Airdrie on top as Stranraer pull their punches

AIRDRIE UNITED 3 McLaren 18, Prunty 73, Barkey 87


NOT yet condemned to the play-offs, Stranraer nonetheless knew that time and available points were running out. This fixture against an Airdrie side playing for little more than pride provided the visitors with an ideal opportunity to improve upon a deplorable away record of one win in 16. Little wonder they are struggling. Under the circumstances, we expected Stranraer to throw the kitchen sink at their opponents, but they were disappointingly punchless for most of the match. Indeed, Neil Watt's men did not register a single meaningful shot on target during the first 45 minutes.

An additional concern for Watt, was that his defenders looked as inept as his strikers during the first half, with a succession miss-hit clearances and stray passes giving the gaffer palpitations.

Mind you, defensive frailty could hardly be cited as a reason for Airdrie taking the lead in the 18th minute. Graeme Holmes' splendid 25-yard pass landed perfectly for Willie McLaren, who sprinted goalward before slotting the ball past Barry John Corr. A fine goal, but just about the only notable piece of action in a mind-numbing first half. Stranraer's only sniff at goal came seconds before half time, when David Hamilton shot weakly at Stephen Robertson.

Stranraer's increasing frustration was evident, and two players - Craig Higgins and Murray Henderson - were booked for sloppy tackles within minutes of each other.

The second half was, mercifully, more entertaining that the first, possibly due to the fact that three fresh players were introduced before the hour mark. Stranraer substitutes Lee Hinds and Ian Ross made a discernible difference, although an equaliser proved elusive.

But moments after the pair came on, Stranraer created their best chance. Alas, Michael Moore's 15-yarder was knocked clear by Robertson.

Ironically Airdrie scored their second during Stranraer's best spell of the match. Having repelled everything the visitors could throw at them, Airdrie broke upfield and Bryan Prunty dispatched a precise angled shot past Corr. He had better luck later on when he saved a close-range shot from Gary Twigg, but he could do nothing about Kevin Barkey's low effort three minutes from the end.

Airdrie: Robertson, Docherty, Dunn, McGowan, McManus, Holmes (Taylor, 45), McDougall, McKeown (Barkey, 69), Prunty, Twigg (Coyle, 86), McLaren

Stranraer: Corr, Payne, Martin (Hinds, 51), Higgins, Henderson, Gilfillan, Hamilton, Aitken (Ross, 60), Moore (Wingate, 89), Harty, Sharp

Referee: Scott MacDonald