Our final midweek game and our most dangerous trip yet – deepest darkest North Lanarkshire for a 1st division relegation battle between Airdrie and Raith Rovers. Thanks to the horrendous winter Scotland had endured both sides were dealing with a fixture pile-up; Airdrie having played just two days earlier and Raith facing 5 games in 10 days. Indeed Raith were coming into the game on the back of a Scottish Cup semi-final tie against Dundee Utd at Hampden. It was only natural therefore to assume they may be a little hungover from their big day out but one wasn’t expecting them to so horrendously punch-drunk that they would put Oliver Reed at a free bar to shame.
Having survived the drive through an apocalyptic town called Calderbank we arrived at the eccentrically named Excelsior Stadium just in time for kick-off. Airdrie United emanated in 2002 from the ashes of bankrupt clubs Airdrieonians and Clydebank and have endured a topsy-turvy early period with promotion, relegation and unlikely league survivals. The stadium was built for Airdrieonians in 1998, a 10,000 seater consisting of four one tier stands in a pre-fab style similar to St Mirren. We opted to sit amongst the Fifers in a taped off section of the main stand, the only one that was open which gave it a somewhat eerie atmosphere.
Airdrie found themselves one up after just five minutes when Thierry Gathuessi gave a corner away and from the resultant melee in the box John Baird swept the ball home. It was clear from the outset that Gathuessi, formerly of Hibs and Inverness Caley, was having one of those nights that would live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. Continually losing possession, unable to complete basic passes and forever horribly out of position his night lasted all of half an hour by which point his own fans had turned on him and his manager had no choice but to take him off. To be fair to the lad Raith boss John McGlynn could’ve easily hooked any of his eleven on the park.
The second half saw little change. Indeed if anything Raith got progressively worse as it went on and Airdrie doubled their advantage when a slack Stephen Simmons pass let Baird through again to round the keeper and slot home. Simmons then had a chance to redeem himself but blazed horribly over from just five yards out, a symptomatic moment of his entire performance. Airdrie were coasting by now and Richard Waddell slammed home a 3rd late on after some more shambolic defending. Credit to the few Raith fans standing proudly near the end chanting ‘4-3, we’re gonna win 4-3’ but they must be worried with so many games still to play their first division status may well slip away.
Journey - 4
Pie - 5
Bovril - 2
Ground - 5
Game – 2