St. Mirren 1 v 0 Ayr United
For the second game in a row Ayr United lost a goal deep into injury time but unlike against Hamilton at the weekend this time it meant victory for St Mirren. Most frustrating for Ayr was that their battling performance deserved at least a draw and the chance to gain an additional point through penalties.
In conditions more reminiscent of a tropical climate and certainly not a midweek evening in Paisley it was always going to be a strength sapping affair but both teams went at it from the off.
St Mirren went into the attack at pace and in the first three minutes Ayr keeper Fleming had to show great strength to punch away under pressure while Murphy did just enough to put off striker Sutton and ensure that his header went past.
Ayr responded immediately and almost took the lead in the fourth minute. Defender Naismith hit a loose and woefully short pass back from the right and Craig Moore (re-signed from Motherwell on a year-long loan earlier in the day) raced onto the ball and made a dash into the penalty area with central defender Baird in hot pursuit. The big defender managed to force Moore wide and got a foot in to block his shot. Moore quickly recovered and slid the ball to Cairney whose shot was blocked and went out for a corner.
St Mirren seemed content to rely heavily upon playing high and often long balls to their major strike threats Sutton and Clarkson who between them had notched up 10 goals in pre-season and the opening match of the Betfred Cup. With both central defenders Daryll Meggatt and Peter Murphy in fine form and supported by Nicky Devlin, Paddy Boyle, and in particular Jamie Adams, the St Mirren tactic had little effect.
The home team came closest in the 20th minute when from a corner on the right Clarkson nodded the ball down across goal but Sutton seemed slow to react, missing the ball at the back post and it went wide.
Again Ayr responded with Cairney back healing the ball into the path of Mikey Donald who surged into the penalty area but his second touch showed just too much of the ball and Baird got a foot in to clear. With 34 minutes on the clock Cairney lifted a freekick into the 6-yard box where Meggatt nodded the ball across the face goal to Moore whose delicate flick goalwards was flapped away by keeper Langfield.
Although St Mirren tried to put more pressure on Ayr they were reduced to only one more effort on goal before half-time. From a poor clearance Mallan picked up the ball some 25-yards out and lashed a shot goalwards but it veered wide of goal and well covered by keeper Fleming.
At half-time the teams went in 0 v 0 and Ayr took the opportunity to replace Jamie Adams, who had been outstanding in the first half, with Brian Gilmour. This appeared to be a safety measure as Adams had already been booked in what was a competitive midfield battle.
It was Ayr who had the first attempt in the second half when in 51 mins after good interplay by United, Meggatt released a shot from 30 yards only to see it deflected past the post.
Some signs of warning were beginning to appear for the Honest Men in the shape of tricky winger Lewis Morgan whose pace, close control and accurate crosses were causing problems for United’s back four. In the 59th min Morgan dispossessed Cairney on the left before dragging the ball away from him, rotating and speeding off down the wing. His inch perfect cross found Gallagher free at the back but Fleming reacted instinctively to touch the ball away as it appeared certain to cross the line.
Morgan changed from wing to wing and his close control and pace was causing problems for even the reliable Nicky Devlin. In 72 mins Morgan darted from the halfway line towards the Ayr penalty area and appeared to be clipped by Cairney just outside the box before tumbling over Nicky Devlin’s leg just inside. As Ayr protested that the foul was outside the box referee John Beaton had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Midfielder Mallan strode up to take the penalty and blasted the ball to Greg Fleming’s right but the keeper reacted magnificently and at full stretch turned the ball past the post.
While all eyes were on Morgan, United substitute Craig McGuffie decided to show the skills that have singled out for praise in recent weeks. Docherty headed forward and McGuffie chased after the ball with the imposing Jack Baird. Tight up to the goal line on the left he twisted and turned and made his way into the penalty area leaving Baird behind before hitting the ball towards the front of the goals where Moore was denied by a last ditch tackle by Webster.
With time running out Boyle for Ayr and then Clarkson for St Mirren missed golden opportunities to put their side ahead. It seemed most likely that the game would end tied and a penalty shootout would follow, but the fates would conspire against United in the third minute of added time. Morgan made a mazy run across the United penalty box before seeing his shot blocked by Nicky Devlin but St Mirren retained possession switching the ball to the right where Boyle turned the ball out for a corner.
As a ball came in Naismith managed to get in front of Murphy and flick it forward with his foot, it was blocked by Docherty but wouldn’t leave the 6-yard box, Shankland took a fresh air swipe, before Baird knocked the ball over the line.
Next for Ayr, Edinburgh City at Somerset Park on Saturday.
Langfield, Naismith, Baird, Webster, Irvine, Morgan, Mallan, Hutton, Gallagher, Sutton, Clarkson Substitutes: Gordon, Mackenzie, McAllister, Gallacher, Walsh, Stewart, Shankland
Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Murphy, Meggatt, Docherty, Crawford, Adams, Moore, Cairney, Donald, Substitutes: Hart (GK), Wardrope, McGuffie, McCracken, Gilmour, Johnstone
Referee: John Beaton
Report AU Media