Saturday 24 June 2017, 15.00, Netherdale 3G Arena
Gala Fairydean Rovers v Airdrieonians in a pre-season friendly.
With our football watching for season 2016-17 officially coming to an end the weekend before, we seem to manage a close season of 6 days.
Gala have started pre-season early the last couple of years and were taking the lead again in trying to get a head start on their rivals.
A couple of signings are already in place, but they could not officially sign until the beginning of July. Daniel Pattenden did start, who was signed from Chirnside.
Last season saw Gala finish tenth in the sixteen team Lowland League. It was a tight part of the table though, exemplified by the fact that they were two points from 7th and 3 points from 13th.
We’d not seen Airdrie since pre-season the year before, when they visited Spartans.
Airdrie finished third in Scottish League One in 2016-17, but lost out on penalties in the play-off semi-final to Alloa Athletic.
Since that defeat, a number of players have left the club. Daniel Boateng and Simon Mensing have both left while Jack McKay, Kyle Hutton and Jordan McGregor have all finished their loans with Airdrie and returned to their parent clubs. Iain Russell has decided to hang up his boots too.
It’s been a far from easy close season for the Diamonds, with the chairman resigning on 5 June. Manager Mark Wilson then left on 17 June.
A lot of work to do for whoever the new manager would be. Director of Football Gordon Dalziel was in temporary charge.
It was our first trip to see Gala since September 2016 and our visit coincided with the day they opened their new café in the ground. Toilets beside the café have also appeared, considerably closer to the stand than the pre-existing ones.
There were no programmes, but team sheets emerged during the first half. More on them later.
The crowd was announced as 263, but that was about 100 more than seemed to be in the ground.
Airdrie looked to start on the front foot and in the opening minute, Higgins took the ball down the right, exchanged passes with McLaughlin, then put the ball to Brown who was right on the touchline. His cross was blocked behind by Windram.
A Gala ball forward in 3 minutes saw the ball played back towards Ferguson by Cairns as he challenged Pattenden. The keeper picked the ball up and a free kick was awarded deep inside the Airdrie box for a pass back. Miller touched the ball to Smith, but Cairns threw himself at the ball to deflect it wide.
Berry won the ball for Gala near his own corner flag in 6 minutes, but Bain’s loose pass gave Airdrie a corner, although it came to nothing.
Airdrie broke down the left through MacDonald in 9 minutes and cut the ball inside for Thomson. He tried to curl the ball in at the far post, but it went wide.
Russell had a chance in the Gala box in 11 minutes, but he was halted by a fine Windram tackle.
A minute later, an Airdrie ball forward was deflected and fell to Thomson in the box. He cut it back for Russell, but his shot was deflected wide.
MacDonald exchanged passes with Thomson in 14 minutes and his cross into the box was near the head of Russell, but Walters pushed the ball away.
Brown lined up a free kick for Airdrie in 19 minutes and his shot from 23 yards saw Walters take two attempts to gather.
A good strike in 22 minutes by Brown was pushed away by Walters in the Gala goal.
Ainslie caught Thomson as he shot at the Gala goal in 24 minutes about 23 yards from goal. Conroy curled the free kick at goal and it took a slight nick as it went narrowly wide.
In 33 minutes, a good pass into the box by Airdrie’s McLaughlin to Russell, saw the latter cut the ball back to Brown whose mishit effort came back off the bar.
Cameron Russell had a chance in 34 minutes which produced a good diving save from Walters as Airdrie continued to press.
Gala broke quickly in 42 minutes and Pattenden found some space down the left. With three team mates in the middle, he was unable to get the ball past the solitary defender.
All square at the break and Airdrie had done enough to be in front, creating all the chances. The home side were fighting hard though and were certainly not out of it.
There were a raft of substitutions for Airdrie at the break.
In the first minute of the second half, a long ball forward from Airdrie found Leighton running in on goal and he calmly slotted the ball past Walters to give his side the lead.
Just four minutes later Thomson received the ball in the Gala box and was brought down. Penalty. Russell confidently blasted the ball into the top corner to double the Diamonds’ lead.
The game became a bit disjointed with substitutes interrupting any flow that the game might have had.
In 64 minutes, Leighton flicked on an Airdrie ball forward and Russell ran onto it and hit a low shot past the keeper to make it 3-0.
Gala’s Bonnar was shown a yellow card in 67 minutes for a late tackle.
Bonnar found Aitchison in the Airdrie box in 76 minutes and he went down under the challenge of Edwards, but nothing was given.
A Gala corner in 77 minutes saw Brown’s delivery come back to him and his cross was headed on to Temple, but he didn’t connect well and it was easy for Kerr.
A shot from Thomson in 81 minutes from outside the box was wide of the Gala goal.
With 84 minutes gone, Bonnar passed to Noble on the right for Gala. He went past Edwards, but his cross was deflected into the arms of Kerr.
With two minutes left Higgins played the ball through to Leighton, but his shot saw a defender get something on it to turn it wide.
A convincing win by Airdrie who brought on a number of youngsters in the second half. Their energy brought the goals that were lacking in the first half.
Gala struggled to get through a solid defence but could be proud of their efforts on what became a very windy afternoon.
As is always the case in friendlies, the stop-start nature of the game with so many substitutions spoiled the game. Why teams can’t make the majority of their changes at the break is beyond me. While Airdrie did make a few at half time, they still stopped the game twice more for subs, while Gala did five times.
Brown seemed to play as a trialist for Airdrie in the first half, but when the number 7 scored in the second half, it was Leighton. I can only imagine Leighton came on for Brown at the break, wearing the same jersey.
Windram defended well for Gala, particularly in the first half and Aitchison worked his socks off. Thomson looked dangerous on the left for Airdrie, with Higgins showing good energy at full back on the right. Conroy was impressive in picking passes from a holding midfield role. The youngsters suggest a bright future.
Full Time: Gala Fairydean Rovers 0 Airdrieonians 3
Gala Fairydean Rovers: 1 Mark Walters, 2 Lee Stephen, 3 Scott Bain, 4 George Windram, 5 Kieran Ainslie (Swaney 62), 6 David Bonnar (G Brown 85), 7 Darren Smith (Temple 69), 8 Daniel Pattenden (D Brown 59), 9 Ross Aitchison, 10 Marc Berry (Gordon 83), 11 Billy Miller (Noble 45). Subs: 14 Stuart Noble, 15 David Brown, 16 Gavin Brown, 17 Jack Temple, 18 Lewis Swaney, 19 Marcus Gordon, 21 Stewart Robertson, 22 Fraser Brown.
Airdrieonians: 1 Rohan Ferguson (Kerr 45), 2 John Higgins, 3 Kieran MacDonald (Edwards 45), 20 Dean Cairns (Ross 45), 5 Sean McIntosh (Cowie 45), 6 Ryan Conroy (Truedale 45), 7 Adam Brown [trialist] (Leighton 45?), 8 Marc Fitzpatrick (Gorman 43), 9 Cameron Russell, 10 Conor McLaughlin (Duncan 52), 11 Scott Thomson. Subs: 12 Craig Truedale, 14 Joshua Edwards, 15 Arron Ross, 16 Joe Gorman, 17 Matthew Kerr, 18 Calvin Cowie, 19 Jordan Duncan, 7 Robbie Leighton.
Referee: Peter Stuart
Programme: None. (Free teamsheet)