Airdrie United 11
Gala Fairydean 0
WILLIAM HILL SCOTTISH CUP THIRD ROUND
KEVIN JANIAK reports from the Excelsior Stadium
FAIRYDEAN’S ignominious exit from the cup at the hands of Scottish Division Two strugglers Airdrie was, thankfully, balanced by the fact that they were there in the first place.
Gala manager Fraser Lothian said: “The players know they were up against it today and are a bit down. It was a good experience for them to play a team at this level, though.
“We played well at the start but hit the panic button as soon as we lost the penalty, and that was a bit worrying because we haven’t done that all season.”
Before the match, and even up to the 27th minute of it, there was always that hope, that precious romantic notion that the Borderers could pinch a win, or at least snatch a draw from the Lanarkshire men who sit three leagues above them. Indeed, several cheeky bets were placed on the Fairies at 9/1.
For those 27 minutes, they defended like demons, especially Paul Young, taking up a place in the back four in the hope of adding a bit of experience, and Jay Wilson – both of whom performed superior tackles which, if missed, would have ended in a goal.
As for the Airdrie defence, they had done their homework and teenage striker Jack Hay and Gordon wizard Craig Livingstone were not given an inch of room, so most of Gala’s attacks – which on the whole were well built up using accurate ground passes – petered out.
There was a horrid moment early on when Ryan Donnelly had the ball in the net, but it was called back for offside.
It was during the home side’s next attack that the turning point came. Jamie Stevenson tripped over Bruce Hunter’s outstretched boot in the box for a soft penalty, converted by skipper Paul Lovering.
Three minutes later, Lovering crossed into the box and Elliot Turnbull’s punch-out fell at the feet of John Boyle, who slammed it home. This was quickly followed by two Stevenson strikes. Less than 10 minutes after Fairydean were doing well at 0-0, it was 4-0.
It was not as much a case of Netherdale heads dropping, as of them plummeting. But they were still able to concoct their best chance of the match – a thrilling run from Wilson, who squared the ball for Livingstone to thump it just over the bar.
That faint glimmer of hope was snuffed out when Boyle hit the fifth from long range four minutes from the break.
The second half, if anything, was worse. It took Airdrie 12 minutes to get things kick-started again with a superb strike from Stevenson, but after that they made the Fairydean look decidedly amateur.
Further goals from Willie McLaren, Boyle, Lovering, Donnelly and sub Derek Holmes were interspersed by cheeky boos from the home crowd when an attempt was saved by the hard-working Turnbull or was sent off-target.
Airdrie fans don’t normally get to have fun, so this was accepted with a shrug by the Fairydean supporters who filled two buses for the trip.
For Gala, the cup run is over, but it will aid them financially at a time when they lose money every week their own 3G pitch remains unfinished.
And with Jack Hay finishing with six goals and matches from here in getting tighter, who is to say he won’t still end up top scorer of the tournament?
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, G. Hay, A. Brown, P. Young, G. Lothian, B. Hunter (C. McBride 64 mins), J. Wilson, G. Rossi, A. Brunton (G. Gass 74 mins), C. Livingstone and J. Hay (A. Jackson 77 mins).