Wednesday May 16, 2012
Irn Bru SFL Division 1 play-off final, first leg
THE battle for the final Irn-Bru First Division place hangs in the balance after a tight first leg on Wednesday night.
Dumbarton hold a slender advantage going into this weekend's return match but both sides admitted there is little between the teams.
Airdrie clinched their promotion play-off final place with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Ayr United and boss Jimmy Boyle made two changes to the side that won at Somerset Park.
Captain Paul Lovering and fellow defender Cameron MacDonald returned from injury with youngsters Ewan McNeil and Ricki Lamie dropping to the bench.
The Diamonds could have opened the scoring in the eighth minute but Derek Holmes diverted a driven cross from Lovering over the bar from close-range.
Top scorer Ryan Donnelly came close for Airdrie before Dumbarton ace Scott Agnew sent an effort from distance wide in the 20th minute.
Airdrie were the better side but two goals in three minutes from nowhere swung the contest dramatically in Dumbarton's favour.
Former Diamond Bryan Prunty brilliantly found the top corner of the net from a Mark Gilhaney pass with Tony Wallace heading home an Agnew free-kick to make it 2-0.
Boyle's outfit were now up firmly against it but they were handed a golden chance to reduce the deficit when Iain Brines pointed to the spot.
Jamie Stevenson went down under a Wallace challenge in the 40th minute and although Jamie Bain's penalty was saved by Stephen Grindlay, he reacted quickest to convert the rebound.
Injury saw MacDonald go off at the break and his replacement, McNeil, fired in a shot which was tipped over the bar by Grindlay.
Agnew forced Adam into something similar at the other end before Stevenson cut inside from the left flank and curled an effort wide.
The Sons then enjoyed a good spell of pressure with Prunty shooting into the side-netting and Martin McNiff seeing a header bounce off the bar. In the 77th minute, Donnelly blasted wide after Derek Holmes nodded down a Willie McLaren cross.
Prunty had a chance to extend Dumbarton's lead in injury-time but Adam blocked well. Seconds later, Sons full-back Paul Nugent was sent-off for a second bookable offence which means he will miss the second leg.
Colin Paterson at Strathclyde Homes Stadium.
Photographs © Robert Dalzell. Click to view full size.