Dundee United 0 v 5 Ayr United
Ayr could not have got off to a better start. With only 2 mins on the clock, Harvie played the ball into the box and Shankland sneaked between defenders to header home. 0 v 1 to the Honest Men but more was to come.
Surely Dundee United would attempt to force themselves back into the game, but they seemed well off the pace and it was Ayr who went close again just 2 mins later. Shankland was put through into the box and made his way towards goal but his clipped shot from a tight angle, although beating the keeper, could only roll across the 6-yard box with no takers to tap into the empty net.
Keeper Siegrist appeared to overstretch in his attempt to block Shankland and had to receive treatment on the park, an injury that would force his substitution just eight minutes later, making way for Rakovan.
It took Dundee United 15 mins to register a real attempt on Ross Doohan’s goal. A corner was floated into the box from the left and found Fraser Fyvie in space and with time, but the midfielder lacked composure and lashed out at the ball which rose well over the bar.
Ayr continued to dominate with a dazzling display of attacking football with McDaid a constant pain for the opposing backline. On 21 mins he surged forward down the left, his tricky footwork bamboozling right back Watson and allowing the winger to get to the edge of the box but his shot went over the bar.
2 mins later McDaid again tortured Watson and he drove into the box creating space for himself but replacement keeper Rakovan did well to block his shot. The ball landed at the feet of Michael Moffat in the 6-yard box but, on the stretch, he lifted his shot over the bar when it looked a certain second goal.
Ayr were flying forward with attack after attack and the Dundee United defence looked shell-shocked scrambling to try and prevent the Honest Men from grabbing another.
On 25 mins it was Shankland’s turn, dashing into the box, Rakovan coming to his team’s rescue with a block, but Shankland didn’t want to give up. As the ball bobbled into the air from an attempted clearance, he tried to head home but Rakovan was there to deny the striker once more.
Minutes later Shankland tried his luck again, charging down the middle, twisting into the box, but his left-footed shot was blocked by Rakovan.
It looked like there was only one team on the park and it seemed impossible that Ayr would not manage to get a second or third counter.
With 33 mins on the clock, Dundee United found themselves fortunate to get a header on target. Aird clipped the ball into the box from left to right and a slip by Bell (or possibly a clip of his heels) allowed McMullan a free header but it went straight to Doohan who comfortably clutched the ball to his chest.
Ayr kept pushing forward, Shankland inches short of a delicious ball to the back post from Harvie on 30 mins, but that second goal was coming.
40 mins gone, and the dangerous McDaid beat Watson to the line before sliding the ball into the middle to Shankland, in space just 6 yards out, and this time the back of the net bulged. 0 – 2 and it was the least that Ayr deserved for their dominant attacking play.
With an opportunity to shuffle the pack at halftime, Dundee United replaced King with Curran and set out to attempt to put pressure on the Ayr rear-guard. It really didn’t work out well for the Taysiders, as Ayr stood strong and looked comfortable for the short period they were under pressure, and the only attempt was a hopeful shot blasted over the bar by Aird.
Ayr stepped-up again and should have gone 3 in front on 51 mins had it not been for a superb sliding tackle by Watson on the Shankland when the striker had been put clear in the box by a threaded pass from Crawford.
Ayr were comfortable and could have got on the scoresheet again several times, Moffat being denied Rakovan when through clear on goal, and a Shankland free kick from 25 yards out being deflected out off a hand in the Dundee United wall.
Suddenly it was 0 – 3 and Michael Moffat got himself on the scoresheet, and this was no less than the hard-working forward deserved. Andy Geggan lifted the ball into the penalty area and Moffat raced onto the ball, one-on-one with keeper Rakovan. Moffat composed himself before side-footing the ball past the keeper and into the net. 77 mins and this signalled a mass exit by the Dundee United fans.
A more realistic distance had been put between the two teams, but Ayr were not finished yet. A hesitant Edjenguele let Moffat nip in between the defender and his keeper to challenge for a high ball just 6-yards out. Trying to nullify the threat Edjenguele chose to barge Moffat into Rakovan and, with no hesitation, referee Don Robertson pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Shankland who thrashed the spot kick at goal and watched as Rakovan got his hands to the ball, but there was so much power that it still reached the back of the net. 0 – 4 to Ayr and a Shankland hattrick.
If Ayr fans were in a Tayside wonderland, they were to reach a higher enlightened level with just 2 mins to go. Smith played a long ball into the penalty area where Shankland made space for himself, controlled on his thigh, before thumping home under pressure from Watson, Bouhenna and the advancing Rakovan.
0 – 5 it finished. Dundee United had been taken to pieces by this exciting attacking force that is Ayr United at present. Big matches come hard and fast in this league and next up are Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Somerset Park on Friday, in another televised game.
Siegrist, Watson, Bouhenna, Edjenguele, Booth, Aird, Fyvie, Stanton, McMullan, King, Safranko Substitutes: Rakovan (GK), Murdoch, Frans, Curran, Smith, Robson, Rabitsch.
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, Geggan, Murdoch, Crawford, McDaid, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Higgins, McGuffie, Ferguson, Ecrepont, Docherty, McCowan.
Referee: Don Robertson