Saturday May 1, 2021

SPFL League One

Cove Rangers

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0-2

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Airdrieonians

Calum Gallagher 49
Dean Ritchie 90

Match Gallery

Airdrie put in a hardworking performance to earn a 2-0 away win over Cove Rangers and secure a place in the Championship play-offs.

The Diamonds also became the first side to keep a clean sheet on senior league duty at the Balmoral Stadium, but there was only one stat that mattered at full-time.

Ian Murray named the same starting XI which beat Montrose in midweek, with captain Sean Crighton returning to the bench after injury.

Former Airdrie loanee Dan Higgins started in defence for Cove, with ex-Diamond Leighton McIntosh among the substitutes.

As has often been the case during the good run of form which has put Airdrie at the top end of the table, the side started brightly although it was the hosts who had the first sight of goal with Sebastian Ross’s 18-yard drive cleanly taken by Max Currie.

Leon McCann was finding good space on the left in the early stages, and his eighth-minute cross needed a strong clearing header from Higgins.

Another whipped cross from McCann seven minutes later had to be tipped over the bar by home keeper Stuart McKenzie.

Paul McKay showed his confidence to join the attack on several occasions, heading Kyle Connell’s cross over the bar on 20 minutes.

Defender Ryan Strachan did well as Calum Gallagher drove in on goal two minutes later, and the striker sent his shot harmlessly wide under the close attention of the former Peterhead man.

Cove responded through Adam Livingstone, who shot well over, and veteran striker Rory McAllister who fired straight at Currie.

McKenzie saved well on the half-hour mark, diving to keep out Connell’s spinning shot then denying Kyle Turner from the resultant corner.

Despite dominating possession, the Diamonds had the woodwork to thank for keeping the scores level at half-time as Higgins strode forward and unleashed a fine drive which cracked off the upright.

Thomas Robert replaced Dale Carrick at the break, and the Diamonds winger almost had an immediate impact as he charged down McKenzie’s clearance, but the Cove defence recovered to hoof the ball to safety.

Robert was causing problems again four minutes after the restart, and this time his skill produced results. Latching on to a head-flick, the French midfielder drifted past Ross Graham before placing the ball on the head of Gallagher who made no mistake.

The Diamonds almost doubled their lead two minutes later, Robert the architect again as he drove forward and released Connell, who sent a curling effort narrowly wide.

McAllister beat the offside trap just after the hour mark, bearing down on goal and firing in a low strike, but Currie got a vital touch to turn the ball onto the post.

A quadruple-change for Cove brought fresh attacking legs to Paul Hartley’s side, but the Toonsers were mostly reduced to shots from range as Strachan’s 67th-minute effort was held by Currie.

The hosts did get closer to goal seven minutes later, Watson rushing in at the back post only to see his headed effort strike the woodwork for a third time.

Ally Roy sent a chipped effort wide of the target a minute later after McKenzie had rushed out of his area, and as the game moved into the final ten minutes the Diamonds were incensed not to be awarded a penalty as Kyle Turner was flattened in the box.

Turner did force a save from McKenzie on 84 minutes before Josh Kerr had to look lively at the other end, covering distance to clear the ball from a three-on-two attack.

Substitute Jack McKay almost fed Roy with four minutes remaining, but the striker couldn’t get the touch needed to send the ball home.

Any fears of a late equaliser were laid to rest in the final minute as Dean Ritchie made sure of the win with his first Airdrie goal. Ally Roy’s fierce drive from the edge of the area stung McKenzie’s palms, but Ritchie was on hand to pick up the loose ball and compose himself before finishing with aplomb.

The final whistle meant that Airdrie could look forward to Tuesday with a play-off place secured and the knowledge that a victory over Falkirk would see the Diamonds finish the season in second place.

Stuart Mathie.