February 19, 2022

cinch League 1

Peterhead

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Airdrieonians

Jon Afolabi 28

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Jon Afolabi’s first Airdrie goal gave the Diamonds three hard-earned points at Balmoor.

In a week where many of the squad were affected by a sickness bug, it’s testament to the guile and determination of the players that they were able to secure a win against a Peterhead side whose performance belied their position in the league table.

With Callum Smith dropping out of the squad completely, Afolabi was handed his first start since joining on loan from Celtic. Kyle MacDonald was also missing following an ankle knock, Craig Watson his replacement at right-back.

Peterhead made a late change to their line-up, swapping one ex-Diamond for another as Rico Quitongo came in for Ryan Conroy.

The home side bossed the opening ten minutes, keeping possession well and pressing high up the park, but they were unable to convert their dominance into chances.

Brett Long was the first goalkeeper called upon, but the former East Fife man handled Rhys McCabe’s cross well after the midfielder’s throw had broken back to him on the left.

Blue Toon captain Scott Brown saw an effort from outside the box deflected wide after 15 minutes, but it was Long who was in action again a minute later, blocking from Calum Gallagher after Afolabi had combined with Adam Frizzell to play the striker through.

Max Currie’s first involvement came on 18 minutes as he held Andrew McCarthy’s long-range strike, but Peterhead should have taken the lead seven minutes later. Quitongo did well to break into the box from the left wing, and his cross fell for Grant Savoury who contrived to blaze over the bar with the goal gaping.

Brown was almost clear a minute later, but Brody Paterson raced in to nick the ball away from the Peterhead midfielder.

Ryan Duncan fired wide as it looked like the hosts were taking the game by the scruff of the neck, but Afolabi broke the deadlock with a calm finish on 28 minutes.

Gallagher fed Paterson on the left, and while Afolabi was unable to make good contact with the full-back’s cross, his touch fell to McCabe, who intelligently played a quick ball back to the Celtic loanee. Taking a touch, the big striker steered a composed finish into the bottom corner.

Airdrie looked to press their advantage, and Dylan Easton was unlucky to see his shot blocked by a defender after strong play from Afolabi.

Hamish Ritchie curled a strike just over the bar five minutes from half-time, and the same player went close again after Josh Kerr’s tackle had squirmed into his path.

Peterhead began the second half as they’d played most of the first, Scott Brown firing wide two minutes after the restart before Currie had to think on his feet to clear a backpass after Paterson had dispossessed Quitongo.

Ritchie looked certain to score as he latched on to a 57th-minute through ball, but Currie made an excellent diving save to turn the ball out of play.

Niah Payne saw a vicious effort fly wide on the hour-mark, but Airdrie hit back through Afolabi who cut across the bye-line before squaring for Gallagher, with Quitongo making up plenty of ground to get a last-ditch clearance in.

There were penalty shouts at either end as first a cross came off Paterson’s hand from close range before Gallagher looked to be impeded as he attempted to connect with a cross, but referee Stewart Luke waved play on on both occasions.

Gallagher and Scott McGill raced away from the home defence on 71 minutes, but the Diamonds substitute was unable to divert his team-mate’s square ball on target.

Josh Kerr and Callum Fordyce were defending well as Peterhead continued to push for an equaliser, the former denying Russell McLean with a brilliant 76th-minute tackle.

McLean was one on one with Currie five minutes later after Kerr’s unfortunate slip let the striker in, but this time Fordyce was across to make a superb block after the Peterhead man had rounded the goalkeeper.

As the clock ticked down Paterson defended well against Payne before Kerr deftly headed back to Currie in the final minute.

Airdrie sub Jordan Allan latched onto a chance in stoppage time, but Quitongo popped up again to deny the striker.

Safe hands from Currie saw a late cross dealt with, and the final whistle went on a tough afternoon for Airdrie.

With Cove Rangers also winning, the gap at the top remains at five points, but the Diamonds will be satisfied with a job well done.

Stuart Mathie.

Photos © Emma Quigley. Click to view full-size.