(Brechin win 3-1 on aggregate)
HAVING scorned chances aplenty and having been the victims of jaw-droppingly deficient refereeing, Airdrie were relegated from the First Division when they lost yesterday's play-off semi-final to Brechin City.
Airdrie only stayed up this season because of Livingston's demotion, and Kenny Black's men only just avoided automatic relegation, but Jim Duffy has organised Brechin well and over two legs they deservedly emerged the 3-1 aggregate winners. They will now face Cowdenbeath for a place in the First Division.
The first half featured two refereeing decisions of staggering incompetence. Euan Norris should be busted down to schoolboy-level linesman, frankly, for his ineptitude. The first came after 12 minutes when John Baird fed Scott McLaughlin whose ferocious 30-yard shot beat Craig Nelson and came off the underside of the bar before crossing the line and bouncing back out. The case for electronic surveillance of the goal-line was never more clearly made.
After Dairmuid O'Carroll missed a sitter laid on for him by Scott Gemmill, the referee made his second appalling foray into blunderland. Gemmill stole in at the back post and volleyed a shot that was going into the high corner of the net until Steven Canning stuck out a hand. It should have been penalty to Airdrie and a red card for Canning, but Mr Norris saw nothing. Neither did his two assistants, so all three should be making an appointment at referees' sponsor Specsavers tomorrow.
Canning admitted his offence and apologised to the Airdrie players. Afterwards, Black was philosophical: "The writing was on the wall for us from there."
A wayward Rory McAllister effort from distance and Kevin Byers' shot straight at Lee Hollis were Brechin's only serious first-half efforts, coming either side of Baird missing from point-blank range when Nelson diverted a shot into his path.
At the start of the second half, Nelson pulled off a stunning save from Ryan McCann. Against the run of play, with an hour gone, Brechin City took the lead. McAllister picked up the ball 25 yards out, moved forward while brushing off defenders, and fired in a fierce low shot from the edge of the box that beat Nelson into the right-hand bottom corner of the goal.
Knowing they needed to score at least twice, Airdrie pressed forward and McLaughlin almost brought them level when his curling free kick hit the bar. Nelson tipped over McCann's chip shot and later twice saved superbly from substitute Kevin McDonald, but Brechin also had their chances. The home side continued to try and save their full-time status, but the part-timers held out for victory. Duffy said: "We won both games and deserve to be going forward, but had only 14 fit men at the end there. The games against Cowdenbeath will be tough."
A clearly shattered Black said: "We turned in a poor performance at Glebe Park. Two games against Brechin and two defeats – we deserve what we've got."