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Friday May 21, 2021

SPFL Championship play-off final, second leg





Robbie Muirhead 12, 78
Gary Oliver 44



Airdrie’s season came to a disappointing end at Cappielow as Morton's victory meant the Diamonds will be plying their trade in League One again next season.

A gruelling schedule of 13 matches in seven weeks had undoubtedly taken its toll on Ian Murray’s side, who were without four of the regular starters who had fired Airdrie to second place in the table and a shot at promotion.

With Paul McKay and Dale Carrick injured in Tuesday’s home leg, Josh Kerr and Thomas Robert returned to the starting line-up.

An even opening spell was lit up in spectacular fashion by Robbie Muirhead, the scorer of Morton’s late winner on Tuesday. Pouncing on a slack pass, the former Hearts man controlled and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed volley into the top corner. With only 12 minutes on the clock, the Diamonds were 2-0 down on aggregate and had a mountain to climb.

Morton could have increased their lead two minutes a later, a driven ball across goal evading everyone and drifting out of play.

Airdrie’s first meaningful attack came after 19 minutes, skipper Sean Crighton heading wide from Euan O’Reilly’s cross.

Cameron Salkeld fired over six minutes later, before Morton were denied a penalty after the ball struck Leon McCann’s arm.

Kerr added to Airdrie’s injury woes on the half-hour mark, making way for Craig Thomson.

Further chances fell for the home side as the half wore on, Salkeld poking the ball wide before Stephen McGinn’s shot was too high.

Morton’s pressure paid off just before half time. Currie could only touch a Salkeld strike onto the crossbar, and Gary Oliver reacted quickest to nod home with the Airdrie goalkeeper on the deck.

Craig Thomson burst down the left a minute into first-half stoppage time and his speculative cross almost snuck in at the back post, but it was becoming clear it wasn’t going to be Airdrie’s night.

The Diamonds offered more of an attacking threat after the restart, Turner’s 49th-minute free-kick nodded goalward by Crighton, but loanee goalkeeper Scott Fox was able to catch with Calum Gallagher lurking.

Muirhead got a shot away on the turn a minute later, but on this occasion Currie watched the strike fizz past the post.

Robert and Gallagher combined well through the middle on 52 minutes but Ledger’s block saw the ball behind before the Airdrie forward could strike. Crighton’s header from the resultant corner was well taken by Fox.

Morton captain Brian McLean nodded wide from a Morton corner on the 60-minute mark before another good run by Robert saw a ball flashed across goal with no-one in a Diamond shirt close enough to capitalise.

As Airdrie pushed men forward, Gus MacPherson’s side were finding space to exploit, and Crighton had to make a good recovering challenge to deny substitute Aidan Nesbitt.

With twelve minutes remaining, the Championship side added a third as Currie parried a curling McGinn effort. There were hints of offside as Muirhead turned the loose ball home, but the flag stayed down and the striker grabbed his second of the night and third of the tie.

Callum Fordyce fired over from distance as the clock ticked down, with an 85th-minute Nesbitt header skimming the Airdrie bar before Fox got down to save from Thomson at the other end.

Airdrie sub Ally Roy applied a superb finish with four minutes remaining, but the striker had gone too early and was flagged offside.

Fox was out sharply to beat Roy to a Gallagher through-ball in the 90th minute, and the final whistle signalled a disappointing end to an impressive run.

With the Diamonds finishing the season in second place, only two points behind champions Partick Thistle, Ian Murray and his players can now enjoy a well deserved break before the hard work starts again as the Diamonds look to improve on their best league finish in a decade.

Stuart Mathie at Cappielow Park.

Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.

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