Airdrie United 4, Brechin City 1
A FOUR-ONE reverse at Airdrie United leaves Brechin City in grave danger of slipping into the dog-fight to avoid the drama of the relegation play-offs in the coming weeks.
With any hopes of making the play-offs at the other end of the Scottish second division table now long gone, City will have to dig deep in the remaining three games of the season to steer clear of second bottom spot.
And that won’t be easy.
With Forfar Athletic and Albion Rovers recording unexpected victories on Saturday, the reds are only four points ahead, with three games to go.
Brechin City visit Stenhousemuir this coming Saturday, before entertaining league leaders Cowdenbeath the following weekend, ending the season with a trip to Dumbarton on Saturday, May 5.
The chances of ending up in second bottom spot are pretty slim, especially with Forfar still to play Albion Rovers, but City can’t afford to take anything for granted.
And, they will have to play a lot better than they did at Airdrie United if they are to pick up the points that will keep them safe in the Scottish second division for another season.
They were trailing by three goals to nil after quarter of the game at the Excelsior Stadium and, although Bryan Hodge succeeded in pulling one back before the break, a late strike by United saw them comfortably claim all three points.
Manager Jim Weir readily admits his side face the fight of their lives in the coming three weeks.
“I’ve always tried to remain positive about getting into the play-offs but we now find ourselves in a relegation battle, and we need to find some character from within the dressing-room to ensure that it doesn’t happened.” he commented.
“We’re dragging ourselves right into the thick of the relegation dogfight with the performances we’ve been putting in and we’ve got three incredibly difficult games left.”
City found themselves three goals down within the first 23 minutes and they never recovered from this opening set-back.
They started the game reasonably well playing some good football in the opening stages, but the hosts, who were looking for their sixth straight victory were playing with a lot of confidence and they sailed into an early three-goal lead.
The first counter came in the seventh minute when the league’s top scorer, Ryan Donnelly, found himself in space in the City penalty-box and he squared the ball across the City goalmouth to Derek Holmes, who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the net.
The hosts doubled their lead seven minutes later with a wonderful strike from Donnelly. With his back to the goal the striker showed great control before swivelling round and firing a great right-foot drive into the net.
City had barely recovered from this blistering opening spell before they found themselves trailing to a further goal.
When the ball was played into the City penalty-box, referee Steven McLean adjudged Paul McLean to have pushed Nathan Blockley, Paul Lovering stepped up to blast the resultant spot-kick beyond Craig Nelson to give his side a three goal lead.
There was some hope for the visitors when they pulled a goal back in the 31st minute.
Paul McManus picked up the ball on the right and swung a cross into the Airdrie box and Bryan Hodge, who had replaced Charlie King eight minutes earlier, dived low to head the ball beyond Grant Adam in the net.
City had a further chance six minutes later when Jonny Lindsay picked up the ball on the left and pushed forward before delivering a great cross into the box for Hodge who shot wide of the target and a couple of minutes before the break, Craig Molloy slipped the ball through to McManus who steered the ball wide of Adam’s left-hand post.
The second-half was pretty evenly contested, with City again having further opportunities to reduce the deficit.
In the 54th minute, Molloy headed a Hodge cross straight into the arms of Adam and, soon after, another good Hodge cross was headed over the bar by Ewan Moyes.
Moyes came close again six minutes later when he headed yet another cross from Hodge straight at the keeper.
The hosts, however, always looked dangerous when they moved forward and they wrapped up the points just four minutes from the end when Holmes notched his second and his team’s fourth goal when he headed home a flick from subnstitute Liam Watt.
Airdrie United - Adam, McNeil, Lilley, MacDonald, Lovering, Stevenson (Bain), Blockley, Stallard, McLaren (Watt), Holmes and Donnelly (Sally).
Brechin City - Nelson, McLean, McLauchlan, Moyes, Lindsay, Fusco (McKenna), Brady, McKenzie, Molloy, King (Hodge) and McManus (Lister).
Referee - Steven McLean;.
Crowd - 802.