THE Diamonds took the honours thanks to Calum Gallagher’s headed goal, early in second half, and Dean Ritchie’s late strike in our final League One fixture at Balmoral Stadium.
We looked jaded throughout, which is understandable when you consider this was our fourth game in a week.
Having said that, we still managed to hit the woodwork three times so could have taken something from the match.
Instead we ended up failing to find the net at Balmoral Stadium for the first time at SPFL level, although it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying.
All credit to Airdrie though.
They were the livelier and hungrier side and earned a win that means they could yet pip us for second spot in the table with a home victory over Falkirk in midweek – which would ensure we face each other again in the play-offs!
We could also finish second as well, as the saying goes, it will all come out in the wash once the results of Tuesday’s final group of League One fixtures are known.
As for this 90 minutes, we can at least be comforted by the fact we know we are capable of much better.
Six changes were made to the side that won 2-0 away to Montrose in midweek, with Connor Scully, Daniel Higgins, Rory McAllister, Seb Ross, Cammy Logan, Adam Livingstone all in from the start.
We had also made a change in formation, with Higgins, Ryan Strachan and Ross Graham making up our three man central defence, but we simply never got close to the sort of levels we have come to expect this term.
The early stages in particular were very low key, although Seb Ross did see his 20-yard shot saved by Airdrie keeper Max Currie in the fifth minute.
Stuart McKenzie was also called upon in the 15th minute to finger-tip Paul McKay’s shot from a tight angle on the left over his crossbar.
Airdrie threatened again in the 20th minute, when Kyle Connell crossed from the right and McKay sent his 12-yard header over.
Gallagher also had a go from the edge of our area, his low shot went harmlessly beyond McKenzie’s right post, but it was really scrappy stuff from both sides.
Livingstone broke forward from defence in the 22nd minute and his drop volley from around 20-yards went over the visitor’s crossbar.
We tried again two minutes later, when Logan fed the ball in from the right to McAllister.
The striker turned cleverly to get in a shot, from just inside the area, but the effort lacked power and was gathered by Currie.
McKenzie stopped Airdrie snatching the lead in the 29th minute with an excellent save.
Kyle Turner played the ball forward to Connell who then turned to fire a low 16-yard shot that was going in until McKenzie dived full length to divert the effort wide of his left post.
Keeper McKenzie also did well to beat away a powerful shot from Turner after the corner resulting from his previous save had fallen into the path of the Airdrie man.
Referee Chris Graham deserved credit for ignoring appeals for Mitch Megginson to be sent off after the striker and veteran Paul Paton clashed inside the Airdrie penalty area.
Any contact looked accidental and the official sensibly chose to only speak to both players before the game resumed with a corner from Scully, on the right, which Graham nodded wide at the back post.
The closest we saw to a goal in the first period was in the 42nd minute, when Higgins hammered in a shot from fully 30-yards that beat Currie but rebounded to safety off the outside of the Airdrie keeper’s right post.
The half ended with McAllister attempting to curl a shot in from 18-yards, but it went wide of Currie’s left post.
Airdrie brought Thomas Robert on for the restart and he made an instant impact.
The Frenchman made a great run down the left, in the 48th minute, and his well flighted cross was nodded home at the front post by GALLAGHER.
Robert burst forward again on the other wing and when his cross was eventually knocked into the path of Connell his curling shot from 18-yards went wide of McKenzie’s left post.
Callum Fordyce also sent a header over from Turner’s corner as Airdrie continued their strong start to the half.
Despite the flurry of pressure from Airdrie, we were desperately unlucky again on the hour.
Megginson set up McAllister for a shot from the edge of the area and Airdrie keeper Currie did well to push the effort on to the post and wide.
We then made four changes, with Fraser Fyvie, Scott Ross, Broque Watson and Connor Smith all coming on to see if that could finally spark us into life.
Almost immediately, Strachan tried his luck from distance after picking up a pass from Yule, but his shot was also saved by Currie.
It was third time unlucky for us in the 72nd minute when we rattled the frame of the Airdrie goal yet again.
Livingstone sent a cross over from wide out on the left and Watson saw his close range header rebound to safety off the outside of Currie’s left post.
Airdrie then had another chance after McKenzie had raced outside his area to clear a through pass.
The ball fell to substitute Ally Roy and fortunately for us he showed a lack of composure as lofted it well wide from 25-yards.
Turner also hit a shot wide in the 79th minute after the ball broke to him at the edge of the area as the Diamonds again threatened on the break.
Airdrie sealed their victory in the final minute, after McKenzie managed to do well to parry yet another shot at his goal.
Unfortunately for the keeper, the rebound fell to substitute RITCHIE and he stayed calm to pick his spot from 14-yards and make sure Airdrie went away with the three points they deserved for their determination and effort.
COVE RANGERS: McKenzie, Scully (Fyvie 61), Strachan, Yule, Megginson, Higgins, McAllister, Livingstone (McIntosh 80), Seb Ross (Watson 61), Graham (Scott Ross 61), Logan (Smith 61)
Substitutes: Hanratty, Demus.
AIRDRIEONIANS: Currie, Paton (Thomson 86), McCann, P McKay, Fordyce, Walker (J McKay 79), Kerr, Turner, Gallagher (Roy 56), Carrick (Robert 46), Connell (Ritchie 86)
Subs: McNeill, Sabitini, Stokes, Crighton
Referee: Chris Graham
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