November 25, 2023
Scottish Gas Men's Scottish Cup round 3
Calum Gallagher 25
Calum Gallagher sealed Airdrie’s place in the Scottish Cup fourth round draw with the only goal of the game as the Diamonds overcame a hardworking Stranraer side.
There was a distinct ex-Airdrie flavour to the Stair Park side with former Diamonds Scott Robertson, Sean McIntosh and Dean Hawkshaw named in the starting XI, while Scott Agnew was in the dugout as manager alongside goalkeeping coach Jim Low.
Airdrie were without the suspended Cammy Ballantyne, but Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Kanayo Megwa returned to the defence after missing last week’s penalty win over Morton, while Liam McStravick and Gabby McGill also came in with Rhys McCabe, Josh O’Connor and Lewis McGregor dropping out.
The home side starting brightly with former Diamonds academy player Matty Grant impressing down the left, his sixth-minute shot deflected behind by Taylor-Sinclair after some good play from the lively midfielder.
Good awareness from Craig Ross prevented Adam Frizzell picking out the run of Calum Gallagher on 11 minutes, and the Blues defender was in action at the other end six minutes later, nodding wide after a cross from the left had been knocked back in by Robertson.
Hibs loanee Megwa almost opened his Airdrie account in the 18th-minute, coming in from his unfamiliar left-back position to intercept the clearance from McGill’s cross before looping a fine effort over Lewis Budinauckas only see it come back off the bar.
Charlie Telfer’s 22nd-minute shot was high and wide after McGill had done well to head the ball into his path, and the roles were reversed a minute later when the midfielder picked out his English team-mate who saw his shot saved by Budinauckas.
Grant should have done better with a good chance on 24 minutes, but a slack first touch took the former Pollok man wide and he blazed over the bar as he attempted to adjust.
Stranraer were punished for the miss a minute later, and Airdrie reaped the rewards of some quick thinking from McStravick, who opted not to shoot when Frizzell’s cross was nodded down to him, instead cushioning the ball into Gallagher’s path. The Diamonds top scorer took a touch before sweeping home with his left foot to give the visitors the lead.
The Blues came close to an equaliser on 33 minutes, McIntosh sidefooting just over as a cross was only partially cleared, and the ex-Airdrie man cleared up at the other end three minutes later as Craig Watson fed McStravick.
Megwa sent a low shot wide six minutes before the break in the last real chance of the half.
Airdrie’s patience in possession had seen them control the match since taking the lead, and it was to be more of the same for the Diamonds after the interval, though Gallagher could have grabbed an early second with a glancing header which Budinauckas gathered.
The visitors saw half-hearted penalty appeals turned down on 55 minutes as McGill nicked possession before going over an outstretched leg, but referee Grant Irvine was unimpressed.
Budinauckas kept his side’s hopes alive on the hour mark as Callum Fordyce rose to meet an inswinging corner, the Blues keeper diving to get a strong hand to the Diamonds defender’s powerful header.
Watson sent a header the wrong side of the post three minutes later after some persistent play by McStravick, the pair combining again on 74 minutes with the Northern Irishman teeing up Watson’s cross, which Budinauckas claimed under pressure from Airdrie sub Nikolay Todorov.
The Bulgarian sent a low shoot past the post a minute later after taking a pass from Dean McMaster, but it was Stranraer who had a gilt-edged chance to equalise with eight minutes remaining, a defensive ricochet sending Grant clean through on goal only for Josh Rae to spread himself well and save, with the former Airdrie kid sending the loose ball into the side netting.
Late changes saw the game fizzle out, and in the end Gallagher’s first-half goal was enough to see his side into Sunday evening’s fourth round draw.
Stuart Mathie at Stair Park
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.