Airdrie United 0 -1 Dunfermline AthleticAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 1st May 2010
With automatic relegation a real possibility at start of play Airdrie ended up settling for a yet another play-off after a narrow defeat. The Pars should have been well ahead at the break, but only had the one goal to show for all their nice possession. Airdrie gave it a go for 15 minutes after the break but ran out of steam and if the Pars could have found the final ball they would have won more comfortably in the end.
There was no May Day call for emergency reinforcements as the Pars opted to go with the same starting eleven as last week. However, Mason dropped out of the squad as did the transfer listed Higgins to be replaced by Willis and McGregor. Airdrie had suddenly put together a decent run in an attempt to avoid automatic relegation after their unexpected promotion at the start of the season, and also went with an unchanged side, a fairly traditional 4-4-2, albeit with Gemmill starting off wide, to compete with the Pars’ 4-5-1 of Smith; Ross, Dowie, Woods and McCann; Gibson, Bell, Burke, Phinn and Cardle; Graham.
The home team were understandably a little anxious and the game was scrappy to begin with, home keeper Hollis being the first keeper called into action when easily dealing with Graham’s seventh minute cross. Joe Cardle had the left wing in front of the home stand, and the chorus of booing in the ninth minute indicated that he had his first touch, an early cross meant for Bell which was defended, but only as far as Phinn who elected to chip the ball back, rather than shoot. This reluctance to shoot when given half a chance seemed to dog the Pars for much of the game, but not in the 10th minute when Graham got the break of the ball, went round the outside of Storey and seemed to have arrowed the ball in at the far post only for it to rebound off the upright and clear.
Neat play from Cardle and Phinn two minutes later set up Bell but his extravagant turn was easily defended as was Gibson’s follow-up cross, although at the expense of the game’s first corner. Gibson overhit it, and Hollis, under no pressure, dived and fumbled a ball that was going nowhere. The keeper looked even more dodgy when seeming to dive over the top of Cardle’s drive from 20 yards but the ball was off target.
The game was now settling into a pattern – the Pars using their majority in the midfield to move the ball around well, but the lack of numbers in the final third meant good chances were rare. Graham nearly got on the end of a teasing Phinn cross, before finding a yard of space and a yard of pace to set up a shooting chance for himself, but couldn’t keep the ball down. Gibson finally tested the keeper in the 28th minute after cutting inside onto his left foot, and Graham again had a chance on the half-hour having sprung the off-side trap, but his rolled effort beyond the advancing keeper was shepherded past the post by Storey. The only time Airdrie really threatened was when Cardle’s over-enthusiasm had led him to lose the ball to Gemmill but Woods athleticism had the situation under control.
The Pars finally broke the deadlock in the 37th minute. Storey wasn’t as tight as usual on Graham, who played a quick one-two with Gibson, hared for the bye-line with his marker in pursuit and chipped in a cross. Phinn dummied, Cardle was blocked but the ball broke back to Phinn who poked it home from 4 yards. 1-0 Pars, and entirely deserved.
Airdrie responded with rather more urgency, Smith having to punch clear a corner, but the Pars went in at the break with a single goal lead, that probably should have been more. A terrific move from their own penalty box in 41 minutes nearly ended with a goal – Cardle tracking back nicked the ball to Burke who drove the ball cross-field to Gibson, he fed Ross on the break whose perfectly weighted pass in turn sent Bell clear, but Storey just beat Graham to the cross. A couple of minutes later the Pars again broke but with 3 against 2, Gibson couldn’t find the killer pass.
Half time: Diamonds 0 Pars 1
It was no surprise when the home team came out much more fired up, and they seemed half a yard sharper after the break. Cardle had an early shooting chance, but chose square the ball to no-one in particular; not so Ryan McCann in the 49th minute, crashing a shot from 25 yards off the bar with Smith beaten. Airdrie had three early corners without creating anything much, but had more possession as well – the Pars were reduced to hitting on the break where they would have looked dangerous had the final ball been even half-decent.
Airdrie began to come closer – Gemmill found the target in 57 minutes, although Smith saved without much discomfort, and O’Carroll couldn’t react quickly enough when Airdrie won the header from another corner on the hour, before Austin McCann made a saving block, Gemmill again the man denied.