Tuesday May 4, 2021
SPFL League One
Craig Thomson 88
Kyle Turner 90+4
Airdrie secured the League One runners-up spot and a play-off meeting with Cove Rangers courtesy of their third win of the season over Falkirk.
The Diamonds went into their final match of the campaign having already ensured a top-four place, but knowing that a win would secure second spot - and coupled with a Montrose win against Partick Thistle, consign the Bairns to another season in the third tier.
Dean Ritchie was rewarded for his first senior goal at the weekend with a starting berth ahead of Dale Carrick.
The first action of the match saw a booking for Falkirk midfielder Morgaro Gomis, who saw yellow after a crude challenge on Paul McKay in the middle of the park.
Gallagher was heavily involved in the early stages, and was on the receiving end of some rough treatment as he led the Diamonds line.
Kyle Turner was also showing his willingness to push forward, linking with Gallagher on ten minutes only for a defensive block to cut out the striker’s square pass.
Gallagher looked to add to his impressive recent run of headed goals two minutes later, but visiting goalkeeper Robbie Mutch got down well to push his effort away.
Mutch was in action again shortly after, saving Kyle Connell’s angled strike after another fine Gallagher pass.
Turner looped in a half-volley in the 20th minute, but the effort was off-target.
Gallagher almost grabbed an audacious goal just before half-time, flicking Ritchie’s strike towards goal with his heel, but Mutch was well placed to gather at close range.
Scott Walker saw his cross cannon off a defender early in the second half, but Mutch was alert to prevent a corner.
As Falkirk began to enjoy some attacking possession, Ritchie was tackling well in the middle to break up two quickfire attacks around the hour mark.
Unfortunately the young midfielder picked up a knock in one such challenge and had to be helped from the field. Kyle Connell also made way as Patrick Pyott and Thomas Robert joined the fray.
Mark Durnan made an important headed interception on 67 minutes as Turner’s free-kick curled towards the waiting Callum Fordyce.
The Bairns broke upfield from the move and Walker did well to cover the ground and shepherd the ball to safety.
Further fresh legs for Airdrie came in the shape of Craig Thomson and Dale Carrick, who replaced Walker and Gallagher.
Pyott was unlucky not to get a goal after a sublime piece of control teed him up perfectly for a left-footed shot which Mutch held well. The Diamonds striker pulled up after the effort and also had to leave the field with Ally Roy replacing him.
Paul Paton blocked a Kai Fotheringham effort on 70 minutes, and three minutes later Conor Sammon fired just wide as Falkirk looked for the win they required.
Sean Kelly headed well wide before Roy sent an angled strike just past the post at the other end.
With ten minutes remaining a Turner free-kick found Josh Kerr unmarked in the box, but Mutch was again well placed to gather.
As it began to look like a typical end of season 0-0 was on the cards, substitute Thomson gave Airdrie the lead with two minutes to play.
Robert returned a short Paul McKay throw, and the midfielder found Thomson who evaded a challenge and cut onto his left foot before steering a superb effort into the roof of the net from 18 yards.
With Montrose also scoring late to go ahead against Partick, Falkirk had only a minute plus stoppage time to rescue the point that would see them into the play-offs.
Substitute Anton Dowds shot over with the last chance of regulation time before Durnan headed over the bar two minutes into time added on.
With a 94th-minute throw in an advanced position, it looked like the Diamonds would keep the ball in the corner and see out time, but Turner had other ideas, taking the ball from McCann and skipping along the bye-line to fire a shot which Mutch parried. The ball broke for the Diamonds man who controlled and made space before firing home Airdrie’s second with the last kick of the ball.
The result sees Airdrie face Cove Rangers in the Championship play-off semi-final while Montrose meet Morton. With the win pushing the Diamonds into second spot, Ian Murray’s side enjoy home advantage in Tuesday’s second leg following another trip to Aberdeen on Saturday.
Stuart Mathie at Penny Cars Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.