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Airdrie United navigate tricky Musselburgh tie to reach Scottish Cup semis

Airdrie United BC 2

Kennedy 24', McKnight 90'

Musselburgh Windsor FC 0

  • Sunday, 07 February 2016
  • Caldervale High School
  • Under 17´s
  • Scottish Youth FA Cup

 
Simon Ritchie | YFS West Region Reporter
Articles by Author | Contact Author
 

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.

  • Half Time:
  • Airdrie United BC
  • 1-0
  • Musselburgh Windsor FC

Conditions improved in the second half as the wind began to die, but the grim darkness (the floodlights were on by 3pm) reminded everyone it was still a Scottish winter. Both sides made changes to personnel or tactics and Musselburgh looked to start the second half the way they’d finished the first.

There was no doubt an improvement in their play compared to the start of the game but it was Airdrie who created the first chance of the second half, McParland proving to be a handful upfront and only some smart defending from McGuire stopped him getting on the end of Kennedy’s ball over the top. 

Airdrie defender McDonald showed the same awareness in his own box to cut out substitute Brok Robertson’s cross with Sean Brown coming in unmarked at the back post for what would have been a certain Musselburgh equaliser.

After the bright McParland was unfortunately forced off through injury, Airdrie thought they had scored a second. From the free-kick given for the challenge on McParland, Taylor hit it low under the jumping wall and looked destined to sneak inside the post but for Grant Goodfellow’s scrambled save. The Airdrie coaches screamed for a goal, claiming it had crossed the line but the referee and his assistants were unmoved.

If they felt any sense of injustice however, it was healed shortly after as the Musselburgh players and staff took their turn to express their disappointment at a disallowed goal. A free-kick from the left channel was hit perfectly into the space between the onrushing attackers and Airdrie goalkeeper who could only watch as it curled into the bottom corner without a touch. The entire away team were in raptures, celebrating together on the pitch, before they noticed the linesman’s flag for an offside.

The game was well and truly taking off now with both teams desperate to claim victory. Musselburgh, a goal behind and forced to attack, were leaving big gaps that Taylor looked to take advantage of. With his centre mid partner O’Kane playing more of a holding role, winning tackles and looking to start moves, Taylor was given licence to roam forward and create in the final third. A classy player with a neat touch and turn of pace he was the main creative outlet for Airdrie who were passing the ball much cleaner now the conditions had settled somewhat.

One of those moves almost doubled their lead, some neat passes letting Kennedy cut in from the left and he pulled it back to McKnight in the middle who absolutely smashed it off the underside of the cross, and could only watch it bounce down onto the line and out.

For most of this game it was a tale of defending, with neither goalkeeper being tested often. Time and again it was blocks that stopped the shots getting through, with Robertson the best example for Musselburgh, proving to be an impenetrable barrier as O’Kane bore down on goal. He wasn’t alone, with Murray McDougall and Andrew Fleming also called upon to halt Airdrie attacks.

It wasn’t enough however and with the clock ticking down Airdrie sealed the win. McDonald’s free kick from the halfway line was headed back across goal by Fergus Findlay and this time McKnight made no mistake. From a similar position to when he struck the bar, he volleyed home powerfully and sent the home crowd wild.

There was still five minutes of injury time to be played out before Airdrie could confirm their place in the semis but they held on for a deserving victory. Musselburgh will be disappointed with the defeat and point to key moments such as their disallowed goal as examples of how it just didn’t go their way but Airdrie were good value for the win.

  • Full Time:
  • Airdrie United BC
  • 2-0
  • Musselburgh Windsor FC

Lineups

Airdrie United BC
Musselburgh Windsor FC
1. Jude Mothersole
2. Joshua Higgins
3. Kieron McParland
4. Sean Mullen
5. Reagan McDonald
6. Fergus FIndlay
7. Christopher O'Kane
8. Kieran Devine
9. Stephen Crofton
10. Marcus Boyce
11. Andrew Kennedy
12. Jack Taylor
14. Ross Henderson
15. Christopher Lang
16. Jack McKnight
20. Tony Sharkey
1. Grant Goodfellow
2. Ross McGuire
3. Kieran Savage
4. Liam Mitchell
5. Jack Combe
6. Daniel Mackinnon
8. Ross Greig
10. Ross McLaren
11. Sean Brown
12. Ross Hope
14. Lewis Kynoch
15. Andrew Fleming
16. Liam Gregory
17. Callum Downie
18. Murray McDougal
22. Brok Robertson
Star Player
Airdrie United BC
Musselburgh Windsor FC
Reagan McDonald - He was colossal at the back for Airdrie. Stopped everything that was thrown at him and able to read the game and prevent problems before they become serious ones. One of the main reasons Airdrie kept an important clean sheet.
Ross Greig - When Musselburgh got forward it was usually due to the quick thinking and tenacity of the midfielder. In the centre of the park he was up against some seriously good opposition but still managed to be involved at both ends of the park, and was unfortunate not to draw his side level before the break.
Magic Moment
Airdrie United BC
Musselburgh Windsor FC
The second goal came in the 90th minute with Airdrie facing at least another five minutes of relentless Musselburgh pressure as they searched for an equaliser so McKnight's goal settled the nerves and it was a brilliant piece of play all round, starting with the free kick from McDonald.
Far and away pass of the game was Downie's 50-yard curler that took out the entire Airdrie team and set Hope off and running. Greig's finish was then only inches away from bringing his side back into the game, and if the sides had went in level at half-time and with Musselburgh having the momentum it may have been a very different second half.
Club Views
Airdrie United BC
Musselburgh Windsor FC
Chris Gallacher, Airdrie Manager: "The performance was out of this world. The conditions were horrendous for both teams but we battled right to the end and it's a great result. We know we can play better football with the ball at our feet but to get the lead in the first half with the wind at our back was good. Second half we played a lot better, created a good few chances, hit the crossbar, got one we thought was over the line and then scored another good goal to go 2-0 up. Very proud."
  • Match report and photos copyright Youth Football Scotland.
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