July 10, 2021

Premier Sports Cup Group F

Airdrieonians

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Matthew McDonald 90+1

Annan Athletic

Tony Wallace 67 pen

Matthew McDonald’s debut strike earned a draw for the Diamonds after going behind to Annan in the Premier Sports Cup Group F opener.

The Galabankies went on to take the bonus point with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win as a new-look Airdrie team played their first competitive fixture together.

There were eight new faces in the Diamonds starting line-up with another two coming off the bench during the 90 minutes.

Ian Murray’s men started brightly with new player-manager Scott Agnew seeing a shot from the edge of the box held by Annan keeper Ryan Adamson inside the opening five minutes.

Two minutes later Calum Gallagher had a go from a similar distance, but the strike was off-target.

A quiet spell followed with neither side doing enough to create any real opportunities.

With 28 minutes on the clock Agnew was going for goal again, this time sending in a low angled drive after his corner kick was cleared back out to him. Again Adamson showed safe hands to gather at the near post.

Two minutes later Dylan Easton displayed some of the trickery that has earmarked him as a key player in the new-look Diamonds side, showing great close control to weave through the box before his cross was blocked.

Annan showed a glimpse of the threat they would pose on 31 minutes, breaking down the right flank only for Rico Quitongo to thwart the attack with some composed defending.

Former Clyde midfielder Chris Johnston volleyed straight at Max Currie three minutes later.

Airdrie’s best chance of the first half fell to Gallagher seven minutes before the break. Controlling a cross from the left on his chest, the striker sent in a powerful angled effort which was denied by a fine diving save from Adamson.

Adamson was on hand again three minutes later, saving from Sam Wardrop after Agnew’s free-kick had struck the wall and fallen kindly for the defender.

Easton went down with a back injury just before the break, with fellow new boy Matthew McDonald his replacement.

Jordan Allan raced for goal early in the second half, and Annan were fortunate that referee Steven Kirkland missed the handball which halted the striker’s progress.

Max Currie was at his instinctive best on 51 minutes, pushing out a strong header from point-blank range as Annan broke in numbers.

The visitors countered well again four minutes later, Dominic Docherty volleying well over after a run and cross from Aidan Smith.

As Airdrie hit back, Agnew saw a decent strike deflected behind before Diamonds penalty claims were denied following a possible handball in the box.

Gallagher had another strike deflected over the bar before latest signing Salim Kouider-Aïssa came on for his debut - replacing Allan who was making his third “first” appearance for the club.

Craig Watson headed wide from a corner kick on 62 minutes as the home side continued to press.

Four minutes later it was the visitors who had a golden opportunity to open the scoring as they were handed a penalty kick following a trip by substitute McDonald.

Tony Wallace stepped up to take the spot-kick, which was lashed home emphatically.

Annan sub Iain Anderson went close to adding a second on 72 minutes, heading over when it looked easier to score.

Airdrie were finding it difficult to create openings as they searched for an equaliser, Wardrop and Kouider-Aïssa both being well marshalled in the attacking third.

Just as it looked like an opening-day defeat was on the cards, McDonald made up for his earlier indiscretion with a last-minute equaliser.

Luke Lyons sent in a deep swirling cross which Adamson came to claim but failed to hold. Callum Fordyce poked the ball in the direction of McDonald, who volleyed home well through the covering defenders.

It was the final action of the match, and a penalty shoot-out was required to separate the sides.

Gallagher saw his spot-kick - Airdrie’s fourth - well saved by Adamson, leaving Wallace the chance to seal the bonus point, which he did.

The timing of Airdrie’s equaliser makes it a rescued point for the Diamonds, who travel to Firhill to face Queen’s Park for next Saturday’s match.

Stuart Mathie.

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