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May 7, 2024

cinch Premiership Play-Off quarter-final





Nikolay Todorov 5
Gabby McGill 50

Partick Thistle

Luke McBeth 29
Scott Robinson 45


An enthralling 2-2 encounter at the Excelsior Stadium left Airdrie and Partick Thistle’s promotion hopes on a knife edge prior to a second leg showdown on Friday night.

Rhys McCabe’s Diamonds hosted a Jags side with whom they had gone toe-to-toe throughout their first cinch Championship campaign in over a decade, in the first leg of the cinch Premiership Play-Off quarter-final.

Aiming to make it two promotions in two years, the Airdrie boss made seven changes to the heavily altered side which had been defeated by Queen’s Park the previous Friday at Hampden Park.

Craig Watson, Kanayo Megwa and Mason Hancock all returned to bolster the backline, while Dean McMaster and Charlie Telfer took up places in the midfield and Nikolay Todorov and Gabby McGill came in to front the attack.

The story was similar for Kris Doolan, who had rested numerous key players in the final league match of the season and made all of eight changes to that side this evening, with former Diamonds Ben Stanway and Kerr McInroy being two of the three to keep their place.

In front of an animated crowd, referee Grant Irvine’s whistle was followed by a quick Thistle start on a glorious North Lanarkshire evening.
The visitors threatened almost immediately, as Brian Graham met the end of a hopeful long ball and tested the outrushing Robbie Hemfrey with a low header, but the stopper was equal to it.

The Diamonds responded soon, taking control of the match after this early chance. Two chances came in quick succession, as Todorov sent a header wide of the post from a pinpoint Megwa delivery, before failing to divert a loose ball goalwards after a missed defensive header.

Airdrie’s pressure paid off in only the fifth minute, with Todorov making up for these missed opportunities when Telfer lobbed a perfect ball into the back post which the Bulgarian met perfectly, making no mistake in burying beyond a helpless David Mitchell.

With their noses in front and a jubilant home crowd behind them, the Diamonds settled into their lead comfortably - controlling possession for huge periods at a time.

The chances kept coming too, with Cammy Ballantyne sending a header just wide after arriving late to a corner, and Adam Frizzell forcing the visiting goalkeeper into a smart save in the 28th minute with a low strike from the edge of the box.

However, a slack ball in the midfield only two minutes later allowed Luke McBeth to charge at the Airdrie goal and unleash a piledriver from all of 25 yards, which nestled perfectly in the far corner and left the diving Hemfrey helpless.

The Diamonds weren’t disheartened by this setback - as a Hancock free kick struck the Thistle wall and the rebound was
seized upon by Telfer, sending a superb volley goalwards, only to be denied by the feet of Mitchell.

The action at the very end of the first half took place in the Diamonds’ half, as Hemfrey first did well to save from Graham as he tried to poke home from close range following a speculative ball over the top.

However, a looping ball into the box came immediately after, and confusion amongst the Airdrie backline saw it stabbed home by Scott Robinson to put the visitors 2-1 up on the brink of half time.

The second half was a far less frantic encounter than the first, but it began with yet more chances.

Aidan Fitzpatrick initially did well to wriggle free of Diamonds defenders and get a shot away, but the resulting deflection saw him given a second opportunity with Hemfrey out of position, however he skewed wide, to the amazement of the travelling supporters.

Play returned to the other end, and Airdrie drew level once again as McGill slid in at the far post to turn home a pinpoint Hancock delivery following a trademark sweeping passing move.

After the equaliser, the pace of play slowed, and Kris Doolan sought to inject some life into his side with the introduction of former Hamilton Accies player Dan O’Reilly.

This was to no avail until the 76th minute, when Graham was found by a superb Milne cross and a thunderous header
looked to be goalbound were it not for an incredible reaction save from point blank range from Robbie Hemfrey - warranting a standing ovation from the home crowd.

The Diamonds made changes of their own, with Arron Lyall, Lewis McGregor and Calum Gallagher replacing Frizzell, Todorov and McGill.

Both sides searched for a winner in the final ten minutes of the match, but no real goalscoring opportunities were created, and a superb contest ended level, setting up an all-or-nothing cinch Premiership Play-Off quarter-final second leg in Maryhill on Friday night.

Daniel Sutherland at Excelsior Stadium.

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

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