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Saturday August 18, 2018

Ladbrokes League One





Sean Crighton OG 45+1


Ryan Conroy 42, 56

Airdrie put in a magnificent battling performance to beat Stenhousemuir against the odds after being reduced to ten men early in the proceedings.


Ryan Conroy moved to top the club scoring charts with five goals after scoring an excellent double at Ochilview to give the Diamonds their first win there in the last five visits.


Stevie Findlay’s side were looking to bounce back from the shock home defeat last week to Montrose as they faced up to the other club to come up from League Two.


Darryl Duffy was the only change from the midweek match at Berwick, returning to the starting line up in place of Leighton McIntosh.


Airdrie were first to threaten after three minutes when a Scott Stewart head-on found Duffy whose volley from 20 yards out was deflected for a corner which was cleared away by the hosts.


A minute later a well-placed through ball picked out Kevin O’Hara who fired the ball wide of David Hutton’s goal.


With eight minutes gone a foul on Joao Victoria saw a free kick opportunity from just outside the box, but Conroy’s usual accuracy from a dead ball was missing as he curled the ball well over the home goal.


Airdrie were shocked with just thirteen minutes gone when Scott Robertson was harshly given a red card for a challenge on Alan Cook when there seemed to be cover from Jonathan Page in the middle of the box.


Hutton made the first of many fine saves on the day, this time from the resultant free kick.  


Despite the home side’s numerical advantage, every player in a Diamond raised their game and chances were being created around Graeme Smith’s goal.


On the 15 minute mark Conroy had gathered the second ball following Stenhousemuir’s defensive clearance from a corner. The midfielder’s whipped-in cross was met at the back post by Crighton who could only head the ball past Smith’s left post.


Two minutes later, following a concentrated spell of Airdrie pressure, Crighton lobbed the ball back into the home goal with keeper Smith happy to see it come off his crossbar. Conroy followed up on the loose ball to drill an angled effort that was deflected for another corner. Conroy’s cross was headed for goal by Crighton but once more cleared off the line as Airdrie sought to break the deadlock. 


As Duffy chased through on to a Victoria through ball in 21 minutes, he injured himself in the process of making a challenge for the ball with Jesus Garcia Tena and was booked for his troubles as he was helped off the field.


After 28 minutes the reactions of Hutton were again put to the test after O’Hara ran in behind the Airdrie backline, but the keeper’s acrobatic dive saw him push the ball away for a corner. He followed that up with a point-blank save after the corner picked out Connor Duthie who blasted the ball straight at him from ten yards.


Stenhousemuir were applying some pressure as a Kieran Gibbons 20-yard shot was deflected for a corner. After it was cleared away Sean Dickson sent the ball back into the far post in 31 minutes with former Albion Rovers player Mark McGuigan heading the ball well over. 


The Diamonds were smart with their counter-attacks in the final quarter of an hour. A Conroy cross into the middle of the penalty box was headed wide by Carrick and he almost played in substitute Leighton McIntosh with ten minutes of the half remaining, but overhit the pass as Smith was out quickly and collected the ball.


As the half-time break started to get close a Gibbons drive brought out a great save from Hutton.


Victoria and MacDonald’s link up play down the left had not just eased the pressure on the Airdrie defence but led to good chances being made. After MacDonald had raced into space down the left, his telling cross saw Conroy attack the ball and send it looping into the top corner beyond Smith for an opening goal which was no more than the ten men deserved. 


However in time added on in the first half, Alan Cook had room to run through the middle but it took a cruel deflection to beat Hutton and give the home side an equaliser before the break. 


Depite this hammer blow, Airdrie came out in the second half and looked to take the game again to their hosts.


Hutton’s fingertip save from Gibbons within six minutes, while McGuigan’s 20 yard shot on 54 minutes was wide of the target kept the sides level. 


On 56 minutes though some terrific footwork from Victoria took him past several challenges on a real mazy run. The ball broke to the left hand side of the box and Conroy raced in to fire a curling shot well beyond Smith to give Airdrie the lead again.


Hutton and his defenders were to stand tall as the home side looked for a second goal. Hutton turned Gibbons’ 20-yard shot on 63 minutes away for a corner.


McIntosh had run his race by 72 minutes, having to be replaced because of a nasty head wound.


Carrick fired over from an angle in 76 minutes, Smith was out to punch the ball away as Victoria tried to connect with Conroy’s cross two minutes later, and Smith was down smartly to block Carrick as he powered in behind the Stenhousemuir defence.


The final ten minutes saw a heroic show as bodies were put on the line to block shots and in the second minute of stoppage time Hutton’s leap to his right to push a netbound shot over the bar was top class. 


An excellent win to send the noisy visiting support happy, having witnessed a top quality display in the face of adversity.

John O'Brien at Ochilview Park.

Photographs © John Steven. Click to view full size.

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