Ayr engaged in an enthralling 120 minute battle with Falkirk in the second round of the Ramsdens Cup but came out second best with a Scott Shepherd goal after 111 minutes dashing United’s hopes.
The home side took the lead in the first half through a Malcolm thunderbolt but Falkirk levelled the scores in the second period. In extra time, United hit the bar and looked dangerous in front of goal but couldn’t notch the second goal to take the game to penalties.
Following on from Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Forfar, Roberts made two changes with Wylie replacing Hunter who was out due to a sickness bug. Alan Forrest came in for Mikey McGowan.
It was Gary Holt’s Falkirk who showed early signs of attacking intent with Luke Leahy nodding inches wide of the target.
After scoring his first goal for the club on Saturday, Craig Malcolm was keen to notch again and went close after 20 minutes with a right footed drive which flew wide of the target.
With 41 minutes on the clock, Malcolm did double his goal tally for Ayr with a thunderous drive from the edge of the area in front of a jubilant Somerset Road end.
In the second half, Ayr were eager to double their lead with Moffat surging into the box after 47 minutes but failed to get his shot on target.
The away side made two substitutions with Alston and Fulton coming on to the field of play and immediately made a difference, putting the Bairns in the ascendency.
After 63 minutes, Falkirk drew level after substitute Jay Fulton saw his shot blocked by David Hutton before the ball broke to Rory Loy who hammered home.
Falkirk grew into the game as time progressed and pressured United into making physical challenges with Martyn Campbell finding himself in the book.
As the 90th minute neared, United looked dominant but they couldn’t hit the net for a second time which meant the game was forced into extra time.
Ayr continued from where they left off in the first period of extra time with Gordon Pope surging down the left flank before unleashing a vicious drive which crashed against the underside of the crossbar and ricocheted clear.
Two minutes later, it was Falkirk’s turn to hit the crossbar with Fulton directing the ball goalwards with his head but saw it hit the crossbar.
United continued to press and were once again close to scoring with Michael McGowan seeing a shot sail inches wide of the goal frame.
Roberts’ substitutes, McGowan and Crawford both made a difference to United with the two of them impressing. McGowan dazzled the crowd with his trickery and Crawford was back to his combative best.
Five minutes into the second half of extra time, Falkirk scored that decisive second goal through substitute Scott Shephard.
A corner kick was met by the substitute who was able to nod a glancing header beyond Hutton.
Despite the defeat, Ayr could draw a number of positives from a hugely encouraging performance which showed they can compete against teams in a league above.
After the match, Mark Roberts said: “I don’t think we deserved to lose as there wasn’t much in the game.
“I think it would have been fair if the game had gone to penalties as both teams played well throughout the game.
“I don’t think Falkirk deserved to win the game as they had a lot of possession but we had more chances.
“Gordon Pope’s strike in extra time was great and I still don’t know how it didn’t go in. To hit it at that pace and for it not to go in is strange.
“To play 120 minutes and not win is obviously disappointing as we have a small squad and will have to get the guys ready for Saturday, but we’ll be up for it.
“Adam Hunter was out because he was sick but Aaron Wylie came in and did very well.
“He’s a central midfielder but we’ve played him right back in pre-season and he looked comfortable.”
Craig Malcolm said: “I thought we played really but we’re obviously gutted about the result.
“I can’t remember them having more than two or three chances during the game, whereas we had a good dozen.
“We more than matched a team in the league above us and showed we’re progressing under the manager.”
Ayr: Hutton, Wylie (Shankland), Pope, Lithgow, Campbell, Lithgow, McLaughlin, Forrest (McGowan), Marenghi (Crawford), Moffat, Malcolm, Donald. Unused subs: Shankland, McArthur, Crawford, Muir.
Bookings: Wylie, Pope, Campbell, Lithgow.
Falkirk: McGovern, Duffie, Turnbull, Vaulks, Dick, Durojaiye, McGrandles (Fulton), Loy, Leahy (Alston), Grant (Shephard), Sibbald. Unused subs: Alston, Fulton, McNab, Shephard. Bowman.
Bookings: Durojaiye, Leahy, Loy.
Referee: Craig Charleston