January 2, 2024
Nikolay Todorov 61
Callum Fordyce 84
Two headers from second-half setpieces against Inverness ensured that Airdrie started 2024 the way they had ended 2023 - with a win.
With the visit of the Highlanders coming so soon after Saturday’s dramatic win at Hampden, manager Rhys McCabe made four changes to the Diamonds starting line-up, Craig Watson, Gavin Gallagher, Gabby McGill and Nikolay Todorov coming in in place of Lewis McGregor, Liam McStravick, Dean McMaster and Calum Gallagher.
Ex-Airdrie loanee Mark Ridgers started in goal for the visitors, who were unable to name a recognised striker in their starting XI.
The Diamonds started on the front foot, a seventh minute Todorov cutback unable to find a team-mate before Charlie Telfer’s free-kick delivery a minute later almost deceived everyone, curling just wide of the top corner.
The first Inverness attack came on ten minutes as a long ball found a well-timed run from midfield, but Kanayo Megwa covered the ground to clear.
Adam Frizzell was looking in the mood in the early stages, and was unlucky to pull his square pass just too close to Ridgers on 11 minutes, with a fantastic recovery tackle from Mason Hancock required five minutes later as Nathan Shaw looked to bear down on goal.
Airdrie were putting good balls into the box in the first, with the final touch just missing from Frizzell’s 23rd-minute pass and Hancocks low cross a minute later.
The English defender repeated the feat on 31 minutes, charging down the left before supplying a teasing cross, but again there were no takers for the home side.
Late in the half Frizzell danced through the home defence before putting a looping cross beyond the Airdrie attack, and McGill was desperately unlucky not to get a touch on another wicked Hancock delivery in stoppage time.
Caley Thistle boss Duncan Ferguson made two changes at half-time introducing a striker in the shape of club top scorer Billy Mckay alongside Jake Davidson.
Mckay almost got on the end of a smart Shaw pass nine minutes after the restart, but found no way past Airdrie Player of the Month Kanayo Megwa.
Diamonds player-manager McCabe almost grabbed his first Airdrie goal from open play seconds later, running on to a low pass from a corner kick and curling in a tremendous strike which took a nick off a defender on its way past the far post of a relieved Ridgers.
Five minutes later the Diamonds did take the lead, and it was another corner kick, delivered from the left by Charlie Telfer and headed home in style by former Inverness frontman Todorov. It was no less than the Diamonds deserved after a dominant display, and the Bulgarian striker enjoyed his celebrations in front of the travelling fans.
Inverness began to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser, but Josh Rae was equal to the balls pumped toward his goal, catching Shaw’s 77th-minute delivery with ease.
His opposite number was called into action three minutes later, getting down quickly to stop McGill’s volley after a good flick-on by substitute Calum Gallagher.
Cameron Harper had the visitors’ best chance at an equalising on 82 minutes, sprinting on to a long ball with the bounce beating Megwa, and unleashing a ferocious shot at goal only for Callum Fordyce to slide across and make an unbelievable block.
The Diamonds defender rubbed salt in the wound three minutes later, leaping to head home another fine Telfer delivery as the midfielder curled a free-kick to the back post.
Airdrie could have had a penalty with four minutes remaining, Lewis McGregor tripped as he chased a long ball, but referee Scott Lambie deemed the contact accidental.
The Diamonds went close on another two occasion before the final whistle, McGregor seeing a shot well blocked by Wallace Duffy before Fordyce powered in another header only to see it blocked on the line.
The final whistle rang in a successful start to the year for the Diamonds who made it two wins on the bounce, and disappointment for the Highland side and boss Duncan Ferguson, who was red-carded as the sides left the pitch.
Raith Rovers are next up for the Diamonds, who will be glad of a timely confidence boost before facing the league leaders.
Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.