Airdrieonians 0 v 1 Ayr United
On Saturday Ayr travelled to the usually formidable Excelsior Stadium and returned with three points in a narrow but well-deserved victory over the Diamonds.
Airdrieonians were the fastest out of the traps and for the opening 25 mins had the majority of the play and created a number of chances but the United defence stood solid as the team adapted and slowly but surely took control of the game.
In the 5th min an Alan Lithgow long throw into the box caused some problems and target man Jim Lister flicked the ball on to Jamie Bain who failed to fully connect and the ball went wide of target.
In the 7th min a Jordan Thompson drive from the left-hand side of the box was blocked and less than a minute later a Jamie Bain shot called Greg Fleming into action but he saved comfortably.
It took Ayr until the 16th min to truly test the Airdrieonians defence. Good interplay between Forrest Moore and Donald led to the ball being deflected to Brian Gilmour whose volley was well saved by Neil Parry.
Just as Ayr were showing greater confidence and forward movement Airdrieonians missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead. A freekick from the right was played into the box, bypassing all the United players and landing at the feet of the unmarked Lister standing on the penalty spot and given what seemed like an eon of time. The big striker turned but failed get much meaningful contact on the ball and hit it off Ayr debutant Ross McCrorie and the chance came to nothing.
The first half settled into a pattern with both teams pushing forward but with both defences seeming comfortable and few clear-cut chances created.
In the 41st min captain Nicky Devlin stayed high up field and put pressure on Airdrie’s Kieran MacDonald forcing the defender into a slack pass which Craig Moore took from Airdrie captain Marc Fitzpatrick before driving the ball over the bar.
Ayr were beginning to show much more control, exhibiting a neat passing style of football, with sweeping moves from end to end and side to side stretching the Airdrieonians defence.
With the clock having passed 45 mins Nicky Devlin recovered the ball in his own penalty area after a breakaway attack by Jamie Bain. He passed the ball to Andy Graham who strolled forward before flicking the ball further right to Alan Forrest on the halfway line. Forrest played the ball inside towards McCrorie who was caught late by centre half Sean Creighton but the youngster had managed to do enough touching the ball to Brian Gilmour who slid it further left to Paddy Boyle. Boyle pushed the ball forward along the line to Mikey Donald who did well under pressure from David Ferguson to reach the goal line and cut the ball back to Alan Forrest who had made his way into the box. Forrest turned and found the onrushing Paddy Boyle whose drive was diverted into the net by Craig Moore.
The second half saw a much more composed Ayr United having the majority of the play but frustratingly not converting the chances that they created making this a much tighter game than it need have been. The diamonds also had some luck with drives from both Gilmour and Forrest unconsciously diverted wide by shell-shocked defenders.
In the 68th min Ryan Stevenson collected the ball in the centre circle before releasing Moore who found Gilmour at the edge of the box but his curling effort went just over. Just a few minutes later Forrest found space on the left and played the ball into the penalty area where Moore’s volley brought out a good save from Parry.
As both teams made multiple substitutions United fans applauded former favourite Brian Prunty as he entered the field for Airdrieonians but the largest cheer was reserved for the return of Ross Docherty after his lengthy absence through injury.
In the 82nd min substitute Jordan Preston sent Alan Forrest through and as Forrest reached the edge of the penalty area he turned the defence before dragging his shot inches wide.
Shortly after Ayr did have the ball in the net but Jordan Preston’s effort was ruled offside.
As the clock ran down Ayr nearly suffered from their inability to add to their total when Airdrie’s Cadden whipped the ball into the middle for Lister whose header pulled out and acrobatic save from Greg Fleming.
A good three points for Ayr which keeps them comfortably in third place as they await the arrival of Cowdenbeath on Tuesday night.
Parry, Ferguson, MacDonald, Fitzpatrick, Crighton, Lithgow, Bain, Faria, Lister, Thompson, Cadden Substitutes O’Neill, Brown, Stewart, Mackin, Ferguson (GK), Esposito, Prunty
Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Murphy, Graham, Stevenson, Gilmour, McCrorie, Moore, Forrest, Donald Substitutes Preston, Docherty, Crawford, McLaughlin, Trouten, Wardrope, Newman (GK)
Referee: Mike Roncone
Match Report: AUmedia