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March 24, 2024

SPFL Trust Trophy final

The New Saints




Ben Clark 12


Liam McStravick 22
Nikolay Todorov 67 pen


Airdrieonians lifted the SPFL Trust Trophy after goals from Liam McStravick and Nikolay Todorov gave the Diamonds a hard-fought win over The New Saints.

The club last won the cup in 2008/09, with three previous wins before 2002 meaning that victory in Falkirk would make Airdrie the most decorated team in the competition’s history, and Rhys McCabe’s men delivered with a memorable victory against the Cymru Premier champions.

Understandably given the geography, Airdrie fans heavily outnumbered their Welsh counterparts, and there was a carnival atmosphere on a sunny day in Grangemouth - and the football didn’t disappoint with a blood and thunder first half giving way to a more tactical battle after the break.

With Kanayo Megwa and Arron Lyall cup-tied, the Diamonds boss was forced into a reshuffle, Cammy Ballantyne and Gavin Gallagher stepping into the starting line-up alongside McCabe himself, who replaced Dean McMaster.

After a cagey opening spell Airdrie began to test The New Saints defence with crosses, but Connor Roberts in goal was equal to anything Mason Hancock could supply from the left in the early stages.

The New Saints countered after such an attack on four minutes, and with a low ball from the right finding Brad Young with the goal gaping, the former Ayr loanee contrived to miss when a goal seemed inevitable.

Adam Frizzell almost benefitted from Nikolay Todorov’s flick after a ninth-minute Charlie Telfer pass, but Roberts was out quickly to block.

Liam McStravick quickly became the focal point of Airdrie’s attacks, with balls over the top allowing the Irish forward in on goal time and again. His shot was blocked, as was Gallagher’s follow up, on 11 minutes.

With Airdrie seeming to take control of the match, The New Saints applied the sucker punch with a good Ben Clark finish after Young had got the break of the ball following a Craig Watson challenge. The striker raced along the by-line before cutting back for Clark to rifle home.

The Diamonds almost hit back quickly, with Frizzell and Gallagher working an opening for Hancock, but again Roberts claimed the cross.

As play flowed from end to end, the next chance came for The New Saints on 15 minutes, and it took a good stop from Robbie Hemfrey to deny Danny Redmond, who powered in an angled effort which the Diamonds keeper pushed over the bar.

Danny Davies threw himself in front of a 16th-minute McStravick effort after another effective combination with Todorov, and a minute later the Irishman was denied by Roberts who dived bravely at his feet after a searching McCabe pass.

McStravick wouldn’t be denied much longer, and another fine ball over the top from Frizzell sent the youngster bearing in on goal on 22 minutes. Despite the close attentions of Davies, McStravick opted to hit it early, and it paid off as his exceptional finish arrowed into the top corner giving Roberts no chance.

The offside flag spared Todorov’s blushes four minutes later as the Bulgarian striker scooped over from a yard out after brilliant play from Telfer, and the linesman also denied McStravick the chance of a second after a lovely flick from Todorov on the half-hour.

As an intense first half continued at pace, The New Saints were unlucky not to go back in front after a Chris Marriott corner found Josh Daniels, who thundered his header off the inside of the post.

A double block denied the energetic McStravick on 36 minutes before Young squeezed his shot wide of the post three minutes later. It was the last chance of a thrilling first half, and the sides went in level at the break.

The second half started at a more pedestrian pace as both sides tried to figure out a way through. Dean McMaster replaced McCabe at the interval, but it was a 53rd-minute substitution for Airdrie which proved to be a game-changer as Gallagher made way for Josh O’Connor.

Young headed over on 56 minutes before the livewire McStravick saw his afternoon end in disappointing fashion, injury forcing him off to be replaced by Chris Donnell.

The New Saints began to push forward in numbers around the hour-mark, and it took a perfectly-timed interception from Watson to end a 63rd-minute attack.

Three minutes later Airdrie had a penalty, O’Connor buzzing around Josh Pask as he attempted to deal with a ball into the box. The defender nodded clear, but O’Connor raced past him to take possession only to have his heels clipped. Referee Matthew MacDermid showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The responsibility fell to Todorov, and he handled it with aplomb, stroking the spot kick low to Roberts’ right. Although the big keeper went the right way, the sheer accuracy of Todorov’s strike meant there was no saving it, and the Diamonds had the lead. The players ran en masse to the Airdrie bench to hold aloft Josh Rae’s number 1 shirt in a touching tribute to the injured keeper.

Telfer almost added a third after a well-worked corner kick routine, but he whipped Frizzell’s return pass just over the bar on 70 minutes.

A fine display of defending followed as Craig Harrison urged his men forward, Watson and Fordyce dealing with whatever came their way on the ground and in the air.

Former Dunfermline striker Declan McManus came off the bench on 74 minutes, but when his first sight of goal came five minutes later he could only nod wide.

Hemfrey dealt with an 85th-minute cross before Hancock blocked a Dan Williams effort a minute later, but it was the Diamonds who almost increased their lead with a minute of regulation time remaining, Telfer’s curling corner requiring a block on the line at the far post.

The impressive Telfer had another ambitious effort seconds later, getting the break of the ball after being well tackled and curling a first-time effort past the top corner.

The last action of the match was a superb Ballantyne tackle deep in stoppage time as The New Saints made last-gasp inroads down the left, and it summed up the magnificent effort from a Diamonds team who continue to make fantastic memories for the support.

Jubilant scenes followed the final whistle as the heroic Airdrieonians celebrated with the fans, and captain Adam Frizzell led the way as the Diamonds lifted the SPFL Trust Trophy for a record-breaking fifth time.

Stuart Mathie at The Falkirk Stadium.

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

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