Mar 18 2010 By Colin Paterson
MORTON 2 AIRDRIE 1
IT'S not yet official but it might as well be; Airdrie will be playing Second Division football next season.
Let's not beat about the bush any longer. Let's not have anymore of this "if we can go on a winning run we can stay up" nonsense. The Diamonds will be automatically relegated because they are not good enough.
And that is a fact that has been proven time and time again this season. The final straw for even the most optimistic of supporter came on a cold night at Cappielow. On the banks of the Clyde Estuary, reality hit home for everyone of an Airdrie persuasion.
A 16th league defeat in 25 games was inflicted by Morton who moved 11 points clear of the rock-bottom Diamonds. Ayr United's point at home to league leaders Dundee means they are a similar distance ahead.
David MacGregor's 66th minute header ultimately proved the difference between two sides who spent the 90 minutes illustrating why they have taken up residence in the basement of the First Division.
Ton had opened the scoring through Peter Weatherson in the first half but were pegged back by Diarmuid O'Carroll before defender MacGregor nodded home a corner from Stevie Masterton.
This was a must-win game for Kenny Black's men but you would never have guessed that from this display which lacked urgency, drive, creativity and bravery. Airdrie got what they deserved in the end.
Having failed to take three points from Ayr at the weekend, the Diamonds could afford nothing less than victory in Greenock. That they came away with nothing has all but sealed their fate.
To have any hope of scrambling to the rocks of a play-off place, Airdrie would probably need at least six wins from their remaining 11 fixtures and hope their rivals endured a catastrophic finale to the season.
It simply isn't going to happen.
The manager's anger and frustration was evident. With every new defeat, his managerial reputation takes another hefty dent. Whatever he is doing isn't working. Whatever he is saying, the players aren't listening.
His position will become untenable if he presides over a third relegation in four years. You wonder if a clean break and a fresh start would be good for Black as well as Airdrie.
"The goals we lost were very soft and the self-destruct button has been pressed again," the gaffer told Advertiser Sport. "I look at some of the players and it's as if they don't want the ball; they don't want the responsibility to make a pass or have a shot at goal.
"It's another big match where Airdrie have turned up and been defeated. These players are playing for their livelihoods but at times you would struggle to recognise that.
"The game was there at 1-1 for us to win. I am extremely disappointed."
Black will get it in the neck from the fans but the New Broomfield faithful should acknowledge the players' contribution to this shambles of a campaign.
Few gained pass marks for their night at the Sinclair Street coalface and it will be interesting to see how many end up at full-time First Division clubs next season.
Horrible defending led to Ton's first goal. The hosts switched play from right to left in an instant, with Jim McAlister sliding in Weatherson who converted at Stephen Robertson's near post.
Airdrie had a decent spell of pressure towards the end of the first half and managed to equalise in their only other dominant spell, with O'Carroll powering home Ricky Waddell's cross in the 56th minute.
But the Diamonds soon found themselves behind again. Allan Jenkins picked up the ball in midfield and advanced towards goal with Kevin McDonald not bothering to match his run.
Full-back Ryan McCann cut inside but Jenkins dug out a shot that was turned wide by Robertson. Respite was only brief, however, as from Masterton's corner, MacGregor headed into the net.
McDonald's failure to track back in a crucial passage of play summed up a lamentable individual performance. He offered nothing during his 72 minutes on the pitch and the only surprise was he lasted as long as he did.
The manager has consistently picked the central midfielder but the 24-year-old has consistently failed to produce the goods. On this one, Black has to take full responsibility for selecting a player who continually under-performs.
There are others who haven't done well. Bobby Donnelly is a shadow of the player he was last term; Simon Storey has single-handedly cost the team goals and was targeted mercilessly by Donovan Simmonds when he came on last night.
Robertson hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons with McCann, Alan Trouten and Ricky Waddell all inconsistent. Tom Parratt and Frankie Lagana just don't look up to this level of football.
Three wins from 29 games says it all about Black and his class of 2009-10. It's a truly shameful statistic.
There were some who felt a corner was about to be turned after encouraging displays against Dunfermline Athletic and Ayr.
How foolish we were to believe they were anything other than more false dawns.
The only saving grace for Airdrie supporters is that there isn't long to go before this mess of a season can begin to be cleaned up.
But for now, this living nightmare continues.
Morton: Cuthbert; McGuffie, MacGregor, Shimmin, McKinlay; Jenkins, Tidser, Masterton, McAlister; Weatherson (Paartalu 72), Russell (Simmonds 63). Subs not used: Graham, Reid, Stewart(gk).
Airdrie: Robertson; McCann, Donnelly, Storey, Lovering (Watt 80); Gemmill, McDonald (Lagana 72), McLaughlin, Waddell; O'Carroll, Keegan (Trouten 72). Subs not used: Nixon, Hollis(gk).
Referee: Stevie Conroy.