Scottish Professional Football League – League One, Stair Park.
For the second consecutive Saturday, Stranraer were denied the victory that would have all but guaranteed a play-off spot in the dying embers of the game against an Airdrieonians team that despite coming to Stair Park having lost only one game in the previous ten showed very little in a game that, for the duration, the blues dominated possession but failed to close out, giving the visitors hope throughout.
Stranraer started brightly with Jamie Longworth and Martin Grehan showing good movement against Gregor Buchanan and Stefan Milojevic Bjekovic in the centre of the Airdrie defence and it was a combined effort from the home strike force that forged the first opportunity of the match when quick passing set up Grant Gallagher on the edge of the box but despite connecting well the midfielders low drive lacked direction and did not threaten Grant Adam’s goal.
Both teams looked to play football but all too often the final pass was misplaced or intercepted. This may well have been down to the fact that although bathed in spring sunshine there was quite a strong breeze blowing across Stair Park. The game was predominantly being played in the visitors half but few real goalscoring chances were forthcoming. Top scorer Longworth did have a snap shot from outside the box after a quarter of an hour after a trade mark weaving run by Andy Stirling, Adam dropped to his left to block the shot with one hand. The game was losing direction, punctuated by free kicks, Stranraer were well in the ascendency but missing the vital spark to penetrate the Diamonds rear-guard. Airdrie won a free kick on the stand side that Paddy Boyle floated in deep into the Stranraer box, there was a bit of hesitancy in the home defence that allowed the Spanish, Serbian defender Milojevic Bjekovic to get a free header, fortunately for Stranraer he was not able to generate enough power and David Mitchell held with ease. Stranraer continued to play the ball around retaining possession with Stirling and Scott Robertson peppering the visitors’ box with crosses but evading the Stranraer strikers as Mr Salmond the former Scottish international cricketer brought the first half to a goalless conclusion.
Jim Lister, Airdrie’s centre forward had the first chance to show in the second period after what for him had been a virtual spectator role in the first but fired his shot high and wide of the goal frame.
Fifty minutes gone and Stranraer got the breakthrough, Mark Docherty on the left fired in a perfect cross that found Jamie Longworth unmarked in the centre of goal; his side footed volley gave Adam no chance as he chalked up his 22nd strike of the season. This should have been the fillip required to push on and add to their tally but Airdrie attacked from the restart and Mitchell had to be alert to get down to save a Craig Barr low strike.
Stranraer’s passing was beginning to flow and from such a move Grehan was unlucky with a header that just crept past the post. Adam in the Airdrieonians goal had impressed throughout and he showed once again he was up to the task dropping to stop a Longworth shot from adding to his and the blues tally in the sixty fifth minute and a minute later made an even more impressive save when Sean Winter hit a powerful strike that was heading for the right hand corner of the net only for the Airdrie number one to get a strong hand to the ball.
Stranraer replaced Andy Stirling with Ryan Borris, his direct running causing new problems for the Airdrie defence but it was fellow substitute David McKenna who had a glorious chance to seal the points only seconds after replacing Grehan in the eighty fifth minute. He timed his run to perfection to beat the offside trap as he latched on to a Robertson through ball. Perhaps the opportunity came too soon after his introduction but as he bore down on goal he hesitated, took too much time and a combination of Buchanan and Adam thwarted him. It was to prove costly as minutes later the Diamonds got a shock equaliser. Substitute Liam Coogans getting the final touch from a speculative ball fired into the box bouncing about before coming off Scott Rumsby into Coogans path in front of goal.
The blues did have one final attempt through Docherty who again can be pleased with a solid display and he rifled in a fearsome drive that was again heading for the net had it not been for man of the match Adam’s intervention.
Post-match manager Stephen Aitken was hugely disappointed to lose a late goal and more importantly two valuable points. “Last week we were down to ten men and up against it to hold our lead but today we were in control for the majority of the game”. Stranraer travel to Methil this weekend hoping to pick up their first win in six matches against an East Fife team battling to avoid the play-offs at the basement of our league.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Steven Bell, Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan (David McKenna 85), Jamie Longworth, Andy Stirling (Ryan Borris 78). Subs Not Used: David MacGregor, Adam Forde, Lloyd Kinnaird, Chris Fahey
Goal: Longworth 50
Airdrieonians: Grant Adam, Craig Barr, Jamie Bain, Liam Watt, Gregor Buchanan, Stefan Milojevic Bjekovic, Scott Stewart, Darren McCormack (Nicky Cadden 77), Jim Lister, Keigan Parker (Liam Coogans 86), Paddy Boyle. Subs not Used: Reece Glackin, Lewis Coult, Grant Evans, Aiden Ward, Chris McCluskey.
Goal: Coogans 88
Attendance: 404 Referee: G Salmond