Brechin had a day to forget on Remembrance weekend as they went down 1-0 at Airdrie and saw returning skipper Paul McLean sent off.
Darren Dods’ men may feel hard-done by as Iain Rusell’s disputed second-half penalty was enough to give the Diamonds all three points.
Perhaps it was the exertions of watching Scotland against England the previous evening but come kick-off there was only 739 brave sould there to see what proved to be a decent game – a shame on what was a perfect day for football.
On a cold but bright afternoon at the Excelsior Stadium, Brechin boss Dods made two changes to the side that won 3-1 at Peterhead the previous week, with skipper McLean returning along with Gareth Rodger in place of Darren McCormack and Finn Graham.
Going into this game Brechin were well placed in second spot, while fourth-placed Airdrie, under new boss Mark Wilson, were hoping to build on last week’s 2-1 derby win at Albion Rovers.
The crowd stood in unison for a perfectly observed minute’s silence signalled by a bugler playing the Last Post.
Brechin were quick out the traps and within 30 seconds Ross Caldwell flashed a header just over the bar.
Soon after, Ally Love weaved his way into the box and the ball broke to James Dale, who fired over the bar from 25 yards.
Airdrie’s first chance came in nine minutes following a free-kick on the right. The ball was whipped in and eventually fell to Adam Brown, but he couldn’t keep his shot down from the edge of the box and it sailed over Graeme Smith in goal.
After having the better of the early exchanges Brechin began to sit off and Airdrie came more into the game, although they wasted a good free-kick chance of the left.
In 15 minutes, Airdrie skipper Marc Fitzpatrick fizzed in a free-kick and Smith did well to punch the ball clear under pressure.
Back came Brechin and Love dragged a shot wide in 20 minutes as they tried to get a foothold in the game.
Two minutes later, Spence tried to steer the ball into the far corner from the left but it was deflected out for a corner that came to nothing.
There were some full-bloodied challenges flying in on both sides which got both sets of supporters off their feet.
Alan Trouten was felled in 24 minutes 20 yards out in front of goal and Brechin wasted the chance as a training ground move ended with Love shooting against a defender.
Both teams were cancelling each other out in midfield so resorted to long diagonal passes, which were rarely working on the slick surface.
McLean was booked in 42 minutes by referee Craig Napier for a foul on Andy Ryan just outside the box but Airdrie wasted the free-kick. Then Graeme Smith tipped another cross out for a corner.
The fans needed something to warm their hands as half-time approached but neither side could manage another shot at goal so a hot drink would have to do as they went inside at the break.
There was a sense of expectancy – perhaps more of hope – as the teams came out for the second half under the floodlights that a goal would arrive.
Brechin were playing the better football but couldn’t find the final pass to unlock the home defence. Dale in midfield was composed on the ball but his threaded passes could not find any takers ahead of him.
There was a blow for Brechin when Trouten was forced to limp off and he was replaced by Aaron Lynas.
And things got worse when Airdrie went ahead in 54 minutes from a disputed penalty. Referee Napier said Dougie Hill handled in the box, although it looked more ball to hand than hand to ball, and he pointed to the spot, with Hill being booked for protesting too much. Russell stepped up and slotted past Smith into the bottom right-hand corner.
Airdrie’s tails were up and Fitpatrick fired from distance but Smith was on hand to gather.
Brechin huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow any holes in the Airdrie defence as they looked to find a leveller, with a Spence shot from distance in 62 minutes all they could muster.
Leitch was booked for a tackle in 65 minutes but Spence curled his effort wide from the edge of the area on the left.
Airdrie went up the other end and Brown was inches away from connecting with a Ryan cross ball.
In 70 minutes, Airdrie skipper Fitzpatrick and Love booked after a tussle in midfield that ended with both players grappling on the deck.
Ryan then had a great chance to extend Airdrie’s lead but Smith saved well to beat the shot away.
Brechin’s desire to find an equaliser threatened to boil over and Lynas was booked for foul on Ryan Conroy.
Tempers were fraying and they reached boiling point when skipper McLean was shown a straight red for a high-footed challenge on Joe Gorman in 80 minutes.
After that the visitors found it hard to get possession and outwith a couple of hopeful balls into the box they couldn’t find an equaliser on a day to forget.
Airdrie: Ferguson, McIntosh, Boateng, Gorman, MacDonald, Conroy, Brown, Fitzpatrick, Ryan, Leitch, Russell.
Brechin: Smith, McLean, Dyer, Smith, Hill, Ridger, Trouten, Dale, Caldwell, Spence, Love: Subs: Lynas, Fusco, Ford, Dods, O’Neill.
Refere: Craig Napier.