Dumbarton 1 v 3 Ayr United
On a gloriously balmy summers evening at the interestingly named ‘YOUR Radio 103FM Stadium’ in Dumbarton, the castle rock towering overhead, the sun performing magical tricks turning the sky through blue, pastels of different hues to dark burnished orange, whilst lighting up the glass-like River Leven as the waters passed through its final meander to the coast; could there be anything better? Well quite simply, yes. Ayr United, bedecked in yellow, outshone the celestial body on a night when, once again: they humbled opposition from a higher league; and two moments of brilliance from Declan ‘Magic’ McDaid and Robbie ‘Messi’ Crawford will be forever etched on the minds of all fans lucky enough to be there.
Pre-match questions were being asked. Could Ayr keep up the form that had seen them defeat Premiership Kilmarnock? Would we see the exceptional skill level that had been shown in the opening game? Were United’s fitness levels going to hold up after only 4 days recovery time? The answer to all of these was a great big, emphatic, yes.
The opening minutes of the match saw both sides testing each other out with neither team gaining the upper hand but with Dumbarton showing enough to suggest that this would be a tougher test than the disappointing Kilmarnock side from Friday’s local derby. First, Ayr went on the attack, and on 2mins Michael Moffat shot was saved by keeper Scott Gallacher after a great run and flicked pass by McDaid on the right.
Dumbarton were looking dangerous, with two Ayrshire boys Tom Walsh and Chris Johnston, attempting to stretch United on the wings, and United central defenders Chris Higgins and Jamie Adams having to be at their best to contain the skilled and amorphous mobile mountain of a man, Christian Nade.
On 3 mins, Walsh controlled the ball on the wing before finding midfielder David Wilson who then laid the ball off to central defender Craig Barr. Barr created space, set himself up and released a powerful drive from 25-yards out that keeper Jordan Hart did well to get down to and parry away.
Shortly after, Dumbarton had three real opportunities to go ahead. Wilson dribbled into the box but couldn’t find the space to shoot. Somehow the ball ended up with Walsh, in space, but he could only screw the ball across the face of goal when he should have done better. When the ball came back in, Mark Stewart dived at full stretch but could only see his header from close range go narrowly past the post. 5 mins gone and this was already looking an exciting encounter.
Dumbarton were delivered a blow when Dougie Hill stretched to intercept a delightful pass into the box from McDaid but in doing so injured himself and was replaced by Kyle Prior.
The match remained an entertaining and even contest with Ayr testing the Dumbarton backline with shots from Boyle, Moffat, McDaid and Moore all going close or bringing out saves from Gallacher. Dumbarton showed their teeth through efforts from Nade, Walsh and Wilson, with Walsh again guilty of failing to make capital out of the proverbial ‘sitter’.
On 35 mins, Ayr went ahead, as the result of an end to end move from the United side. Hart threw the ball out to Jamie Adams and he in turn touched the ball to Geggan, wide on the right in his own half. Geggan played the ball inside to Crawford who flicked the ball towards the halfway line where McDaid, under pressure, nodded the ball to Moffat. Moffat, spotting Geggan’s continuing run down the right, turned and sprayed a pass wide before making his way towards the box. Geggan sprinted forward to the edge of the box before he hit the ball in at pace behind the inrushing defenders. As Moffat looked to strike, defender Andy Dowie made a last desperate effort to intercept and stretched out his leg but only managed to fire the ball into the net at the near post. Ayr were one up.
In an attempt to get back into the game, Dumbarton upped their efforts and put extra pressure on the United backline. On 39 mins, Nade found himself with a chance in the box but his shot was excellently saved by the acrobatic Hart at the top left-hand corner. Next, a goal-bound screamer of a drive from 25 yards out by Prior took a lucky fine deflection off Jamie Adams and scraped off the top of the bar. Then on 44 mins, danger man Nade found himself with space in the box but under no pressure, he put his header over the bar.
Ayr immediately went into attack, with a fine piece of interplay in the box, Moore, knocking the ball down to McDaid who, with his back to goal, slipped the ball to Crawford. Crawford made space before releasing a shot from 8 yards which was instinctively saved by Gallacher.
It looked like Ayr would reach half time with a goal’s advantage, but Dumbarton were determined not to let that happen. With nearly 3 mins of added time on the clock Dumbarton were awarded a free kick after an aerial tussle between Nade and Higgins.
The incoming ball was then met by Nade who turned the ball into the net for the equaliser.
Disappointment was etched large on the faces of the Ayr squad as they left the field at the break. More questions arose. How would they respond after such a sucker punch? Would they fade as in past years? Any worries were unfounded as United returned to the park with additional vigour and desire.
Dumbarton were beginning to struggle with Ayr’s continuing pace and control. This frustration was marked when the tiring Walsh needlessly hacked down Geggan after the United man had easily dispossessed the winger, skilfully turned him and cleared. 46 mins and a booking for Walsh.
On 51 mins, Ayr’s rising superiority should have been marked by a goal but somehow Moore’s header from inside the box went wide.
Dumbarton, though, still had some sting up front and just a minute later Walsh found space near the line but his shot went across the goalmouth and wide. Dumbarton, much against the run of play also thought they had gained the lead when, from a corner, Barr met the ball perfectly to header in at the back post, but referee Cook had seen an infringement. On the line, Dumbarton forward Stewart was blatantly holding Docherty who had been defending the back post.
Ayr were dominating, and when they took the lead on 70 mins, it was a mouth-watering peach of a goal. Adams headered away from the edge of the penalty area, Moffat challenged for the ball on the left, heading it to McDaid in the centre circle. McDaid let the ball bounce before nodding it down to Geggan, running close support in central mid-field. Geggan slipped the ball to Boyle who charged into the Dumbarton half before finding Crawford on the left. Crawford held the ball up before delicately passing to McDaid who was tightly marked and blocked some 20 yards out. This was time for some more McDaid magic, surely he had no chance. He feinted left, tapped the ball right, to make minimal space, before driving the ball, swerving and dipping, home. It was as delicious a piece of skill as one could have hoped to see.
Ayr now poured forward, Crawford and substitute McGuffie twice, Docherty, Moffat and Geggan all going close. It was just a matter of when a third would come and when it came Robbie Crawford, tireless and creative through-out the game, again channelled his inner Lionel Messi. Twice in the final 10 mins he had turned the Dumbarton defence inside out but had gone narrowly wide, but these were only practice runs for something special.
With 2 mins of normal time remaining, Ayr intricately worked the ball from right to left Docherty’s pass finding Crawford wide. The midfielder first turned across the face of the defence, causing defender David Smith to go the wrong way. The defender gave chase and, along with Downie and Barr, blocked Crawford’s view of goal. No problem there for the Ayr midfielder, who first twisted left then right sending all three the wrong way before blasting the ball through the space he had created and into the net. Quality and Ayr had a two-goal advantage.
And so it finished: Dumbarton 1 v 3 Ayr United and another great advert for live football, and one that the 338 travelling fans (outnumbering those from Dumbarton in the 615 person crowd) will not forget. Next up , Clyde who come to Somerset Park in the next Betfred Cup, Group Stage match on Tuesday night (25th July, 7.45 pm kick-off).
Gallacher, Barr, Dowie, Hill, Smith, Johnston, Wilson, Walsh, McLaughlin, Stewart, Nade
Substitutes: Ewings (GK), Gallagher, Roy, Prior
Hart, Geggan, Adams, Higgins, Boyle, McDaid, Crawford, Docherty, Gilmour, Moffat, Moore
Substitutes: Avci (GK), McGuffie, Ferguson, Faulds, Waite, Murphy, McCowan
Referee: Barry Cook