26th March 2022

cinch League 1

Airdrieonians

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Gabby McGill 2

Cove Rangers

Fraser Fyvie 90+3

A stunning stoppage-time finish denied Airdrie the chance to close the gap on Cove Rangers after Gabby McGill’s early strike had given the Diamonds the lead.

On a sunny day in Monklands, the biggest crowd of the season packed into the Excelsior Stadium to watch the much-anticipated top of the table clash, and it was Ian Murray’s side who held the upper hand for more than 90 minutes.

The Diamonds boss made one change to the line-up which had registered a 2-0 home win over Queen’s Park last weekend, with Craig Watson returning from injury to replace Scott Walker.

21-goal striker Mitch Megginson led the line for the visitors, who named ex-Diamonds Kyle Gourlay and Leighton McIntosh among the substitutes.

Airdrie took the match to Cove in the opening minutes, Calum Gallagher latching onto McGill’s header after just 30 seconds, but Scott Ross did well to make up the ground and get a block in.

A minute later the Cove defence were undone, Adam Frizzell weaving into the box and playing a one-two with Callum Smith before getting a low shot away. Stuart McKenzie reacted well to save, but could only palm the ball into the path of McGill who touched the ball over the line.

Airdrie’s relentless start to the much didn’t let up, and Gallagher could have added a second with four minutes on the clock, peeling away to accept Smith’s headflick and getting a low shot away, but this McKenzie saved with his feet and the ball bounced to safety.

Cove’s first attack came after nine minutes, but the calm head of Scott Agnew knocked the ball clear.

The Diamonds assistant-manager broke up another attack five minutes later, tackling well as Paul Hartley’s side broke in numbers.

Dylan Easton showed great tenacity to win possession from a Cove throw and send Gallagher haring into the box, but Morgyn Neill stood firm and cleared the danger.

Shay Logan’s runs down the Cove right were often a focal point of the visitors’ attack, but the former Aberdeen man was off-target on 17 minutes as he sent a powerful strike over the bar.

Harry Milne was also getting forward from the opposite wing-back position, but his 20th minute effort also cleared Max Currie’s crossbar.

The Diamonds keeper was well placed to gather a long-range effort from Fraser Fyvie three minutes later before Megginson saw the first yellow card of the match for a poor challenge on McGill.

Having weathered a spell of Cove possession, the home side began to threaten again around the half-hour mark, and McGill had a golden opportunity on 29 minutes, finding space to meet Craig Watson’s cross but heading straight at McKenzie.

Some questionable tackling by the visiting defence went unpunished as Airdrie looked to turn the screw, but Frizzell and Gallagher combined to set up Smith with ten minutes of the first half remaining, with the striker just unable to adjust quickly enough to keep his shot down.

Gallagher volleyed over a minute later before Currie saved well from Milne and Rhys McCabe calmly dealt with a Logan cross.

With McCabe having already sent a promising free-kick over the bar, Easton took on a 44th-minute setpiece and sent a lovely effort curling toward the top corner, but McKenzie pulled off a fine one-handed save.

Two minutes into the second half it was Airdrie’s turn to defend a dangerous free-kick, but the Diamonds wall blocked twice before the loose ball was fired over the bar.

Currie made a routine save from Fyvie ten minutes later as the home side limited Cove to shots from distance.

As the Diamonds launched a counter on 56 minutes, Brody Paterson’s cross was glanced just wide of the post by Smith.

The visitors were enjoying more possession after the break, but the Airdrie defence were strong and Currie was claiming cross balls well, plucking a 59th-minute Logan centre out of the air with Megginson lurking.

The league’s top scorer was joined in attack by substitute Rory McAllister, but it was Megginson who had the chance to bear down on goal on 66 minutes, only for Easton to get back and avert the danger.

McAllister found himself in space at the back post with ten minutes remaining, but the veteran striker’s control let him down.

Frizzell saw a shot charged down before a slew of late substitutions interrupted play.

A minute into stoppage time Iain Vigurs headed over from a good setpiece delivery, but there was heartbreak for the Diamonds with 94 minutes on the clock.

A short corner was worked in and brilliantly headed clear by McCabe, but Fyvie had space on the edge of the box to loop a superb volley over Currie for the equaliser.

The result leaves Cove in the driving seat with five games remaining, but the Diamonds will continue to give their all to extend a 15-match unbeaten run knowing that in football, anything can happen.

Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.

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