Scroll down for video footage courtesy of Gary Fox
Airdrieonians progressed to the third round of the Little Big Shot Scottish Youth Cup thanks to a Scott Stewart strike sandwiched between two Daniel McDonald goals. Ryan Fox got one back for Hutchison Vale but it was a comfortable 3-1 victory for the home side who controlled the game throughout.
Having started slowly in the league, without a win yet from their first three games, Airdrieonians looked hungry to put that disappointment behind them and make a fist of it in the cup competitions. Tricky winger Nicky Cadden was first to make an impression, turning his marker, and leaving him on the ground, before flashing a cross in front of goal that was begging to be turned in but missed everyone.
With the game being played on the 3G surface at the Excelsior Stadium, both teams looked to utilise a short passing game, choosing to keep the ball and play it around at the back rather than aim long balls up front. One exception to this was Airdrie’s Reece Glackin, who, playing in the defensive midfield role in front of the back four, would look to pick a pinpoint pass over the top when possible. He found fellow centre mid David Ramsay with one early on after a well-timed run but his lobbed finish was narrowly over.
Long throws were a favoured weapon of Airdrie to get the ball into the box, with Conor Bell on the left and Kyle Richford on the right both well armed. A Richford throw was headed out by Jack Cook but only as far as his opposite number Stewart who found time in the box to take a touch, turn with the ball and fire a low shot that was held at the second attempt by Byron Gibb in the Hutchy goal. An omen of things to come from Stewart.
With Airdrie dominating possession it was difficult for Hutchison Vale to build a move up from the back, but they got a chance to attack when Arran Wood caught an Airdrie midfielder in possession and burst forward into the final third. He passed to Fox who under pressure from the defence, didn’t get a hold of his shot and it was an easy first save for Rohan Ferguson.
Pressing the Airdrie midfield paid dividends again for Hutchy when Elliot Taylor won the ball and drove forward but he was stopped in his tracks by an excellent tackle from Dean Cairns.
Cadden was proving a handful for the Hutchy defence, as the left-winger regularly found himself cutting inside or even popping up on the right-wing when the opportunity presented itself. Also the set-piece taker, he fired a free-kick into the wall from the edge of the box and then volleyed the rebound a yard over the bar, before repeating the trick almost exactly a few minutes later from open play, Adrian Shala with the block this time.
Richford also had a couple of opportunities in quick succession to break the deadlock. First from Cadden’s outswinging corner, but the ball appeared to catch the back of his head and spun wide. Then he was on the end of some good build-up play down the inside-left between Ramsay and McDonald, and one-on-one with the keeper he shot early and it was saved by the feet of Gibb.
Following the pattern of the first half for Hutchison Vale attacks, Fox, dropping deep to press the midfield, won the ball with a slide tackle that automatically released Taylor on goal but he was stopped by a last ditch tackle from Cairns. Taylor was quick to get back on the loose ball and played it back to Fox who had pushed up to help but it was that man Cairns again with another excellent block and this time his fellow defenders helped clear the ball to safety.
With half time growing closer, Airdrie right-back John Higgins cut inside and played a curling cross that missed the head of McDonald but was still on target, forcing Gibb to react quickly and make a smart reaction save. McDonald did get his head on the end of a corner just after but couldn’t get his effort on target.
No goals at half time but plenty of action. Whilst Airdrie dominated possession and carved out the better opportunities, they had moments of sloppiness in the midfield that presented chances to Hutchison Vale. Had it not been for the resilient defending of Cairns, young goalkeeper Ferguson would have been tested more significantly. In the other goal, Gibb was keeping Hutchy alive, particularly in the face of an excellent performance from Cadden.