Morton 1 v 5 Ayr United
On Saturday at Cappielow, Ayr United demolished Morton and retained top spot in the Championship 2 points ahead of Ross County. Goals from Lawrence Shankland (2), Craig Moore (2) and Declan McDaid saw off the Ton whose single counter came from in the first half from Charlie Telfer.
United started off in the front foot with efforts from McDaid and Crawford going close in the opening 2 mins. And that was the pattern for the opening phase of the game, with United in control and putting pressure on the Morton rear-guard, a Geggan header saved, a Shankland drive blocked, Crawford driving inches wide, and racking up numerous corners to boot.
It came as no surprise when United took the lead on 19 mins. Ayr gained a corner on the left and McDaid’s looping ball in reached Rose at the back who nodded down to Shankland just 6-yards out. The striker didn’t have to be asked twice and smashed the ball home.
United were one up and looked comfortable and relatively unthreatened but then came an uncharacteristic mistake by Robbie Crawford which allowed Morton to get back into the game. With 35 mins on the clock, a long hopeful cross-field pass from McAlister was picked up by Crawford near the edge of the United’s penalty area. Facing his own goals, Crawford was pressurised by Millar into the box and, as he tried to turn, Telfer nipped in, stole the ball and struck home an angled shot from 12 yards. Morton had struck back much against the run of play to make it 1 – 1.
Buoyed by their success, Morton rallied and forced themselves into the match, but still found it hard to create chances against Ayr’s well-organised defence, with the back 4 solid and hardworking, and regularly turning defence into attack.
Ayr started out the second half with the same intent that they had shown early in the first. 2 mins in and Shankland tried an effort from just outside the box but his shot bent high and wide.
It was, however, Morton who could, and probably should, have taken the lead from the penalty spot on 49 mins. Gary Oliver darted into the box to get onto the end of a curving ball forward from Millar, reaching the ball and tapping it away, just before the advancing Doohan who took the forward down. Penalty, of the stonewall variety, and referee Steven McLean pointed to the spot without hesitation.
Tidser stepped up to hit the ball to the keeper’s left but Doohan was quick to respond, getting down quickly to save and as if a switch had been flicked, Morton switched off and United smelled blood.
United now saw their dominance prepare to bear fruit. On 63 mins McCall stayed true to his attacking philosophy, by refreshing his forward line, Craig Moore on for Michael Moffat and Craig McGuffie replacing Robbie Crawford. These changes were soon to pay dividends.
On 67 mins a Michael Rose long ball to the edge of the box which Moore nodded back to Shankland, but the striker’s first-time volley pulled wide of the post.
Ayr were dominant, relentlessly pushing forward, and with 73 mins gone the touch paper was lit, and the game exploded goals. United worked the ball from left to right, Smith then tapping the ball to McGuffie near the edge of the box. The substitute hit the ball goalward, a wicked deflection looping the ball to the back post where the unmarked Moore turned the ball home. United were in the lead again, and there was no coming back for Morton this time.
Within 2 mins, United had their third. From his own half, Andy Murdoch picked out Shankland wide on the right some 30 yards out from goal. The striker immediately flicked the ball on to Moore who collected and came into the box from the right with Shankland continuing his run onto the penalty spot. Moore selflessly turned the ball back to Shankland who blasted the ball into the net, and United were sailing into the distance and clear water.
Ayr were hungry and when Shankland raced clear from the halfway line 2 mins later he was only stopped by a quick reaction save from keeper Scully.
With 9 mins remaining, United scored again. With Morton players being harried continuously by United they appeared nervous and vulnerable on the ball, and such was the case when Shankland dispossessed Reece Lyon, fed the ball to Murdoch who then found Moore at the edge of the box. Moore composed himself and smashed the ball into the bottom left-hand corner. Impressive stuff from United, but they weren’t finished yet.
With the icing on the cake, and a cherry already on top, United applied a dollop of ice-cream with a counter from wingman McDaid on 89 mins. Doohan threw the ball out to Harvie who clipped the ball to Shankland whose perfectly timed run had taken him behind Morton’s last line of defence. He made his way into the left-hand side of the box and towards the line, but his shot was blocked by Scully before landing at McDaid’s feet. With two men in front of him, the winger played the ball between Buchanan’s legs, past the despairing McKeown on the line, and into the net.
A quite magnificent performance from the Honest Men, and an astonishing final 30 mins.
Next up, Dundee United at Somerset Park this Saturday.
Scully, Tumilty, Kilday, Buchanan, McKeown, Millar, McAlister, Tidser, Telfer, Oliver, Tiffoney Substitutes: Gaston (GK), Iredale, Waddell, McHugh, MacLean, Armour, Lyon
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, Geggan, Murdoch, Crawford, McDaid, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Kerr, Moore, Forrest, McGuffie, Adams, Docherty
Referee: Steven McLean