November 11, 2023
Liam McStravick 19
Lewis McGregor 79
Airdrie got back to winning ways in the cinch Championship with an important 2-0 victory over Arbroath at the Excelsior, allowing them to climb to fourth in the table.
Rhys McCabe looked to build on a strong midweek performance against Rangers B by naming a number of changes from the SPFL Trust Trophy tie.
Elliot Dunlop, Gabby McGill, Calum Gallagher, Lewis McGregor and Josh O’Connor all dropped out of the side to make way for Kanayo Megwa, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Liam McStravick, Nikolay Todorov and Dean McMaster.
Dick Campbell sought to improve on last week’s 3-1 defeat to Partick Thistle by replacing Leighton McIntosh with Darren Lyon at the top of the pitch.
An immaculately observed minutes silence on remembrance weekend was followed by a fast Airdrie start - controlling the tempo and possession in a manner pleasing on the eye.
The first chance fell the way of the home side, when in the fourth minute Cammy Ballantyne found himself in the Arbroath penalty area - the target of a cross which he did well to get behind - however was only able to direct it into the arms of Derek Gaston.
Despite huge amounts of Diamonds possession, the Lichties came close in the 10th minute, as Jay Bird danced through the defence, only to fire the ball into Josh Rae’s side netting.
Few clear-cut chances were made until the first goal of the afternoon came via young Northern Irish midfielder McStravick.
Some excellent Airdrie build-up play allowed Todorov a chance to cut in on his right foot just inside the opposition penalty area. The effort was saved by Gaston but parried right into the path of McStravick, who took a touch to compose himself before firing beyond the helpless goalkeeper.
No real chances were created for the remainder of the first half following the opener, as manager McCabe made his way down the tunnel to the cheers of the Diamonds faithful - who had witnessed one of their side’s best performances for a number of weeks.
Another fast Airdrie start came after referee Grant Irvine’s whistle, yet the first chance of the second half fell to the Lichties, when a Craig Slater effort was well saved by Rae in the 49th minute.
After McGregor was brought on to replace McStravick, his pace and running power became evident as a superb run down the right channel saw the ball fall to Adam Frizzell on the edge of the box, whose strike was deflected only inches wide.
The 63rd minute saw the best chance of the match since the opening goal, as Airdrie’s McGregor found himself one-on-one
with Gaston after latching onto a loose ball in the Arbroath defence, but he hesitated between shooting and squaring to Frizzell for long enough for a defender to race back and poke behind for a corner.
A trio of changes from Dick Campbell followed suit, as Ryan Dow, Jess Norey and Kenan Dunnwald-Turan replaced Lyon, Bird and Slater in an attempt to change the flow of the match, while Todorov made way for Gallagher at the top of the park for the Diamonds.
Gallagher’s presence was merited as his side doubled their lead only five minutes after his introduction.
The striker had done fantastically well to rid himself of a pack of Arbroath defenders, as he wriggled free on the halfway line and sprayed a perfect through ball into McGregor’s path, who made no mistake in slotting beyond the outrushing Gaston.
The match was seen out in ultimately professional fashion by Airdrie, who flew to fourth place in the cinch Championship table as the full-time whistle blew, and appeared back to their free-flowing best.
The Excelsior side have no league matches until a visit to Firhill in early December, and have an SPFL Trust Trophy tie against Greenock Morton to look forward to in a week’s time.
Daniel Sutherland at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.