Albion Rovers 0 v 2 Ayr United
On an exceptionally dry and bumpy pitch, Ayr got off on the front foot, taking the game to the Rovers, but unable to capitalise on the chances they created. In just 3 mins Declan McDaid surged forward and was brought down just outside the Albion Rovers box but the resultant free kick never threatened the home side’s goal.
In the early stages Albion Rovers’ chances were few and far between and Jamie Watson’s free header on 8 mins, comfortably saved by Ayr stopper Ross Doohan, was the only action of note.
Ayr went close on 13 mins as a Craig Moore header went out for a corner, but United fans only had to wait 2 mins for the Honest Men to go in front. Keeper Doohan played the ball long and Moore did well to win the header and flick the ball over the defensive line and into the path of Lawrence Shankland in the box. Shankland controlled well but Rovers’ keeper, Gareth Hallford, did well to get down to his shot but the ball deflected to Alan Forrest who stroked home. United were one up.
The goal did nothing to improve the slow pace of the game with United seeming to accept the comfortable nature of their control and possession. This could have been their undoing if Rovers had more composure in their infrequent forays forward with both Lewis McLear and Ronan Kearney going close with shots when they should have done better.
Ayr continued to create chances and on 34 mins McDaid produced a magnificent flick into the box for Daniel Harvie, but his attempt was blocked for a corner. Soon after, Shankland played a long and accurate pass which was well controlled by McDaid but his flick to Moore just evaded the Ayr striker and ran out of play. Next, it was Shankland’s chance to try his luck but his strike from 25 yards was saved by Hallford at the foot of his right-hand post.
On 39 mins Albion Rovers had one of their best attempts of the match after Jamie Adams conceded a freekick just outside the box when he bundled over Jamie Watson when going for a high ball. McLear stepped up and smashed a curling, up and down, drive around the Ayr wall, and just past Doohan’s right-hand post.
On 42 mins, after some sharp interplay down the right by Ayr, a quick one-two between McDaid and Shankland at the edge of the box put McDaid through one-on-one with keeper Halford who again pulled off a magnificent save.
The last real chance before halftime came 1 min later when Alan Forrest stepped inside at the edge of the box and struck a dipping drive that just shaved the top of the bar.
The second half saw the arrival of a much more purposeful United. Almost from the re-start, David Ferguson lifted a long ball towards Shankland but keeper Hallford came out quickly to intercept as it looked odds on that Shankland would add another to this year’s goal tally.
The Albion stopper then pulled off yet another remarkable one-on-one save this time denying Forrest, who had neatly controlled Bell’s inch-perfect, long diagonal right to left pass, before darting in on goal. And just as it looked like the keeper could not possibly have any more in his locker, he again saved one-on-one, this time from McDaid as the winger charged into the box from the right and unleashed a snapshot.
On 62 mins, Craig Moore went for the spectacular as he released a long dipping shot from outside the box which unfortunately went well over the bar. 3 mins later Ayr Michael Moffat replaced Craig Moore and on 67 mins Craig McGuffie was brought on for Declan McDaid.
McGuffie’s impact was felt almost instantly, by-passing defenders on the right before finally being caught on the by-line but still managing to win a corner for Ayr. Taking the corner himself, the winger curled the ball to the back of the box where Forrest controlled and sweetly struck the ball past keeper Hallford, only to see his shot knocked off the line by Kearney. Moments later, Forrest again surged down the left before driving over the bar.
Ayr’s final substitution saw Mark Kerr replacing goal scorer Alan Forrest on 77 mins.
3 mins later and Ayr were 2 up. McGuffie swung in a corner from the left and captain Steven Bell broke away from his marker and launched himself at the ball, heading it powerfully into the net where he also found himself.
A second goal was no less than Ayr deserved, and the game was truly in the bag for the Honest Men. They could have had two or three more. 1 min later Moffat headed just over, on 85 mins Moffat raced onto a long through ball before passing to McGuffie whose exquisitely curled shot went inches wide, and just on full-time Shankland headed just past the post from another McGuffie corner.
Next up, it’s back to Somerset Park on Tuesday night for the visit of Stenhousemuir in the next match of the Betfred Cup group stage.
Hallford, Smith, Forrester, Eley, Murdoch (c), McGeough, McLear, Gallagher, Cunningham, Watson, Kearney Substitutes: Potts (GK), Gracie, Greene, McMahon, McCann
Doohan, Harvie, Bell (c), Adams, Ferguson, Forrest, Crawford, Murdoch, McDaid, Shankland, Moore Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Geggan, Moffat, McGuffie, McCowan, Kerr.
Referee: Mike Roncone