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February 17, 2024

cinch Championship





Cammy Ballantyne 26
Craig Watson 84

Ayr United

Anton Dowds 9, 48, 78


Airdrie were the architects of their own downfall as Anton Dowds and Ayr United continued their stranglehold over the Diamonds this season.

There may be a different man in the hotseat from the Somerset Park club’s two previous wins over Airdrie, with Scott Brown taking over from Lee Bullen, but the Honest Men still managed to emerge with three points despite a decent Airdrie showing.

Hip injury victim Callum Fordyce missed out for the Diamonds, with Craig Watson moving to central defence and Cammy Ballantyne making his first start since returning from injury, with Chris Donnell replacing Arron Lyall in the only other change to the line-up which started against Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup last weekend.

The match began in a sombre atmosphere after both sets of fans impeccably observed a minute’s silence for Airdrieonians icon Ian McMillan, who passed away this week.

The Diamonds started brightly, Mason Hancock finding space on the left to swing in some quality early crosses, but Ayr were dealing with them well - as they did with a second minute Lewis McGregor cutback which was bundled behind by Frankie Musonda.

As Airdrie looked to capitalise on their early pressure, the visitors took the lead, a slack pass from the back allowing the ball to be played forward to Anton Dowds with Diamonds keeper Josh Rae on the edge of his box. The on-loan Partick Thistle striker kept his cool to slot home despite Rae’s deperate lunge.

Encouraged by their early headway, Airdrie continued to calmly search for an equaliser, and Nikolay Todorov was unlucky to see the ball ricochet behind off his leg after a 13th-minute shot was blocked.

McGregor’s pace was causing problems as usual, and the attacker made space to cross for Ballantyne a minute later, but the returning full-back volleyed over Robbie Mutch’s crossbar.

The good work continued around the Ayr box, but Airdrie seemed unable to get the break of the ball, blocks and deflections constantly dropping kidnly for the visiting defenders.

Ayr almost carved out a second on 19 minutes, Fraser Bryden attacking the far post and getting a low shot away, but Rae got down well to save.

Seven minutes later the Diamonds got their equaliser, an outstanding crossfield pass from captain Adam Frizzell gratefully accepted by Hancock, who poked the ball through his marker’s legs and calmly passed across goal to Ballantyne, who made no mistake this time with a sidefooted finish to level the score.

McGregor send a glancing header just over the bar on 29 minutes, and McGinty beat Todorov to another wicked cross three minutes later as Airdrie took the game to their visitors.

Donnell was almost handed a gift when Scott Tomlinson completely missed Ballantyne’s 33rd-minute cross, but the Fulham loanee was unsighted and couldn’t react quickly enough to finish.

Ayr finished the half strongly, Dean McMaster and Rhys McCabe defending well to keep the Honest Men at bay, and the sides went in level at the break.

Just three minutes into the second half Ayr got their noses back in front, and it was another poor goal from a Diamonds point of view, Watson dispossessed deep in his own half before Jamie Murphy cleverly squared for Dowds to net his second.

Airdrie’s penalty claims were denied just after the hour mark as Todorov’s shot was clearly blocked by a hand, and substitute Arron Lyall was unlucky to see his cross missed by everyone after some neat footwork on the left flank.

Ayr’s third came with 12 minutes remaining, a pass from deep seeing Rae race to the edge of his box to beat substitute Logan Chalmers to the ball, but the keeper slid on the greasy surface and ended up outside the area, with referee Alan Muir adjudging that he had handled outside. After receiving a booking, Rae was still retreating back to his goal when the referee allowed Ayr to take a quick free-kick and Dowds curled into the empty net.

Coaches David Hutton and Bryan Prunty were subsequently booked in the Airdrie dugout, though their protests were justified as members of the Ayr coaching staff had been on the field of play when the free-kick was taken.

With time running out, Airdrie pushed hard to get back in the match, Hancock nodding over from Charlie Telfer’s 82nd-minute free-kick and McMaster drawing a foul from Roy Syla a minute later.

McCabe took the free-kick, and curled a lovely effort over Ayr’s six-man wall only for Mutch to fly across goal and palm out the strike. Luckily for the Diamonds, substitute Gabby McGill had the composure to square the loose ball to Watson, who buried it from close range.

Charlie Albinson replaced Mutch, who had collided with the post making the save, for the remaining minutes, but Ayr played their best football of the match to keep possession and see out the win.

The result sees Scott Brown’s side leapfrog Airdrie into fifth place, although the Diamonds have two games in hand over their west-coast opponents. A trip to Cappielow now awaits Rhys McCabe’s men as they look to make up ground on fourth-placed Morton.

Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.

Photos © Redacted Media. Click to view full-size.

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