Ayr United 1 v 2 Arbroath
Ayr slipped to second in the league after another ‘head-shakingly’ stunning result at Somerset Park. Only seven days after bottom club Forfar had come from behind to take all three points, Arbroath did the same.
Yet again it had been going so well for United, taking the lead after only 3 mins, creating chance after chance, and dealing comfortably with the Arbroath attack who took 52 mins to register their first shot on target. To make frustrations worse, with only 3 mins remaining, 10-man Arbroath were handed their winner on a plate in totally unnecessary circumstances.
With Michael Rose, Brian Gilmour and Craig McGuffie ruled out, joining Andy Geggan, Robbie Crawford and captain Ross Docherty on the side-lines, the wisdom of signing experienced midfielder Steven Bell from Stranraer was immediately highlighted as manager McCall’s resources looked stretched.
Ayr started the match at pace and carved out the opening goal on 3 mins. From an Arbroath throw, Jamie Adams headed to Lawrence Shankland who nodded into the path of Michael Moffat. Moffat who took a touch and slipped the ball to Alan Forrest who passed it beyond keeper Hutton and into the net. 1 – 0 United.
Arbroath reacted well to going behind and play was very even but with no clear-cut chances. Then on 21 mins Ayr went close when debutant Bell headed a Forrest cross inches wide.
On 31mins, after a beautifully flowing move from United, started by Michael Moffat at the halfway line, inside to Adams then wide to Ferguson on the right, lifted forward to Shankland and cheekily flicked inside to where Adams re-connected at the edge of the box but leant back and fired over.
In the next few minutes, Forrest intercepted the ball and danced through the Arbroath defence before misconnecting with his left foot some 20 yards out, sending the ball high and wide. Next, Forrest raced onto a Moffat pass down the left and played in a delightful curving cross with which Declan McDaid failed to connect by millimetres near the back post.
In the 37th min came a moment of great controversy. After another sweeping move from Ayr, McDaid fired the ball across the face of goal and it appeared to be flicked off the line by Arbroath defender Ricky Little’s arm, but despite protestations referee Kirkland waved play on.
Ayr seemed to be gaining control of the match and went close again on 41 mins with Shankland finding Moffat with a cross from the right to the back post, but the striker fired over.
Half time and Ayr appeared comfortable with a one goal cushion but, for the second Saturday in a row, the Honest Men would come to rue their missed chances in the second 45.
The opening minutes of the 2nd half were very quiet, notable only for Arbroath’s first shot on target. On 52 mins, Blair Yule released a drive from 20 yards, but it was easily dealt with by keeper Jordan Hart.
1 min later and there came an injury that seemed to disturb United’s rhythm and stimulate Arbroath in midfield as Ayr were forced to re-adjusted. Chris Higgins appeared to be struggling and, as the bench prepared to replace him, he went to the deck having injured himself even more. With the big defender stretchered off, Steven Bell moved into his defensive position and young Stuart Faulds come on in midfield.
Arbroath began to dominate midfield and United became slower to support its forward line. On 58 mins, Ayr were flashed a warning sign when Yule snuck in at the back post to reach a cross from the right but managed to scuff the ball past from 3 yards. A real let off for United who were beginning to look jittery.
Ayr tried to add spice to their attack by replacing Declan McDaid with Craig Moore, and although a Shankland strike was ruled out for offside, it was Arbroath who were carrying the threat now. On 67 mins that threat was turned into a goal when Ayr failed to clear from the box and Ryan Wallace turned and smashed the ball home from close range. 1 – 1 but the action was not over.
On 77 mins the ‘Lichties’’ O’Brien was booked for hacking down Moffat as he broke free at the halfway line then 4 mins later he received a second booking when he brought down Shankland who had got past the Arbroath defence and was going through on goal at the edge of the box. Arbroath were down to 10 men and United pushed forward to try and find a winner.
Then came a moment of self-destruction from Ayr. With United pressing Arbroath hit the ball long and wide out to the left and striker Leighton McIntosh chased with defender Bell towards the side-line. Keeper Hart charged from his box to intercept but with McIntosh coming free with the ball and Hart kicking through clear air and left in no man’s land the striker played the ball into the gapingly open net.
1 – 2 to Arbroath and no way back for Ayr. As the final whistle blew, Raith had jumped into pole position in the league, and United fans were left squirming after another defeat from a winning position.
Next up a challenging away fixture against league leaders Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy next Saturday.
Hart, Ferguson, Reid, Higgins, Boyle, Bell, Adams, Forrest, Moffat, Shankland, McDaid Substitutes: Avci (GK), Moore, Hilton, Faulds, Balfour, Murphy, McCowan
Hutton, Little, Hamilton, O’Brien, Yule, Whatley, Linn, Martin, McIntosh, Wallace, Denholm Substitutes: Gomes (GK), Hester, Prunty, Kader, McCord, Gold, Henry
Referee: Steven Kirkland