April 9, 2022
cinch League 1
Blair Lyons 2, 69
Callum Smith 26
Calum Gallagher 73
Airdrie were unable to turn their second-half pressure into victory over Montrose, despite twice coming from behind in a thrilling match at Links Park.
Although the Diamonds extended their unbeaten run to an incredible 17 league matches, a missed penalty and an inspired goalkeeping display denied Ian Murray’s men the chance to keep leaders Cove Rangers within three points.
Rhys McCabe returned to the starting line-up after missing last weekend’s win over East Fife due to illness.
Although conditions were notably less stormy than December’s visit to Angus, the bright sunshine at Links Park belied cold and windy conditions which had an immediate impact on the Diamonds.
With McCabe having headed an early looping cross behind, Michael Gardyne swung in a second-minute corner which Blair Lyons rose to head into the net.
It was a nightmare start for an Airdrie team who have bagged a number of early goals themselves this season, but proved to be a temporary setback as Adam Frizzell forced home keeper Allan Fleming to claim a fifth-minute cross with Calum Gallagher waiting to pounce.
A minute later Dylan Easton arrowed a strike toward the top corner, but Fleming produced an acrobatic save, tipping over the bar.
Gabby McGill was next to go close for the Diamonds, heading Easton’s corner kick delivery over the bar before the midfielder cut inside and sent a 20th-minute effort the same way.
As always, Montrose’s full-backs provided a potent attacking threat, and Cammy Ballantyne was denied by Max Currie after a strong run, the keeper reacting well as the former Dumbarton man attempted to catch him out at the near post.
Airdrie were on the attack again midway through the half, and another spectacular save from Fleming was required to keep Frizzell’s drive out.
The keeper parried a Callum Smith effort two minutes later, with Seán Dillon throwing himself at Gabby McGill’s follow up.
Smith made no mistake on 26 minutes, as a perfectly weighted McCabe free-kick was headed across goal by Callum Fordyce and nodded home by the Airdrie number 11. It was a deserved equaliser for the Diamonds who had recovered well from their early setback.
Montrose almost went back in front three minutes later, but it was Currie’s turn for heroics as he produced a superb reaction save from Craig Johnston’s close-range header, turning the ball onto the post before it was hacked clear.
Fordyce joined the attack again on 35 minutes, but this time the Diamonds skipper shot for goal and his effort cleared the bar.
As half-time approached Fleming again denied the visitors, saving well from Gabby McGill after a flowing counter-attack.
Lyall Cameron fired over with three minutes of the half remaining, and it took a good challenge from Fordyce in stoppage time to halt a Montrose break.
Gabby McGill sent a powerful header crashing off the bar early in the second half, but the linesman had already flagged for an offside.
Both keepers made routine saves as Fleming gathered from Smith before Currie palmed out another Johnston effort.
Easton was linking Airdrie’s midfield and attack well and combined with Smith on 57 minutes before firing over the bar, with Frizzell being outnumbered in the box four minutes later.
With 68 minutes played, Stewart Petrie’s side went back in front against the run of play, a short free-kick allowing Cameron to shoot. Gallagher blocked the effort, but Lyons reacted quickest to steer home his second of the match.
With Cove winning at Falkirk, Airdrie made changes to their personnel and shape, and the hosts were only ahead for five minutes before Gallagher grabbed another equaliser.
Brody Paterson, who had been impressive getting forward throughout, did well to beat his man and get to the bye-line, whipping in a great cross for Gallagher to rise and head home.
With the away fans still celebrating, the Diamonds were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead. Easton’s superb diagonal pass was handled in the box by Gardyne, leaving referee Graham Grainger no option but to point to the spot.
Easton himself stepped up to take the spot-kick, but the midfielder opted for a dinked finish which beat Fleming but also cleared the crossbar.
It was a horrible moment for the Diamonds man, but he recovered quickly and almost won the points in spectacular fashion with five minutes remaining, firing in a vicious strike which rattled the bar after the merest of touches from Fleming.
The Montrose goalie wasn’t finished yet, and he twisted brilliantly to save Gallagher’s 88th-minute effort and again showed safe hands as he gathered a Smith strike two minutes later.
Gardyne had the chance to win it for the home side in stoppage time, but hooked his effort well over the bar.
The final whistle and a Cove win at Falkirk saw the gap at the top return to five points with nine to play for, and while nothing is impossible in football, the Diamonds may well be returning to Montrose for another tense encounter in the play-offs.
Stuart Mathie at Links Park.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.