February 5, 2022
cinch League 1
Harry Milne 7
Callum Smith 73
An excellent second-half display saw the Diamonds come from behind to keep the title race alive against league leaders Cove Rangers.
A sizeable Diamonds support travelled to Balmoral Stadium to watch the top-of-the-table clash on a bright but blustery day, and they were treated to an entertaining match with a number of chances for both sides.
Manager Ian Murray made three changes after a busy spell for his side, Brody Paterson, Callum Fordyce and Jordan Allan coming in to the starting line-up with Calum Gallagher, Craig Watson and Scott McGill dropping to the bench. Cove boss Paul Hartley added recent signing Mark Reynolds with ex-Diamonds Kyle Gourlay and Leighton McIntosh among the substitutes.
It was the home side who got off to a blistering start, top scorer Rory McAllister having two attempts at an early strike which was deflected into the side netting after six minutes.
A minute later defender Harry Milne put the Toonsers in front, bursting down the left and playing a neat one-two with captain Mitch Megginson before placing a well-hit shot beyond the reach of Max Currie.
Cove were showing the ruthless streak which has propelled them to the top of the league as they pinned the Diamonds back in the early stages, and Paterson had to race across to make a superb goal-line clearance on 15 minutes.
Airdrie’s first sight of goal came a minute later, and it was an outrageous effort from Rhys McCabe who spotted Stuart McKenzie off his line and launched a free-kick goalwards from well inside his own half. The audacious attempt was headed straight for the top corner, but the Cove keeper managed to get back to tip the ball over the bar.
Fraser Fyvie got the break of the ball three minutes later, forcing a top save from Currie.
McCabe tried his luck again after 21 minutes, curling an angled chip over McKenzie only to see the ball come back off the woodwork.
Scott Agnew sent a volley fizzing over the bar a minute later as the Diamonds began to make their mark on the game.
Dylan Easton was unlucky to see his 31st-minute effort turned behind, the midfielder lobbing McKenzie only for Connor Scully to scamper back and prevent the ball crossing the line.
Currie saved well from Megginson ten minutes before the break, and the final action of the half saw Paterson join the attack only for a deflection to take his close-range effort behind.
The hosts began the second half as brightly as they had the first, and it took an outstanding last-ditch challenge from Paterson to stop McAllister getting a shot away, with Currie performing yet more heroics as the loose ball was fired goalward.
Cove almost took advantage of a dubious free-kick on 51 minutes, the ball being squared to McAllister who smacked his shot against the bar.
Calum Gallagher replaced Allan on the hour-mark, and a change of shape allowed Airdrie’s midfield more freedom - a move which turned the momentum of the game.
McKenzie parried then gathered an Agnew free-kick before Easton got back to help his defence as Megginson threatened to convert a 63rd-minute cross.
Kyle MacDonald saw an effort fly over the bar five minutes later as play raged from end to end.
With 73 minutes on the clock, the Diamonds equalised in style as McCabe brought the ball out of defence and the dummy runs of Frizzell and Easton allowed the midfielder to thread a brilliant pass to Smith, who touched the ball away from a defender before sending a composed finish past McKenzie for the equaliser.
There was no sign of the action letting up as Megginson forced another good save from Currie straight from the kick-off, and the Diamonds broke at speed with McKenzie denying Smith a quickfire second.
With both sides making midfield changes in the final stages, there was little more in the way of goalmouth action and the spoils were shared after a thrilling 90 minutes.
With four of the five cinch League 1 matches ending in draws, it’s very much as-you-were as another intriguing season moves towards its climax.
Stuart Mathie at Balmoral Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.