May 12, 2022
cinch Championship promotion play-off final
Simon Murray 64
Rhys McCabe 87 pen
Rhys McCabe’s late penalty set up a winner-takes-all Sunday showdown as the Diamonds came from behind to draw 1-1 with Queen’s Park at Firhill.
Although not quite as staggering a comeback as Saturday’s semi-final, Airdrie once again had work today after Simon Murray had put the Spiders in front midway through the first half, but midfielder McCabe showed nerves of steel to slot home in the 87th minute.
Ian Murray made two changes to the Airdrie side which had started Saturday’s semi-final, Craig Watson and Gabby McGill replacing Kyle MacDonald and Scott McGill.
Owen Coyle named semi-final hero Murray upfront, with Callum Smith’s younger brother Connor in midfield.
On an unusually wet and windy May evening, the conditions at Firhill certainly played a part on the football on display, with both sides struggling to get the ball down at times.
Airdrie started the brighter of the two, but it was Queen’s who had the first sight of goal when Luca Connell fired a long-range effort straight at Max Currie after four minutes.
The Diamonds retaliated through Calum Gallagher, who steered Adam Frizzell’s headflick toward the top corner four minutes later, but the striker’s half-volley went wide.
Dylan Easton had a go from the edge of the box after the ball had ricocheted around the home penalty area on 14 minutes, but the midfielder’s strike hit a defender and was eventually cleared to safety.
Queen’s Park began to take hold of the midfield area midway through the half, and it took a timely interception from McCabe to halt a 23rd-minute breakthrough. The Diamonds man curled a free-kick over the bar seven minutes later.
Callum Fordyce was showing his strength and aerial ability at the back, and the Diamonds skipper did well to head out a wicked curling corner on 32 minutes.
The home side’s best chance of the half fell to Jai Quitongo two minutes later. The striker made good contact with a diving header which Currie saved at point-blank range, before the former Morton man snatched at the loose ball and knocked it over the open goal.
Currie reacted quickly to cut out a Michael Doyle cross in the final action of a cagey first half.
The Spider increased the intensity after the break, moving the ball quickly and pressing high up the park, but Airdrie were in a good position four minutes after the restart, Frizzell’s cross just out of reach for Gallagher.
Ten minutes into the half Murray was booked for simulation after a dive on the left flank.
The impressive Frizzell was back defending on the hour-mark, clearing a low cross after a good run by Murray.
The ex-Dundee United striker made no mistake on 64 minutes, pulling down a free-kick from goalkeeper Calum Ferrie and driving to the edge of the box before placing a good finish beyond Currie and into the net.
Coyle’s side looked to press their advantage four minutes later and Currie had to be out quickly to deal with Watson’s passback.
Easton headed narrowly wide with six minutes remaining as Airdrie tried to find a way back into the match, but the Diamonds had a golden opportunity two minutes later as substitute Jon Afolabi beat Ferrie to Frizzell’s header only to be taken down by the onrushing goalie.
Up stepped McCabe to send the keeper the wrong way and send the large visiting crowd into raptures.
Connor Smith sent a stoppage-time free-kick over the bar before referee Gavin Duncan blew the final whistle, setting up a blockbuster finale in Sunday’s second leg.
Stuart Mathie at Firhill Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.