November 7, 2023
SPFL Trust Trophy round 4
Josh Gentles 5
Kieran Dowell 62
Calum Gallagher 11
Gabby McGill 22, 54
Rhys McCabe 90+1
Airdrie blasted their way to the SPFL Trust Trophy quarter-final with four well-taken goals to despatch a talented Rangers B team.
Calum Gallagher and Gabby McGill’s double had the Diamonds 3-2 ahead as the 90 minutes came and went, with Rhys McCabe rifling in a stoppage-time free-kick right out of the top drawer to put some gloss on the scoreline.
There were several changes to McCabe’s battle-scarred side after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Raith Rovers, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Mason Hancock, Nikolay Todorov, Dean McMaster and Kanayo Megwa dropping out to be replaced by Josh O’Connor, Lewis McGregor, Elliot Dunlop, Gallagher and McGill.
Rangers included former England U21 international Kieran Dowell in a line-up which had already seen off league sides Stenhousemuir and Alloa Athletic.
The Ibrox B team showed their intent with a fast start, Josh Gentles forcing a third-minute save from Josh Rae after his pass had been intercepted, but the young striker made no mistake two minutes later, sweeping into an empty net after James Graham had beaten Rae to a long ball and squared.
Airdrie settled into the match and had a tenth-minute penalty shout as Gallagher was tripped attempting to connect with Dunlop’s cross. Adam Frizzell’s strike from the loose ball was well blocked.
Gallagher had his side on level terms a minute later, O’Connor feeding McGill who picked out Airdrie’s number 9 in the box, a superb first touch with the left foot teeing up a cultured finish with the right.
The Diamonds were finding joy down the wing, with Dunlop and McGregor crossing well from either flank, but the towering figure of Johnly Yfeko was commanding at the back for David McCallum’s side.
As play switched from end to end, both sides had efforts blocked with Cammy Ballantyne proving an effective last line of defence with several important challenges.
Airdrie took the lead midway through the half, O’Connor’s pace advancing a counter-attack down the right, and the on-loan Hibs man squared for McGill to slam the ball high into Mason Munn’s net.
Dunlop and Arron Lyall were catching the eye in the first-half, the former wriggling into the box to win a 35th-minute corner before the Rangers man fired just wide from distance two minutes later.
Munn saved from O’Connor after another good Dunlop touch in the last action of the first half.
The first chance of the second 45 fell to James Graham, but his shot lacked power and Rae gathered easily.
McGill punished Rangers profligacy with his second of the night, Frizzell’s wonderful control and pass freeing O’Connor, whose own touch was sound and allowed him to square for the Yorkshireman who stroked home left-footed.
Rangers hit back through Dowell, who saw his free-kick blocked by the wall, and Cole McKinnon who had a close-range header well saved by Rae on 61 minutes.
The hosts did get one back a minute later, Dowell wrong-footing Rae after McKinnon knocked the ball back from an Airdrie block.
The usual flurry of substitutions interrupted play, but Rangers B were in the ascendancy and McGregor and Rae had to defend well as Lyall and Dowell threatened.
Rangers thought they had equalised on 82 minutes, McKinnon smashing a shot off the underside of the bar after a quick counter, but replays showed the ball had bounced on the line and away to safety.
Substitute Nikolay Todorov almost added to Saturday’s goal, reacting well to get a touch on McGill’s blocked effort, but the Bulgarian’s strike went narrowly past the post.
As the game moved into stoppage time, player-manager McCabe saved the best for last, arrowing a 30-yard free kick over the wall and into the top corner.
The win means that the Diamonds will return to Cappielow for a quarter-final tie against Morton on Saturday, November 18.
Stuart Mathie at Cappielow Park.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.