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April 9, 2024

cinch Championship

Raith Rovers




Josh Mullin 68


Adam Frizzell 26, 30
Lewis McGregor 80


Airdrie made it ten points from twelve against title-fanciers Raith Rovers as three left-footed finishes from the top drawer gave the Diamonds a sparkling win at Stark’s Park.

In a game of huge significance in the races for the Championship crown and the promotion play-offs, Rhys McCabe once again came out on top against former Airdrie boss Ian Murray, with Adam Frizzell and Lewis McGregor providing the firepower in a superb 3-1 win.

With both sides winning at home at the weekend, both managers opted to stick with the same starting XIs, making Dylan Easton the only ex-Diamond in the Raith line-up.

The hosts were first to threaten after a tentative start, Jack Hamilton getting up to flick on a free-kick from the right wing, but the touch was out of Sam Stanton’s reach.

Airdrie skipper Frizzell asked questions with his early forward runs, and was unfortunate not to get on the end of a searching Cammy Ballantyne pass on seven minutes before Raith broke up the park and saw Robbie Hemfrey gather Hamilton’s deflected effort.

Liam Dick snuffed out the danger as Mason Hancock surged forward two minutes later, and it took a desperate block to keep out Nikolay Todorov’s tenth-minute strike, the striker pouncing on Kanayo Megwa’s low cross.

Although the congested midfield was making the game appear scrappy at times, Airdrie’s quick passing was a joy to watch in their moments of control, and a quick attack down the left on 13 minutes was unfortunate not to result in a goal, Kevin Dąbrowski handling Todorov’s tame shot as the striker stretched for the ball.

The home side were still a danger, Stanton winning possession from a 16th-minute Airdrie throw and forcing a strong block from Callum Fordyce before half-hearted penalty appeals were turned down by referee Lloyd Wilson following a clash of bodies in the box.

The Diamonds had a similarly hopeful appeal waved away on 18 minutes when Dean McMaster’s effort struck Scott Brown’s arm, and three minutes later Hemfrey did well to hold a Hamilton header.

Frizzell took the game by the scruff of the neck with 26 minutes on the clock, and the midfielder’s opener was a thing of beauty. A bout of keep-ball ended with McMaster threading the ball to his captain, who took Shaun Byrne out the game with a beautiful touch and turn before striding forward and smashing a trademark outside-of-the-boot finish into the top corner from 18 yards.

Raith barely had time to recover before the Diamonds’ midfield dynamo had doubled his tally, this time picking up the loose ball after Gabby McGill had challenged for a powerful Fordyce header. The home defence seemed to back off Frizzell, who cut across the edge of the box and fired a deadly finish into the bottom right corner.

Easton tried to pull his side back into contention with a curling effort on 32 minutes, but Hemfrey dived to push the ball out of the danger area, and Hancock blocked well from Aidan Connolly a minute later.

A slick passing move left Hamilton with space to shoot on 37 minutes, but the striker hesitated and the Diamonds defence scrambled clear.

In a match which had already seen two fine strikes, Airdrie could have wrapped up the goal of the season competition had anyone got on the end of Hancock’s 38th-minute cutback after a breathtaking passing routine, but there were no takers to finish the move, and the Diamonds had to settle for a 2-0 lead at the break.

Raith made a triple-change at the break, Hamilton, Byrne and Ross Matthews making way for former Airdrie men Callum Smith and Kyle Turner alongside Zak Rudden, and the home side began an onslaught on Hemfrey’s goal which was met by a sturdy Diamonds defence.

Hancock had the first chance of the half, pouncing on a slack Easton pass to drive for goal, but the defender’s shot was well blocked.

Smith’s first involvement saw the forward play a good ball across goal with 50 minutes on the clock, but Ballantyne was alert to intercept and Fordyce stood up to Turner’s trickery three minutes later.

Rudden went close on 56 minutes, but couldn’t hit the target, and as Airdrie countered Craig Watson was desperately unlucky with a powerful header after a superb run and cross by Megwa.

Frizzell forced a good save from Dąbrowski at his near post before a stop-start ten-minute spell as both sides made changes.

Raith got one back on 68 minutes, and it was one of their substitutes who provided another quality finish, Josh Mullin curling home from distance after Turner’s smart square pass.

The hosts had their tails up as they attacked the home end, and it took some persistent defending from Megwa to clear the danger on 72 minutes, with Rudden nodding well wide from a free-kick delivery a minute later.

Mullin and Smith had shots around the 75-minute mark, but the former was unable to repeat his goalscoring accuracy before the ex-Diamond was foiled by yet more solid defending.

Raith’s best chance at an equaliser fell to busy midfielder Connolly, who cracked a 78th-minute curler off the inside of the Airdrie post, and it was a wake-up call which propelled the Diamonds to tie up the win.

With ten minutes remaining, Fordyce’s long ball was flicked on by Todorov, and Liam Dick’s half-hearted attempt to block left Diamonds sub Lewis McGregor racing Keith Watson toward goal. The midfielder’s raw pace took him to the corner of the six-yard box, where he lifted a left-foot finish into the top corner to seal the points.

Watson and Hemfrey easily dealt with late efforts from Turner and Connolly, and the former fired a stoppage-time free-kick over the bar in the last action of the match.

Another superb win on the road for Airdrie, who move six points clear of Saturday’s opponents Dunfermline Athletic - and within two of third-placed Partick Thistle.

Stuart Mathie at Stark's Park

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

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