May 15, 2022
cinch Championship promotion play-off final
Rhys McCabe 13
Connor Smith 17
Simon Murray 112 pen
Airdrie suffered play-off final heartbreak once again as an extra-time penalty was enough to hand Queen’s Park a 3-2 aggregate victory after two closely-fought matches.
The match began with the sides locked at 1-1 after Simon Murray and Rhys McCabe had traded goals in Thursday evening’s first leg, but it was Queen’s who did the business on the day and will be playing Championship football next season.
The recently-appointed Spiders management team of Owen Coyle and Sandy Stewart were given a warm welcome by the 3,000-strong support of the Airdrie team they served so well as players, while Ian Murray and his coaching team took to the home dugout having provided the Diamonds faithful with the best footballing side seen at the Excelsior in many years.
Jon Afolabi started upfront for Airdrie, replacing Gabby McGill who had limped out of Thursday’s match with an ankle knock, while Louis Longridge and Liam Brown came into the Queen’s Park starting XI in place of Jake Davidson and Jai Quitongo.
The Diamonds started well, a second minute Dylan Easton strike palmed out by Calum Ferrie with the loose ball nicked off Afolabi’s foot as he lined up a shot from the rebound.
Queen’s captain Michael Doyle headed a Rhys McCabe free-kick behind three minutes later, while the visitors’ first threat came on eight minutes after a clearance had struck an attacker only for Max Currie to take control and smother the returned ball.
Five minutes later Airdrie had the lead, a foul on Afolabi 25-yards out giving McCabe the chance to line up a free-kick which he curled home in style, giving Ferrie no chance.
With Airdrie in front in the tie, Coyle’s side began to push forward in numbers, and it only took four minutes for them to level the match, Connor Smith smashing home from a tight angle after a long ball into the box wasn’t properly cleared.
Smith threatened again for the Spiders two minutes later, but this time Callum Fordyce and Craig Watson combined to snuff out the danger.
Adam Frizzell burst down the Airdrie left on 22 minutes, hooking a cross over for Calum Gallagher but the ball was too far in front of the striker and drifted behind.
Luca Connell forced Currie into a good save after doing well to create space on the edge of the box on 27 minutes, and the Airdrie keeper handled confidently again as Longridge had a snap shot eight minutes later.
With four minutes of the half remaining Frizzell’s volleyed cross was dealt with by Ferrie, and half-hearted handball appeals fell on deaf ears as Fox blocked Brody Paterson’s cross.
Airdrie raised their game after the restart, and Afolabi was denied by Ferrie after winning possession well and breaking to the edge of the box on 47 minutes.
Connell lined up a 49th-minute free-kick from the same spot that McCabe had scored from, but the Celtic loanee fired his effort into the Airdrie wall.
Airdrie had a much stronger penalty claim on 58 minutes as Dylan Easton’s run was blocked by an outstretched leg, but referee Steven McLean waved play on and Queen’s went close at the other end.
Scott Agnew then had a shot charged down as he joined the attack just after the hour-mark, and a pass to Callum Smith was cut out at the vital moment as Airdrie countered from a Queen’s setpiece.
Gallagher had a golden opportunity on 67 minutes, but after controlling well he failed to get the ball into a position for a decent strike, and his poked effort was smothered by Ferrie.
Agnew cleared well from Connell a minute later as play raged from end to end, with Currie tipping a Smith cross behind on 71 minutes.
Ferrie saved a Fordyce header before there was a let off for the Diamonds as Smith’s low driven cross went right across the face of goal without a touch.
Frizzell had a powerful effort defected over the bar with six minutes of normal time remaining, and the Airdrie midfielder volleyed narrowly wide with the last chance of the 90 minutes.
Substitute Bob McHugh headed over from Murray’s cross four minutes into extra-time, before Diamonds sub Jordan Allan saw his cutback blocked by Ferrie with Smith waiting to pounce.
Currie got a good hand to Simon Murray’s 96th-minute cross and Smith just failed to get on the end of a good move involving Easton and Gabby McGill, who had replaced Afolabi.
A spell of Queen’s Park pressure followed, with McHugh heading over, Murray seeing a shot blocked and Currie booting clear as the ball was passed into the Airdrie box.
As Airdrie pressed forward in the second period, Queen’s broke at pace and disaster struck for the Diamonds. A run and pass found Murray in the box, and as the striker cut back onto his right foot he clashed with Easton and a penalty was awarded.
Murray dusted himself off to slam home the spot-kick, leaving Airdrie nine minutes to find a way back into the tie.
Queen’s Park’s physicality paid off as they shielded the ball well in the corners and the clock ticked down. Currie made two late saves from Murray as Airdrie pushed everyone forward, but it wasn’t to be and the final whistle signalled late disappointment for the players and fans who will feel they deserved more after an excellent season.
Stuart Mathie at Excelsior Stadium.
Photos © John Steven. Click to view full-size.