Saturday May 5, 2012
Irn Bru SFL Division 2
AIRDRIE ended a run of over 100 games without a goalless draw in a nervy end-of-season encounter in the sun at Cowdenbeath's Central Park.
With Forfar winning at Stenhousemuir, the point was enough to secure a play-off spot for the Diamonds, who have a stunning run of final-quarter results to thank for the achievement.
The order of the day was simple: equal or better Stenhousemuir's result. But champions Cowdenbeath ensured it was never going to be a simple task.
Applauded on to the pitch by the Airdrie players, The Blue Brazil were receiving the championship trophy in front of their largest crowd of the season, and were in no mood to lie down to Jimmy Boyle's men.
Suspensions for Jamie Bain and Willie McLaren, and a back injury for captain Paul Lovering, meant several changes to the Diamonds line-up, with Ewan McNeil and Ricki Lamie returning to the defence and a shuffling of positions across the midfield.
The home side were the first to threaten, Derek Lyle blasting wide after collecting Scott Linton's pass.
The Diamonds were lively too, however, and Jamie Stevenson shot straight at goalkeeper Thomas Flynn before Kieron Stallard crashed a twenty-yard drive off the crossbar.
Towards the end of the first half, Cowden began to exert some pressure, and it took a wonderful save from Grant Adam to deny them, clawing Lyle's looping effort out from under the bar.
The second half saw more end-to-end football, with Nathan Blockley also hitting the woodwork before Cammy MacDonald cleared off the line with an acrobatic overhead kick.
Changes up-front almost had an instant impact for Airdrie, with Boyle, Keast and Sally combining only to be thwarted by some brave goalkeeping by Flynn.
As the match drew to a close, attention turned to Ochilview, where Stenhousemuir were losing 2:1 to Forfar.
A lengthy injury treatment meant that the game finished some six minutes after Airdrie's match, but the final score eventually came through, confirming the Diamonds had clinched the play-off spot, and both sets of fans were celebrating.
Stuart Mathie at Central Park.
Photographs © Robert Dalzell. Click to view full size.