Sunday September 4, 2016
Irn Bru Cup round 3
Craig McGuffie 35
Alan Forrest 45
Conrad Balatoni 97
Ryan Conroy 14
Conrad Balatoni 49 OG
It took an extra time winner for Ayr to knock the Diamonds out of the Irn Bru Cup in the Somerset Park sunshine.
New signing Jack Leitch made his official debut for the visitors, Adam Brown making way through illness.
It was one way traffic in the opening ten minutes with the home side in control.
An early Brian Gilmour cross after three minutes was cleanly taken by Rohan Ferguson.
Two minutes later Mick Wardrope latched on to a loose ball and powered a 40-yard shot that was just over the top of the Airdrie goal.
After seven minutes a slack pass by Sean McIntosh was gathered by Jamie Thomas who raced into the box then fired wide of Ferguson’s back post.
Another misplaced pass after then minutes, this time by Daniel Boateng, allowed Craig McGuffie to race in on goal and his near post shot was pushed away by Ferguson.
With 14 minutes gone, against the run of play, Airdrie took the lead. A foul on Iain Russell saw Ryan Conroy deliver a perfect 20-yard free kick up and over the wall with keeper Greg Fleming only able to push the ball into the top corner of the net. It was Conroy’s first goal for the Diamonds.
After a headed clearance from the Airdrie defence, Thomas volleyed just over the goal frame from 20 yards out two minutes later.
The home side continued to chase an equaliser, Brian Gilmour’s 20th minute free kick saw new signing Conrad Balatoni head the ball over the target and five minutes later Nicky Devlin’s whipped in cross from the right was headed just wide of Ferguson’s far post.
Russell reacted quickly to Scott Stewart’s throw in to fire a shot just wide of Fleming’s front post after 28 minutes.
Good play from Conor Scullion in 33 minutes set up Conroy and his chipped shot from the edge of the box was only marginally wide of Fleming’s left post.
A great run and cross by Stewart was directed towards the Ayr goal by Andy Ryan and then Russell with neither finding the net.
Ayr levelled 11 minutes from the break when Paddy Boyle’s cross the left found McGuffie who turned his marker then chipped the ball over Ferguson into the net.
Looking to add to their goal, the home side pushed Airdrie back. Alan Forrest’s drilled effort in 36 minutes was well taken by Ferguson.
Wardrobe and Forrest combined in 41 minutes with Forest’s angled shot whistling past the far post.
McIntosh made a goal line clearance from Meggatt’s header in stoppage time, but the home side took the lead when a Gilmour cross from the right was headed on by Thomas and Forrest hammered the ball past Ferguson.
That did not last long though, as three minutes into the second half a Russell cross from the right was headed clear and Kieran MacDonald followed in to fire the ball into the net with the aid of a heavy deflection. The defender's volley looked goalbound, but officials credited the strike as a Balatoni own goal.
In 53 minutes MacDonald then chased a lost cause and from the goal line cut the ball back for Russell but his shot lacked power and was cleared.
There was an outbreak of substitutions which impacted on the flow of the match midway through the half. There were also lots of high balls being thrown into the Airdrie box that came to nothing.
Russell was on the end of a long ball from MacDonald in 74 minutes but miscued his lobbed effort wide of goal.
In the last ten minutes of the match it became a more open contest. Andy Ryan tried a spectacular overhead kick attempt in 85 minutes but the ball was cleared.
Meanwhile at the other end two minutes later Ryan was in place to block substitute Andy O’Connell’s effort with some assistance from Ferguson.
Extra time loomed after six minutes of stoppage time.
Seven minutes into the additional half hour Airdrie were undone once again by a cross into the box. A corner from substitute Michael Donald was met by Balatoni at the front post to power the ball into the net.
Conroy had a chance to repeat his earlier free kick but fired the ball high over the target with a minute of the first period left.
In the second period Airdrie tried to get back on level terms, however after Russell reacted to Balatoni pulling his he saw red and was sent off. Balatoni’s professional foul only merited yellow.
It ended the Diamonds hopes and there was no further scoring.
John O'Brien at Somerset Park.
Photographs © Stuart Mathie.