Saturday April 29, 2017
Ladbrokes League One
Andy Ryan 16, 51 Pen, 59
Iain Russell 79
Andy Ryan rounded off a great week with his first senior hat-trick after being named one of the four nominations for the PFA League One Player of the Year award.
Airdrie's best win of the season saw them swap places with their opponents to climb back into a play-off spot.
The first half of the match saw the Diamonds defence well marshalled by Simon Mensing and Joe Gorman in the face of a strong wind that restricted East Fife to very little by way of shots at goal and effectively nullified any real attacking threat in a battling first half.
Pat Slattery did manage a 9th minute attempt from the outside the box which Rohan Ferguson gathered comfortably.
With 14 minutes gone Ryan battled to win a corner and Ryan Conroy’s delivery picked out Scott Stewart who headed the ball just over the bar.
Two minutes later though a whipped in cross from the left by Kieran MacDonald was met by Ryan at the front post and he steered the ball past Mark Hurst into the net for the opening goal.
The first half was littered by wasteful over-hit forward balls by East Fife while the Diamonds midfield contested each ball with intent.
With the wind at their backs after the interval Airdrie fully used it to their full advantage.
A minute after the second half began a long guided ball forward wide left was well taken by Ryan and he sent an angled cross ball into the box which Iain Russell raced on to but the striker could only send his powerful volley wide of the target.
Five minutes later a strong run down the right by Stewart took him to the goal line then he fired over a great cross for Ryan in the middle. As he moved to head the ball, he was fouled by Chris Kane and sent his headed attempt over the bar. Referee Scott Millar pointed to the spot while Kane was shown a red card. Ryan placed the ball on the spot then sent it past Hurst to double the Diamonds advantage in this crucial fixture.
The confidence continued to grow in the Airdrie side with every player looking to get involved.
Adam Brown tried a long range shot from 25 yards out that went wide to the right of Hurst’s goal.
Another goal was coming and in 59 minutes Ryan bagged the match ball with his, and Airdrie's, third.
Russell and Ryan displayed the true extent of the understanding built up between them this season as they passed the ball around the home defence before Russell’s chipped ball into the box leaving Ryan in front of goal, and the prolific hitman made no mistake with his finish.
Russell himself deservedly got on the scoresheet in 79 minutes when he fashioned space for himself just outside the box and then fired a terrific effort past Hurst high to the keeper’s right to further improve the Diamonds’ goal difference.
Murray Loudon came on for a 10 minute cameo role during which he set up a couple of scoring opportunities that were passed up but in the end, there was a whole lot to be pleased about as the team showed a confident performance on the road.
Their second clean sheet this year was also welcome and something the defence were eager to achieve even although they were holding a comfortable lead.
So now everything moves on to the final week with Airdrie and Brechin City in pole position for the coveted play-off spots.
John O'Brien at Bayview Stadium.
Photographs © John Steven. Click to view full-size.