Ayr United 0 v 0 Greenock Morton
Saturday saw the second visit of Greenock Morton to Somerset Park for this season, but the first in the SPFL Championship. After their 5-1 defeat at Cappielow in September, the ‘Ton were out to make amends.
After a respectfully observed one minutes silence in memory of former Ayr United keeper, Davie Stewart, the game kicked off at a fast pace, both teams probing and harrying, but neither making much impact in the box.
On 12 minutes, the first corner of the game went the way of the home side, an attempted cross by Andy Geggan spinning off the Morton defender Tumilty and behind the goal line.
A delightful head flick by Craig Moore saw the ball land at Lawrence Shankland’s feet but the striker was only able to direct the ball harmlessly into the arms of the Morton keeper. Two minutes later, a second corner saw Shankland with another opportunity to open the scoring, but his right footed shot was saved comfortably in the top centre of the goal.
On the half hour, Morton started to press, and after a smooth as silk pass to Gary Oliver, the striker managed to evade the onrushing Bell, but his shot at goal from 10 yards out was easily saved by Doohan.
A few minutes later, the United keeper would repeat the process when a long throw-in from Morton allowed them to get to the goal-line, but the cross was millimetres too high for that man Oliver again and it nestled harmlessly in Doohan’s gloves. Oliver continued to make a nuisance of himself though, and on 36 minutes his right footed shot from a tight angle was once again saved by Doohan as it travelled goalwards.
The first real controversy of the match came close to the 40min mark when Declan McDaid won the Honest Men a free kick midway in to the defensive half. The sole Morton defender seemed to be standing closer than 10 yards away when the free-kick was taken and the match official blew to reset the kick. Ayr fans were rightly aggrieved however when the retaken free kick cannoned of the advancing defenders’ arm and landed at the feet of a Morton player who kicked the ball harmlessly away from the danger area.
A moment of madness though nearly cost Ayr a goal. A free kick on the far side was taken by Mark Kerr, but inexplicably he passed the ball straight to a Morton defender. With all the Ayr players with the exception of Liam Smith upfield for the kick, the Morton player chipped over the Ayr players, finding yet again that man Oliver making a break down the wing. Getting past the despairing Smith, Oliver was faced with only the Ayr keeper to beat, but his low drive towards the corner of the net was stopped by Doohan’s feet as he came out to meet the attack. Unable to capitalize from the loose ball, Morton could only look on as the returning United defenders were able to clear their lines.
Both sides had one more good attempt at goal, with Bob McHugh seeing his right footed shot from the centre of the box sliding inches wide of the goal post and Lawrence Shankland being denied by the fingertips of the Morton keeper Gaston to push the net-bound ball around his far post and out for a corner.
And so the first half drew to a close with the scores standing at 0-0. There was no doubt that the first half had been an evenly matched contest, but the Ayr players knew they were going to have to play much better if they were to break down the resolute Morton defence.
Ayr started the second half with more grit and determination than they had shown in the first. The first opportunity came Ayr’s way on 48 mins. Declan McDaid, receiving the ball from a throw-in managed to evade Jack Iredale and his looping cross was met by the head of Craig Moore, but the striker was unable to make a strong enough contact and the ball slipped wide of the post.
Ayr continued to keep up the pressure however and within a minute had a free kick just inside their own half. Taken by Michael Rose and lofted in to the penalty box, Shankland was only able to head the ball down to Moore’s feet. Back to the goal, he slid the ball back to Shankland who by now was in a good position. Shankland’s shot ricocheted off a Morton player to be pounced on by Robbie Crawford. Unfortunately, the ball came at him too high to make good contact and he fired straight at the Morton keeper.
McDaid had another shot on 51 mins blocked and Mark Kerr tried his luck a few seconds later from distance, but again the Morton keeper was up to the task and prevented the ball from going in to the net.
The game seemed to be settling down in to a midfield battle when on 60 mins Ayr were reduced to 10 men. Craig Moore picked up the ball just inside his own half and was making his way forward when a push in the back from Morton’s Buchanan sent him sprawling. With the free kick won, for some reason the Morton player attempted to kick the ball away from under Moore’s body, catching the player on the thigh. Moore retaliated with a raised foot, catching Buchanan between his legs, leaving the referee no option but to present a straight red for violent conduct.
Sensing this might be the break they needed, Morton pushed further up the field putting more pressure on the United goal than we had seen all game. They were, however, unable to break down a resolute United defence, who by this time had re-organised, pulling McDaid back in to mid-field and leaving Shankland as the sole striker up front. With 4 shots on goal in as many minutes, Morton would rue their squandered chances.
The first substitution of the game, and Morton’s only one, came on 70 mins when Charlie Telfer left the field of play after receiving an uncomfortable knock, and was replaced by Ross MacLean. A by now tired looking Andy Geggan was replaced by Daniel Harvie on 77 mins, with Lawrence Shankland having put in the work of two men being replaced by Michael Moffat two minutes later. Moffat did bring some zip to the United attack with fresh legs, but by now the game was starting to fizzle out in terms of a spectacle with play being increasingly confined to the mid-field again.
The last action of the game came on 93 mins when a Morton corner was met by the head of Gregor Buchanan at very close range, but substitute Moffat was on the line to head away.
Speaking after the match, United manager Ian McCall, was content with a point, given the way the second half panned out. Ayr United stay at the top of the league with a 5 point advantage, but the chasing teams do have a game in hand.
Attention now turns to the William Hill Scottish Cup and an away game at Beith Juniors on Saturday 24th, with a 1:30pm kick off.
Doohan, Kerr, Rose, Geggan, Crawford, McDaid, Bell, Shankland, Murdoch, Smith, Moore
Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Harvie, Forrest, McGuffie, Ferguson, Moffat, Docherty
Gaston, Kilday, Iredale, Buchanan, Waddell, Telfer, McAlister, McHugh, Tidser, Tumilty, Oliver
Substitutes: Scully, Thomson, Tiffoney, MacLean, Bell, McKeown, McGrattan
Referee: Willie Collum