Ayr United 2 v 3 Peterhead
This was an important league game for both sides but for different reasons. Ayr were desperate to end a run of poor home form while Peterhead were keen on continuing their gradual climb up the league. Mark Roberts and his coaching staff were also attempting to cope with an injury crisis that has drastically reduced his selection options and has contributed to recent poor results.
Ayr welcomed defenders Kevin Rutkiewicz, who was ineligible for the cup tie at Alloa, and newcomer Dale Keenan signed on a month loan deal from Partick Thistle into the starting line-up and an unfamiliar looking back four it was that started the game.
Peterhead seemed to sense this unfamiliarity in the Ayr rear-guard and within 7 minutes they found themselves ahead after Peterhead’s Rory McAllister picked up a loose ball and forced his way in to the penalty box before shooting low to Hutton’s right. The Ayr keeper seemed to have the shot covered but inexplicably appeared to misjudge the strike and let it squirm from his grasp and watch it crawl agonisingly across the line to make it 1-0 to Peterhead.
Things could have gotten much worse for Ayr in 15 mins when David Cox broke through the heart of the Ayr defence to be presented with a great chance but with only David Hutton to beat he managed to drill his shot well wide of the Ayr goal from just 15 yards out.
United mounted their first serious attack in 20 mins when Allan Forrest picked up a loose pass and slipped the ball to Paul Slane who then played in Ryan Donnelly. He cut inside and clipped a curling shot just over the bar.
By this stage Ayr were gradually gaining in confidence but struggled to make any clear cut chances and were always suspect to the counter attack from Peterhead but went in at half-time 1-0 down.
The second half started with Peterhead happy to sit on their 1-0 lead and let Ayr come to them and attempt to pick them off on the break.
Mark Roberts made an early change in the second half replacing youngster Peter McGill with the experienced Craig Beattie in 49 mins. This change seemed to galvanise Ayr into action as they now had more options going forward and within a minute of coming on Beattie had set up Forrest who forced Peterhead’s Smith into a tremendous save with a shot from the edge of the box.
However Smith could do nothing to stop Craig Beattie’s 53rd minute shot from inside the box after he was well set up from a Paul Slane pass as Ayr drew level at 1-1.
Peterhead decided to change tactics and Jim McInally swapped defender Bryan Gilfillan with former Ayr forward Andy Rodgers and appeared to go with a front three.
Then in 70 mins it looked as if McInally’s tactics had paid off when Jamie Stevenson was hauled down in the Ayr box and referee Craig Charleston pointed to the spot and awarded Peterhead a penalty. Rory McAllister stepped up to coolly convert the spot kick and notch his and Peterhead’s second goal of the game and make it 2-1.
United were having none of it though and within 3 mins were level again after some great work by Ryan Donnelly. He chased after his own knock down from a high ball in the box and managed to get to it just before Peterhead goalie Smith. His deft touch took the ball beyond Smith and the keeper could do nothing to prevent himself colliding with Donnelly and giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty. Scott McLaughlin composed himself before making it 2-2 from the resultant penalty.
Unfortunately for Ayr this game was far from finished and with 10 mins to go Rory McAllister latched on to a long ball that eluded the Ayr defence to find himself in the clear. As Hutton came out to narrow the angle McAllister settled on the ball before round the keeper and slotting into an empty net for his hat-trick and what proved to be Peterhead’s winner.
In the closing stages Ayr did almost grab an equaliser with a couple of late chances. Brian Gilmour forced a point blank save from Smith with a thunderous volley then Craig Beattie’s low cross zipped across the 6 yard box looking for a touch but unfortunately for Ayr there were no takers.
In the end a spirited second half performance from Ayr couldn’t end their unwanted run of home defeats and they were left to contemplate what might have been had their first half performance been as good as their second.
Attendance – 792
Hutton; Muir; Keeenan; Rutkiewicz; McGill; Gilmour; Forrest; McLaughlin; Donnelly; McGovern; Slane
Newman; Beattie; Wardrope; McArthur; Mckenzie; Nisbet; Shirkie
Smith; Kerr; Noble; Gilfillan; Donaldson; Strachan; Millar; Redman; McAllister; Stevenson; Cox
Jarvie; Rodgers; Brown; Richardson; McLaren