More gloom for City after hat-trick from dazzling Hardie

AIRDRIE UNITED 6 Prunty 27, 46, Hardie 59, 72, 86, McLaren 77


BRECHIN went into this clash with the unenviable record as the only professional outfit in British senior football yet to record a victory and if it's true that dodgy conditions can act as a leveller, then they might have expected to break their duck yesterday. Instead they were completely over-run by a sparkling Diamonds outfit for whom Martin Hardie hit a hat-trick and who have now scored 16 times in their last four home games.

The division's basement boys made a sprightly enough start with Charlie King almost releasing Paul Ritchie only for Allan McManus to read the danger. This duo combined again when Ritchie's cushioned header set up King for a meaty volley which deflected narrowly wide. At the other end, Hardie, playing as a makeshift striker, did have the ball in the net with an accurate lob but he had pushed Scott Walker.

It was the prelude to a period of Airdrie pressure during which Brechin amply demonstrated why they have the leakiest defence in division.

First, a mix-up between Walker and Craig Nelson found the City keeper clawing the ball into the path of Hardie before atoning with a fine block from the Airdrie man. Moments later, Nelson needlessly carried Paul Lovering's deep cross over the goal-line and from Willie McLaren's corner calamity almost struck again, the ball glancing off Gerry Britton's head before Craig McEwan spared the blushes by nodding the ball off the line.

McEwan squandered a chance in the opposite box when he miscued into the side-netting following a neat one-two with Britton while Steven McDougall missed a similar opportunity. However, McDougall was heavily involved as the Diamonds deservedly went ahead in 27 minutes.

The winger did the spadework on the right before McLaren threaded a neat pass through the defence for Bryan Prunty who swivelled and unleashed an unstoppable shot. Having fallen behind, Brechin proceeded to produce some attractive one-touch football which utterly belied their lowly position.

However, the killer instinct was missing in front of goal with Britton again culpable by planting a close-range header against Allan McManus on the goal-line when scoring appeared easier.

Prunty's hunger for goal materialised to devastating effect after half-time.

McDougall immediately forced Nelson to turn his shot round the post but, from McLaren's corner, Prunty had time to apply his second clinical finish. Brechin, however, are nothing if not spirited and they responded with a King shot which hit the outside of Robertson's right-hand upright.

Instead of consolation, there was merely further consternation for boss Ian Campbell who watched his side concede another soft goal. Hardie, only playing after winning his appeal against last week's red card, was the recipient of more festive generosity, scoring at the second attempt from McDougall's cross.

At the other end Brechin's misery was compounded when Britton, clean through, produced a miserable effort.

Hardie showed how it should be done with an emphatic finish as the Diamonds turned on the style.

To cap it all, McLaren also got in on the act with a header from Prunty's cross.

Airdrie: Robertson; McKenna (Coyle 75), McManus, McGowan, Lovering; McDougall, McKeown (Barkey 80), McLaren, Dunn (Holmes 71); Prunty, Hardie. Subs Not Used: Stewart, Hollis.

Brechin: Nelson; McEwan (Winter 74), White, Walker, Callaghan; Byers (Smith 76), Johnson, Mitchell, King; Britton, Ritchie (Hampshire 59). Subs Not Used: Ferguson, Hillcoat.

Referee: C Murray

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