Goals: Partick Thistle – Graham (40), Spittal (60) – Airdrieonians Carrick (36)
Airdrieonians Line-up: Currie, MacDonald, McCann, Kerr, Crighton, Fordyce, Thomson, McKay, Gallagher, Sabatini, Carrick
Subs: Hutton, Robert, Ritchie, Mbayo, Connell, O’Reilly, Stokes
Airdrieonians traveled to Firhill for the first time since February 2013 to face a Partick Thistle side with something to prove after their away defeat to Clyde last week on the first day of this season.
Thistle and Airdrie have a colourful history and certainly consider themselves – some might argue bitter – rivals. Of late, it is the Jags that have been the team in the ascendancy, with the obvious exception of their contentious Covid-caused relegation of last season.
While, through the rivalry, the clubs have fought to 46 draws; before today, their record of head-to-head victories gave Thistle a comfortable lead, being ahead by a difference of 18 wins from a total of 202 games. At home, Thistle are stronger, overcoming the Diamonds’ visit there 57% of the time.
Would Airdrie make it back to Lanarkshire victorious, or would the cardboard-cut-out Thistle fans find themselves celebrating in the chilly Maryhill air?
As with most matches these days, it was enjoyed via the home side’s live streaming and to give Partick Thistle their due they’ve clearly spent some money contracting QTV to film the game. Multi-camera. Zoom. Replays. A huge step up from the Pixellot automated system that most lower-league clubs are using. That said, it would be much appreciated by many, I’m sure, if there could be a moratorium, now, on the new wave of lower-league commentators making mention of the “strange times” football is in.
It was disappointing to see the Airdrie side emerge from the Alan Rough lounge – their makeshift dressing room in these ‘strange times’ – in dribs and drabs. Especially as there was pre-kick-off support of the Show Racism The Red Card. One can only presume there was a reason for it, but it’s not a good look to have players arriving in the line-up late.
Partick Thistle kicked off to the strange sound of canned crowd noise piped through the PA system. It may seem sensible to have this on the TV coverage, but to have it in the empty grounds? It would be interesting to hear if it helped or hindered the players.
Airdrie settled into a 4-2-3-1 with Gallagher up front and Sabatini dropping back into one of the 2 defensive midfield roles. It’s becoming clear that the Swiss loanee from the Ukrainian league is going to be a pivotal engine in the midfield, our regista, our deep lying playmaker.
The first 5 minutes gave a scrappy midfield battle with neither side able to get a commanding foot on the ball. Thistle were the first to take control, beginning with a Murray shot giving the home side their first corner of the match, an excellent cross from the right with no connection on the end of it. Not long after, Penrice and Murray gave Thistle the first chance of the game with the latter releasing the former with a neat reverse pass but Penrice was found just offside.
Airdrie’s early play involved an incomprehensible number of long-balls from Crighton and Fordyce searching for Gallagher but the home defence was wise to it. The Diamonds also used McKay’s prodigious long-throw as, almost, a corner in all but name.
By the 20 minute mark, Airdrie – who had been fairly comfortable in defence but offered little going forward so far – seemed to come to life. A mistake by Murray on 26 minutes allowed McKay to play in Gallagher on the right but the forward blasted it over. Though it wasn’t long until Max Currie was called upon to make a fantastic save from Murray’s driven shot; the Airdrie goalkeeper certainly justifying the manager’s decision to pick him ahead of Hutton.
It was the Diamonds that took the lead on the 36th minute when Sabatini played a lovely reverse pass down the left to McCann who switched the play to Crighton on the right. The defender swept in a lovely cross to the back post where Dale Carrick was waiting to head it in from close range. A great goal.
Thistle didn’t wait to respond and 4 minutes later, Graham found himself in a fortuitous position, central and in front of goal, and scored by tucking the ball under Currie. A poor goal for Airdrie to lose.
Currie, though, had an opportunity to strengthen his confidence just before the end of the first half when Brian Graham smashed a shot from distance and it crashed against the Airdrie keeper as he dived to meet it.
The second half began with Airdrie kicking off towards the John Lambie stand but it was clear from the outset that Thistle had come out with purpose. On 56 minutes Currie was called upon again to come to Airdrie’s rescue with a fingertip save diving down to his right to meet Spittal’s strike.
Airdrie replaced Sabatini minutes later with Kyle Connell coming on, but minutes later an Airdrie penalty claim was rejected – and with the Diamonds players still protesting – Spittal found himself in space on the left, shifted onto his right foot and curled a special goal into the far top corner for Thistle to take the lead.
While Thistle showed themselves to be the stronger team in the second half, Airdrie kept up pressure and in the second half of the second half could have drawn level several times with the introduction of Robert on the left causing Thistle problems. On 77 minutes Craig Thomson had a shot saved over the bar and 3 minutes later Sean Crighton, with his back to goal, attempted an audacious overhead kick that went just wide.
In the end, the Diamonds couldn’t find their way back into it and the Glasgow lads added to their home-win tally over the boys from Lanarkshire. In truth, Airdrie will be disappointed to have come away with anything less than a draw.
Airdrie ended the day 3rd in the league going into next week’s match with Dumbarton, with Thistle finding themselves in 5th, behind the Diamonds and Clyde on goal difference.