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Wednesday May 9, 2012

Irn Bru SFL Division 1 play-off semi-final, first leg

Airdrie United




Ayr United


AIRDRIE produced a brilliant performance in one of the best games at New Broomfield this season.

The Diamonds dominated Ayr United on Wednesday night but just couldn't find that winning goal.

Boss Jimmy Boyle made three changes to the team which drew 0-0 at Cowdenbeath on Saturday, a result that secured a play-off position.

Captain Paul Lovering returned from a back injury in place of Ricki Lamie. Jamie Bain and Ryan Donnelly were favoured ahead of Ewan McNeil and Scott Morton.

Honest Men boss Brian Reid made no fewer than eight changes to his starting line-up after resting players for the final regular-season tie at Falkirk.

Also included for Ayr, who finished second-bottom of SFL1, were the former Diamonds duo of Alan Trouten and Mark Roberts.

Airdrie were first to threaten. A cross-shot from Lovering was tipped over at the back post by keeper Kevin Cuthbert in the opening minutes.

But the Diamonds captain was fortunate to avoid punishment in the seventh minute after a poor lunge on Ayr full-back Jonathan Tiffoney.

The home side thought they had broken the deadlock midway through the first half when Bain popped a shot into the top corner of the net from 20 yards.

However, linesman Brian McGarry belatedly raised his flag and, following consultation with referee Crawford Allan, the goal was chalked off.

It later transpired that a foul was given against Donnelly for high feet when he challenged Smith in the build-up but DVD footage suggested the decision was highly questionable.

In the 32nd minute, the Diamonds were given an opportunity to take the lead when Allan pointed to the spot after Donnelly and Smith clashed in the box.

The penalty award seemed harsh as contact appeared to be incidental. Lovering stepped up but his effort was well saved by Cuthbert.

This was a terrific match and Airdrie came close again nine minutes later. A Jamie Stevenson shot was blocked by Cuthbert with Donnelly guiding the rebound over the bar.

Donnelly then nodded over a Stevenson free-kick before Kieron Stallard made a tremendous last-gasp tackle to deny Andy Geggan at the other end seconds later.

It was all Airdrie after that. A period of complete domination followed with chance after chance created; opportunity after opportunity spurned.

Ayr were hanging on. Boss Reid used all of his substitutions but was unable to stem the waves of attacks from the Diamonds who were playing really well.

Donnelly dragged a shot wide in the 53rd minute with Bain's downward header going past the post soon after.

The bar thwarted Donnelly two minutes later before Cuthbert kept out a Cameron MacDonald header at the back post.

In the 84th minute, Derek Holmes won a flick-on from a Stevenson free-kick for MacDonald who hit a shot against the post; agony for the home fans.

Colin Paterson at New Broomfield.

Photographs © Robert Dalzell. Click to view full size.

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