Airdrie United BC advanced to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup with a 2-0 victory over Musselburgh Windsor FC at a windswept Caldervale High School. Andrew Kennedy headed the home side into the lead halfway through the first half and Jack McKnight sealed the win in the dying stages.
Musselburgh set up in a 3-5-2 formation with their two wingbacks, Liam Mitchell and Callum Downie, asked to get forward to help the attack while also pulling a shift defensively. Against the 4-4-2 of Airdrie, Musselburgh would have been hoping the extra man in the centre of the park would allow them more time and space on the ball to create opportunities, but in truth they struggled against Airdrie captain Christopher O’Kane and Jack Taylor who both had outstanding games.
Conditions meant the game struggled to find its flow, with neither side able to put together a cohesive move in the opening stages. Musselburgh were playing against the wind and every lofted clearance hung in the air longer than LeBron James before coming back at them. The ball was firmly in Airdrie’s court but they struggled to adapt their passing to the conditions, with too many overhit balls to cause any problems.
Clear-cut chances were at a premium but Airdrie’s pressure gave them plenty of set-pieces to try and cause trouble. O’Kane and McKnight both put free-kicks from the same position straight out of play, and McKnight had several corners go over everyone’s head as they struggled to find their range.
With a quarter of the game gone, Taylor took over corner kick duties and it paid almost immediate dividends. After first trying to remove the role of the wind by playing a short corner that was intercepted at the front post for another corner, Taylor’s second attempt was a perfect whipped ball at head height, nodded home by Kennedy. The pace on the ball meant he simply had to direct it goalward to give Airdrie the lead.
It was a deserved opener, with Musselburgh struggling to create anything of note in the final third and finding any promising attack snuffed out by the Airdrie centre halves Sean Mullen and Reagan McDonald. At the other end, after being put through by Marcus Boyce, Kieron McParland struck at fresh air from 6-yards out but somehow won a corner which came to nothing.
It could have been a costly miss as Musselburgh began to find a rhythm and make some moves in the Airdrie half. Callum Downie produced the pass of the match, a curling through ball from deep in the left channel that took out the entire defence and put Ross Hope through. Forced wide by a covering defender he looked up and picked out Ross Greig driving forward from midfield but his shot from the edge of the box went narrowly wide. It was the best piece of play from either side and the away side grew in confidence, forcing Tony Sharkey to save bravely at the feet of Sean Brown.
Musselburgh continued to end the half strongly, Ross McGuire requiring the intervention of both Mullen and McDonald to stop him getting behind before the referee blew his whistle to end the first 45.