Queen of the South 1 v 1 Ayr United
Ayr had a bit of a point to prove following their drubbing at the hands of Queen’s at Palmerston Park in September. United certainly made their point, but their dominant display deserved more than the one with which they returned home.
Ayr were in the mood from the off, pressing forward at speed with McDaid proving a thorn in the side of the home defence with left-back Marshall having to work hard to restrict the tricky footed winger. Ayr’s passing and close intricate interplay were a delight to watch as they probed and prodded for ways through a deeply set midfield and defence.
On 7 mins Ayr crafted out the first real chance of the game. After a patient build-up, Docherty found Shankland at the edge of the box and the striker, nodded the ball around defender Semple before shooting from the edge of the box but keeper Martin was well-positioned and saved.
It took another three minutes before Queens showed any real forward intent, stealing the ball at the halfway line and breaking at speed. Dobby tried to go through the of defence and was comfortably blocked but the ball broke to Jacobs who curled a hopeful ball wide from just outside the penalty area.
United were well on top with attempts from Shankland, McDaid and Murdoch only stopped by some determined defending and saves by Martin in the Queens’ goals.
With 22 mins on the clock, Ayr went close again. Moffat nutmegged Semple and made his way into the box but an unfortunate bobble off the artificial turf took him wider than he would have hoped and his shot from a tight angle was well saved by Martin.
Moffat was playing a blinder, controlling well, holding off defenders, spraying accurate passes, and creating chances for his United teammates.
Queens may have been limited in their forays into the final third but showed some flashes of goalscoring intent. On 22 mins, after a long free kick was flipped forward by Todd, Dobbie got in behind Bell before slipping the ball into the penalty area where Dykes turned a clear opportunity into an easy save for Doohan with a half-hearted side-foot attempt.
Football is a fickle game. Having dominated from the start, on 29 mins United suddenly found themselves a goal down. A long, angled cross-field ball from Marshall at the halfway line got behind the United defence to the on-rushing Stirling who made his way into the box. He then cut back from the line to Todd who smashed the ball home.
The goal gave Queens a short-term lift but soon United got back into their stride, taking the game to the home side and on 41 mins earned the equalizer that their play deserved. Michael Rose’s drive from the edge of the box was acrobatically saved by Martin, turning the ball wide. As McDaid’s in-swinging corner reached the 6-yard box, the Queens’ defence switched off and remained static, allowing Bell to reach the ball first and deflect it towards the near post where Moffat headed into the back of the net.
With 2 mins remaining in the half United went close again. Moffat chased the ball over the halfway line on the right the curled an inch-perfect left-footed pass into the path of Murdoch at the edge of the box on the opposite side. A last-second tackle by Fordyce prevented Murdoch from taking a shot but instead played the ball to Crawford whose swerving shot from the edge of the box went narrowly wide.
The second half saw much of the same with United pressing to try and find ways through a deep-set Queens defence. Just 1 min in and Docherty tried his luck with a shot from 25 yards, after fine work by Shankland on the left which included disentanglement from the grasping Mercer, but the ball went wide. Just 3 mins later and a stinging drive from Harvie went just over the bar and he was followed by two attempts from Shankland which also went over.
The biggest threat to United’s goal came on 53 mins. Ayr struggled to clear their lines, the ball got stuck between Rose’s feet, Todd poked it forward and Dobbie nipped clear into the box but Doohan was equal to his efforts getting down well to save.
Next up, Moffat found space to shoot from the edge of the box but it too went over the bar. On 69 mins Queens players threw themselves to block a Shankland drive and on 70 mins McDaid lifted the ball towards the back post where Shankland deftly nodded back into the path of the in-rushing Moffat but Semple reacted quickly to knock the ball wide.
With 12 mins to go Crawford collected the ball wide on the left before turning inside Mercer and darting into the box, slipping to the right of Doyle and Jacobs before pulling his shot just inches wide of the near post.
With the 90 mins up there was one heart and the mouth moment left for United fans. Ayr were encamped in an extended siege of the Queens’ penalty area when substitute Frizzell booted the ball long into the United half with Todd racing forward towards the edge of the box where Rose appeared to pull him back.
Connor Murray placed the ball just 2 yards outside the area for what would be a ‘no way back’ attempt. Ayr placed a five-man wall in front of him and the United faithful held their breaths. Murray clipped and curled the ball over the wall but, with Doohan rooted to the spot, it scraped narrowly wide.
It would have been a travesty of justice if the home side had snatched a winner but for Ayr it was a display that deserved more than just one point.
Next up on Saturday Ayr face Falkirk at Somerset Park.
Queen of the South
Martin, Mercer, Marshall, Fordyce, Doyle, Stirling, Jacobs, Todd, Dobbie, Semple, Dykes Substitutes: Leighfield (GK), Murray, Bell, Frizzell, Irving
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, McDaid, Docherty, Murdoch, Crawford, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Higgins, Moore, McGuffie, Ferguson, McCowan, Ecrepont
Referee: Alan Newlands