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March 5, 2024

cinch Championship

Dunfermline Athletic





Nikolay Todorov 16
Gabby McGill 60


Two Pars old-boys came back to haunt Dunfermline as Airdrie moved back to within two points of the promotion play-off places.

Another solid defensive foundation gave Airdrie the platform to punish their hosts with a goal in each half of an enthralling Tuesday evening match, rearranged after January’s suspected undersoil heating failure stymied the original fixture.

There were two changes for the Diamonds after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Queen’s Park, goalscorer Mason Hancock and player-manager Rhys McCabe replacing Cammy Ballantyne and Dean McMaster respectively.

Former Diamonds Josh Edward lined up once again for the hosts, while McCabe joined Calum Gallagher, Nikolay Todorov and Gabby McGill in a quartet of former Dunfermline players sporting the purple of Airdrie.

The hosts almost got off to a dream start after Alex Jakubiak burst down the left inside the first minute, but despite Matty Todd having acres of space to receive the square pass, he fired past the post.

Josh Rae gathered another ball in from the left two minutes later, before Airdrie had their first chance on five minutes, Fordyce heading McCabe’s lofted cross over Deniz Mehmet’s crossbar.

Mehmet was almost caught out by Chris Hamilton’s defensive header three minutes later, scrambling back as the ball dropped toward goal, but the goalkeeper was relieved to see it bounce off the top of the bar.

Todd fired wide again on ten minutes after a good pass from Ben Summers, with Liam McStravick sending a volley just wide at the other end five minutes later.

Airdrie didn’t have to wait much longer for the opener, a brilliant pass down the channel by McStravick taking out the home defence and allowing Adam Frizzell to hit the bye-line and cross to the back post, where Nikolay Todorov outjumped Edwards and sent his close-range header beyond Mehmet.

Dunfermline fans were hopeful in their appeals for a 24th-minute penalty, but McCabe’s block on the line came via his face rather than an arm after Miles Welch-Hayes had headed goalwoard.

Gabby McGill’s industrious running upfront was causing problems for his old side, and Malachi Fagan-Walcot did well to head back to Mehmet as Airdrie’s English striker applied the pressure on 25 minutes.

Two minutes later a late Frizzell challenge led to a melee in the centre of the park, with Dunfermline players squaring up as Welch-Hayes writhed on the turf. The defender recovered after treatment, and Frizzell, McStravick and Ewan Otoo were booked for their involvements.

A quick-thinking routine from the free-kick should have had the hosts on level terms, Lewis McCann racing away from the defensive crowd to receive the ball in space, but the striker snatched at his effort and it sailed over Rae’s goal.

McCabe and Kanayo Megwa made good defensive blocks as Dunfermline rallied toward the end of the first half, with Rae racing from his goal to clear the danger in the last action of a feisty 45.

James McPake’s side started the second half as they had ended the first, pressing the Airdrie defence and finding good positions, but again the Diamonds defended well.

Rae was commanding as he claimed a 47th-minute cross, with Jakubiak firing over from a tight angle two minutes later.

A deflected cross-shot almost snuck in at the far post on 52 minutes, but the ball clipped the woodwork and the visiting defence cleared.

Edwards and Summers had chances ten minutes into the half, but Hancock and Rae were equal to their opponents’ efforts.

Todorov went close with another header on 57 minutes, and the impressive Fagan-Walcot cleared up as Airdrie got men forward on the hour-mark.

Seconds later the Diamonds had doubled their lead, and the home defence were static as a clearance was returned to McGill’s path. The Yorkshireman took a touch before spinning onto the ball and launching a fizzing effort into the top corner.

Jakubiak made a good run straight from kick-off, but his low effort found the side-netting before a period of masterful defending by Fordyce and Craig Watson kept the Pars at bay.

As Dunfermline made personnel changes in an attempt to gain a foothold, Watson foiled Summers and substitute Owen Moffat, with Fordyce effortlessly heading out any long balls pumped in the direction of the Airdrie goal.

Moffat did well to create space on 75 minutes, but the former Celtic midfielder’s shot was rising and bending away from the target.

Airdrie sub McMaster helped his defence out with ten minutes remaining, calmly dispossessing Michael O’Halloran, while at the other end Mehmet saved a curling McCabe free-kick effort.

Frizzell fired just over the bar from long range on 85 minutes, and Hancock ensured a clean sheet with some fine last-minute defending.

The final whistle signalled Airdrie’s first win over Dunfermline since 2016, and saw them leapfrog the Pars into fifth-place. Matches against the bottom two, Inverness CT and Arbroath, are next up for the Diamonds.

Stuart Mathie at East End Park.

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

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