Ten-man Airdrieonians kept their slim League One title hopes alive with a dramatic late win over struggling Dumbarton.
The Diamonds knew only a win would do to stop Cove Rangers claiming the title and they did just that after a dramatic end to the game at New Broomfield made it 18 games unbeaten for Ian Murray’s men.
Two goals in three minutes from Dylan Easton and Calum Gallagher midway through the first-half appeared to have Airdrie cruising, but George Stanger pulled a goal back for Sons before Adam Frizzell was sent off for the hosts in an action-packed opening 45 minutes.
When Rhys McCabe turned the ball into his own net after 70 minutes Sons pulled level and that was set to hand Cove Rangers the title, but substitute Jordan Allan popped up in the 88th minute to win the game and ask another question of Paul Hartley’s league leaders .
Cove, who are still five points clear, will be crowned champions next week if they beat Sons at Balmoral Stadium.
Dumbarton remain ninth and their relegation play-off spot is now confirmed after bottom side East Fife were relegated after defeat to Falkirk, while eight-place Peterhead’s win over Queen’s Park ensured Sons can’t catch them.
Airdrie made two changes from last week’s frustrating 2-2 draw at Montrose. Josh Kerr and Scott Walker come into the side, as player/coach Scott Agnew dropped out along with Gabby McGill.
Dumbarton named the same side that he drew with Peterhead last week, but there were a number of familiar faces in the Sons side with ex-Diamonds Gregor Buchanan, Paddy Boyle, Eoghan Stokes and Paul Paton all in the squad.
Airdrie got the first sight at goal in the third minute, crafting a fantastic opening when Rhys McCabe’s ball through cut right through the Sons defense to find Scott McGill. But the Hearts loanee couldn’t keep his effort down as he fired over from 10 yards.
Ross MacLean tested Diamonds keeper Max Currie with an angled strike inside the box after nine minutes, as the visitors created their first opening of the contest.
Up the other end Airdrie almost broke the deadlock with a flurry of chances in quick succession. First, Sons keeper Kieran Wright had to be alert to turn a Callum Smith volley at the back post behind for a corner.
The resulting set-piece from Dylan Easton fell to Calum Gallagher at the back post and when his low strike was parried by Wright, the ball was returned back across goal to Easton, who watched a sizzling strike on the half volley cannon back off the crossbar .
Dumbartion still carried a threat and they were screaming for a penalty when the ball hit Callum Fordyce’s arm as he tried to block a MacLean strike inside the box, but referee Greg Aitken deemed it accidental.
Airdrie’s early pressure eventually told in the 24th minute. The ball came to Easton at the edge of the box and the winger showed terrific feet with a few stepovers, creating space for him to arrow a low strike into the bottom corner and make amends for last week’s late penalty miss at Montrose.
Within three minutes it was 2-0 as the Sons shot themselves in the foot. Smith pounced on a loose back pass by Paton and he teed up the in-rushing Gallagher to fire the ball beyond a helpless Wright from 15 yards.
Dumbarton looked for a way back into the contest and in 37 minutes Currie produced a fine save to turn away a curling effort from MacLean, as the ball headed towards the top corner.
Two minutes later, though, Currie was beaten when Sons halved the deficit. Paul Paton made amends for his earlier error with a great delivery into the box and Stanger stooped to head the ball into the bottom corner.
It soon turned into a nightmare couple of minutes for the hosts as Frizzell saw red. The playmaker went in for a 50/50 challenge with Stuart Carswell just inside the Airdrie half and ref Aitken showed no hesitation in sending the winger off, but it looked like a harsh decision.
With seconds remaining in the half, Airdrie breathed a sigh of relief as Carlo Pignatiello fired narrowly wide of Currie’s left-hand post.
The red card unsettled Airdrie and seven minutes into the second half they were again counting their blessings when Carswell fired at goal and saw his low drive come back off the post, with Currie beaten.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Airdrie still had the ammunition to pose problems and they almost found a third goal in the 55th minute. Celtic loanee Brody Paterson picked up the ball on the left and whipped in a terrific cross for Smith, who could only turn the ball onto the roof of the net.
But Airdrie were masters of their own downfall 20 minutes from time when McCabe turned the ball into his own net as Currie came to collect a cross into the six yard box.
With Cove winning at home to Alloa, the Diamonds needed a goal to keep their slim title hopes alive and Allan delivered when he turned home Smith’s ball across goal two minutes from time.
The Diamonds now travel to Broadwood next week for a Lanarkshire derby clash with Clyde.
AIRDRIE: Currie, Paterson, Fordyce, Kerr, Walker (Allan 82), McCabe, Frizzell, Easton, S McGill (Devenny 75), Gallagher (Afolabi 68), Smith.
Scorers: Easton 24, Gallagher 27, Allan 88
Sit off: Frizzell
Subs not used: Cantley, McDonald, Ritchie.
DUMBARTON: Wright, Pignatiello, Buchanan, Stanger, Boyle (Wylde), Paton (Syvertsen), Orsi (Wilson 46), Duthie, Carswell, MacLean, Oyinsan.
Scorers: Stanger 39, McCabe 70 (og)
Subs not used: McKee, Lynch, Ramsbottom, Muir, Bronsky
Ref: Greg Aitken
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