Saturday January 11, 2020
Ladbrokes League One
Aaron Dunsmore 8
Craig Watson 89
Calum Gallagher 12, 28
Airdrieonians kept their promotion challenge on track despite dropping to third place in the table after a share of the points with League One draw specialists East Fife.
Just as they had done in their August defeat at Locality Hub Bayview Stadium, the Diamonds conceded early in the match, although on this occasion the team displayed battling qualities that were missing in their heaviest loss of the season when the sides first met.
The hosts went close after three minutes when Ross Davidson’s dipping volley after good build-up play clipped the top of keeper David Hutton’s crossbar on the way over his goal.
As play moved to the other end of the field three minutes later, an excellent ball in behind the East Fife defence saw Calum Gallagher make headway then fire the ball across the box with no one making that run into the box to get on the end of the ball.
Callum Smith then connected with a pass from Dale Carrick but his effort was well blocked by the home backline.
With eight minutes gone, East Fife’s Aaron Dunsmore gathered the ball on the left hand side then powered into the box showing great control, before sending his shot beyond Hutton at the far post to open the scoring.
Airdrie were quick to react this time, with Kieran Millar meeting a knockdown from a Paul McKay long throw and striking a netbound volley which was deflected for a corner.
A minute later some smart play by Kyle MacDonald saw him play a short corner to Carrick before taking the ball away from the corner flag then sending in a terrific back post cross with Gallagher meeting the ball powerfully to head the ball into the net for the equaliser.
Chances came at both ends with a McKay header being blocked on the goal line on 22 minutes with the danger cleared away, then a short passback for Hutton a minute later led to Lewis Baker intercepting the ball but the defence were able to recover in time to stop the threat.
The Diamonds were providing chances around the box without getting a real shot away, or finding the home defence reacting well to block any attempts on goal.
With 28 minutes gone Airdrie had turned the game around to go in front. A volley from Carrick was well blocked without the ball being cleared. As players hustled to make contact the ball fell to Gallagher who wasted little time in netting his own and his side’s second from close range.
Skipper Crighton made a terrific block on the half hour as East Fife got numbers in the box and Baker’s attempt was cleared.
Two minutes later Hutton reacted well after an attempted Airdrie clearance came back off a team-mate to fall kindly to goalscorer Dunsmore, but the Diamonds stopper blocked the shot. East Fife keeper Brett Long saved well from Callum Smith immediately after.
Six minutes into the second half Kurtis Roberts’ run from deep into the box was followed by an angled shot that rose over the top of Long’s goal.
As East Fife rang the changes they started to push Airdrie back, but thanks to last-ditch and effective defending Airdrie maintained their advantage.
Former Diamond Ryan Wallace went close on a couple of occasions, while Dunsmore set up Anton Dowds some 20 yards out but his shot was blocked as Airdrie stood firm.
McKay had a long-range attempt fly well over the goal while Callum Fordyce met a Leon McCann corner but sent his header off target.
Crighton was at the heart of everything good for the visiting defence, blocking a Scott Agnew attempt as the clock ticked down.
Another excellent MacDonald cross from wide right almost picked out substitute Andy Ryan who came so close as he raced into the box to try and connect with 15 minutes to play.
Wallace had another 20-yard effort blocked with the follow-up scramble seeing the ball being booted upfield.
With five minutes remaining some nice play between Wallace and Dowds gave the big striker a look at goal some 20 yards out but his shot was deflected for a corner.
A minute of normal time was left when a Wallace corner was met by Craig Watson and he was able to send the ball into the net despite the best efforts of Fordyce, levelling the match at the death.
New arrival Ryan went close to restoring the lead just before the game headed into stoppage time after showing good control then sending a dipping volley just over Long’s goal.
Despite the disappointment of dropping two points because of the late goal conceded, the team have made an excellent start to the third round of matches, significantly improving on those results first time around against Forfar and Falkirk at home and the East Fife defeat five months ago.
John O'Brien at Locality Hub Bayview Stadium.
Match photography by John Steven. Click images to view full size.