutes, but the keeper was fortunate a minute later when he rushed out to knock clear, only to strike Airdrie substitute Calum Gallagher. Luckily for the Polish stopper, the ball broke his way and he headed to safety.
Connolly cut across the backline and fired in a fine 73rd-minute effort, but Rae was equal to it as he dived across for a stunning save.
A period of Raith pressure followed, but the Diamonds defence was equal to it and the visitors fought their way back into contention, a late Gallagher head-flick just not falling for McStravick.
Easton fired weakly at Rae as the clock ticked down, and Gallagher was inches away from winning it at the death, a defensive header falling at the back post with the Diamonds man unable to squeeze home.
A share of the points may be seen as a disappointment for the Diamonds, who played well throughout and sent the travelling fans home well entertained.
Stuart Mathie at Stark's Park
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