Saturday December 12, 2015
Ladbrokes League One
The Diamonds returned to winning ways in Ladbrokes League One with a hard fought 3-1 victory away to Stranraer, in what was a tightly contested match.
Stair Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Airdrie in recent times – the club have failed to record a win there in six attempts, with our last victory coming at the end of the 2002/2003 campaign.
It was a match that, in truth, could have went either way, but the Diamonds were clinical in front of goal and took their chances.
Gary Bollan went with the same starting XI which claimed victory over Brechin City in the Scottish Cup two weeks ago.
It was the home side that threatened most in the early stages of the match. In the 12th minute Craig Malcolm created space for himself on the edge of the 18 yard box but fired his shot just over the bar. A minute later, it was the turn of Stranraer’s Luciano Nequecaur to go close, but he couldn’t find the target and his effort cleared the bar.
Airdrie began to settle into the game and utilised the wide areas of the park well, causing Stranraer real problems. On 16 minutes, a David Cox cross found Bryan Prunty but his effort on goal was turned away by David McGurn.
The home side responded in the 23rd minute, when good link up play between Malcolm and Nequecaur saw the latter’s low cross cause a stramash in the Airdrie penalty box. Paul Cairney was almost able to bundle the ball home, but good pressure from the Airdrie defence saw it trundle by for a goal kick.
Airdrie came incredibly close to taking the lead just minutes later when David Cox brilliantly switched the play to Nicky Cadden. The winger chipped a lovely cross into the penalty area for Cox, who was a fraction away from connecting with his header and turning it in from just a few yards out.
Stranraer’s best play of the half came on 31 minutes, when a mazy run and cross-come-shot by Mark McGuigan was well saved by Parry. The rebound broke to Scott Robertson on the edge of the box who curled a shot towards goal, only for Parry to leap back across and turn the ball over the bar.
In what was proving to be an end to end first half, it was Airdrie who drew first blood in the 40th minute of the match. After a good period of sustained pressure from the Diamonds, the ball broke for Liam Watt, who drove forward and drilled a shot which was bound for the top corner until McGurn spectacularly parried it away. Despite the save, Bryan Prunty reacted quickest and arrived at the back post to stab in the rebound.
Stranraer came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second half and could have found themselves level on the 47 minute mark. Robertson made a good run down the left hand side before cutting the ball back to Malcolm. He laid the ball off for Cairney, but the midfielder’s low drive was well held by Neil Parry.
The hosts were made to pay for that miss just minutes later – a clever ball over the top had the Stranraer back line all at sea, allowing Taylor Morgan a clear path to goal. The big striker had the composure to lob the ball over the on-rushing McGurn and into the net, before the keeper clattered into him.
Airdrie’s second goal seemed to spurn Stranraer on and they started cranking up the pressure. Craig Pettigrew took on Marc Fitzpatrick before firing a shot off at Parry, which was well saved. However, Pettigrew had more joy on 55 minutes, when his deep cross from the right found Malcolm unmarked in the box to turn a header past Parry.
The Diamonds almost restored their two goal advantage just moments later. A free kick into the box found Cox, whose quick footwork set up Prunty - the striker fired a wicked drive towards goal, but McGurn somehow managed to turn it away with a superb one handed save.
The ebb and flow of the game wasn’t letting up and Stranraer were next to go close. Just after the hour mark, a Robertson volley from some 20 yards out thundered off the top of Parry’s crossbar.
Desperate for that equaliser, the home side continued to press and came close yet again when McGuigan’s shot from distance was brilliantly turned around the post by Parry.
Only a minute later, McGuigan was causing problems for the Diamond’s defence yet again when he found himself in on goal with only Parry to beat. Once again, the big keeper came to the rescue with a brave block. From the resultant Stranraer corner, Airdrie were able to clear and break forward through Cadden. He raced away from the recovering Stranraer players but fired his shot high over the bar.
Airdrie were able to find that crucial third goal on the 70 minute mark. A scramble in the middle of the park saw the ball break off of Cairney and into the path of Liam Watt. He strode forward with confidence before curling a shot into the bottom corner past the outstretched arm of McGurn.
The goal proved to be the killer blow for the Diamonds, as the final twenty minutes of the match fizzed out with only a few half chances to speak of. Jamie Longworth and Ryan Thomson both had efforts from just outside of the box but neither was to trouble Parry.
There was a particularly nice moment in the 80th minute as Jim Lister made his long awaited return to action, coming off of the bench to a very warm welcome from the travelling Diamonds, for his first appearance since March.
Overall, it was a determined performance from Airdrie and an important victory, which means that we climb back into 5th place in the league table ahead of a busy festive fixture schedule.
David Hendrie at Stair Park.
Photographs © Stuart Mathie. Click to view full-size.