Saturday March 21, 2015
SPFL League One
Airdrie's unbeaten run came to an end as they struggled in the Stranraer sunshine, but it took a wonder-goal from Willie Gibson to settle the match.
For the second Saturday in a row the Diamonds faced the side at the top of the league, Stephen Aitken's men having overtaken Morton in midweek.
Enforced changes were made, with Bryan Gilfillan dropping out through injury and captain Paddy Boyle serving a one-match ban.
Nathan Blockley continued in the midfield berth vacated by Gilfillan, having replaced him last weekend. Chris O'Neil came in at left-back.
Airdrie started the livelier, Ross Docherty's free kick finding Nathan Blockley in the opening minutes. The midfielder fed Bryan Prunty, but Blues keeper David Mitchell was out smartly to block the hitman's angled drive.
Prunty had another chance minutes later, rising to meet a Jordan Morton cross, but his header was straight at Mitchell.
Stranraer retaliated through Craig Malcolm, who saw his shot easily held by Andy McNeil in the Airdrie goal. An attempted overhead kick by the same player was weak and high, drifting harmlessly over the crossbar.
Luca Gasparotto again provided a setpiece threat, and his 17th minute header from a Scott Fraser free kick was just over the bar.
The Diamonds' best move of the half came on 21 minutes, Fraser beautifully controlling a diagonal pass and playing a one-two with Prunty before squaring for Blockley, but the cross was agonisingly just behind the Airdrie man.
Sean Winter was next to threaten for the home side, his header well saved by McNeil.
A Fraser free kick from 25 yards was just high and wide of the Stranraer goal in the last attack of the first half.
The Blues came roaring out of the traps in the second period, Grant Gallagher screwing an effort just wide after McNeil and Chris O'Neil had denied Longworth and Malcolm.
Airdrie had a brief period of pressure around the hour mark, Mitchell twice making fingertip saves from Fraser efforts, then saving at the feet of Prunty.
As Stranraer took control again, they were finding no way past the Diamonds defence, Liam Lindsay in particular dominating aerially.
But with seven minutes remaining, a moment of magic from former Kilmarnock midfielder Willie Gibson finally broke the deadlock.
The winger picked the ball up on the left hand side, some 30 yards from goal and curled an unstoppable effort into the postage stamp corner.
It was a goal fit to win any game, and on a day where Gary Bollan's side perhaps rode their luck a little, it looked like being the decider.
Stranraer could have doubled their lead four minutes later, a miscued clearance from substitute Liam Watt falling kindly for Longworth, but Andy McNeil made a wonderful save at the striker's feet.
As it was, Gibson's wonder goal was enough to win the tie.
With Brechin losing to Forfar, the Diamonds remain four points from the play-off places, but with only six games remaining it will take something special to make up the ground.
Stuart Mathie at Stair Park.