Airdrieonians 1, Stranraer 1
Stranraer had to settle for a share of the spoils against a resurgent Airdrie team under the management of Gary Bolan.
Despite suffering their first defeat in 12 on their last outing at play-off rivals Dunfermline, Stranraer started brightly, taking the game to their hosts.
It only took seconds for Stranraer to threaten the home goal. Stephen Stirling, making his full debut after signing for the Blues for the second time following his release by Morton, fed the ball wide to namesake Andy, and the winger jinked inside and unleashed a fierce shot that Adam had to look lively to push over.
Stranraer maintained their probing well in the home half but found the Airdrie defence well marshalled.
Andy Stirling again took centre stage as clever wing play forged an opening for himself but his low shot went the wrong side of the post. Martin Grehan had a shot on goal and his effort looked to have broken the deadlock but cannoned off the bar.
The game was losing its sparkle as the half progressed with little in the way of goalmouth action. Keighan Parker intercepted a slack pass by Stephen Stirling and set Bain on his way. His cross was met by McAleer and headed across the penalty area but, unfortunately for home fans, there were no takers.
Grant Gallagher was the workhorse in the Blues midfield, bringing wingers Winter and Stirling into play at every opportunity.
McAleer attempted to add some spark to the game, his run and subsequent shot on target but held comfortably by Mitchell. The towering Milojevic, Airdrie’s Serbian centre half, received a lengthy lecture from the referee after conceding a free kick 30 yards out, Stirling’s delivery found Frank McKeown arriving at the back post but he headed over.
Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth and Winter combined with the best move of the game. Andy Stirling’s quick feet saw him weave into the box but at the last moment he lost control and the chance was gone. But the visitors paid a heavy price: Docherty was upfield and the Blues defence one down and the home side were on the scoresheet within seconds.
McAleer played the ball to Parker down the right, his low firm cross found Lister who deftly knocked it past Mitchell and Stranraer went into the break trailing.
Milojevic was the first man booked on the afternoon for persistent fouling. Lister on the break tried to return the earlier favour to Parker but his crossfield pass had too much weight on it.
Andy Stirling saw a weak free kick trundle to Adam as the Stranraer forward line that has been so potent this season continued to struggle.
Stranraer saw little was coming off despite their best efforts. Stirling and Winter swapped wings as manager Aitken looked to explore a new avenue and on 70 minutes the equaliser came. Longworth played the ball to Docherty, who charged down the left and delivering a fine cross to Frank McKeown who headed down and the ball nestled in the net.
Bell, Longworth and Gallagher were involved in a neat passage of play that released Stirling but his shot was blocked by Buchanan. Youngster Adam Forde was given a run in place of Winter who had one of his quieter days as Stranraer looked to get that all important late winner and it almost came. Stirling fired low across goal, Adam parried but the Airdrie defence was on hand to help their keeper with Grehan trying to get in.
Manager Stephen Aitken said: “In the first half we created more than enough chances to win the game. A point away from home is not a disaster by any means and with other results in our division favourable we are still very much in a strong position for a play-off spot. Our mid-week re-arranged home games in hand will be very important as we try to continue what has been an excellent season.”
Airdrieonians: Grant Adam, Ross Gilmour, Jamie Bain, Darren McCormack, Gregor Buchanan, Stefan Milojevic, Caolan McAleer, Nathan Blockley, Jim Lister, Keighan Parker (Lewis Coult, 78), Paddy Boyle.
Booked: Milojevic, Gilmour
Goal: Lister 39
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Stephen Stirling (Steven Bell, 73), Sean Winter (Adam Forde, 83), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth, Andy Stirling. Subs not used: David MacGregor, Lloyd Kinnaird, David McKenna, Ryan Borris, Chris Fahey.
Goal: McKeown 70
Referee: D Somers