Ladbrokes SPFL League 1
Albion Rovers 3 v 0 Ayr United
After a promising pre-season and back to back cup victories over Albion Rovers and Brechin City, Ayr United travelled to Coatbridge for the opener of the Ladbrokes SPFL League 1 season. The Honest Men had a rather depleted looking squad with Captain Nicky Devlin, Gerry McLauchlan, Andy Muir and Craig Moore suspended. This meant Ayr had to shape up with Ross Docherty at right back and Jamie Adams slotting into the midfield. Meanwhile Albion Rovers only named three outfield substitutions but it was Flag Day for last season’s League Two champions and spirits were high in the home camp.
Ayr’s hopes of getting the seasons off to a flying start were dealt a huge sucker punch after the first chance of the game saw Albion take the lead after just 1 minute and 47 seconds. Josh Mullin delivered a wicked bouncing ball from the right hand side which had to be nodded behind by Docherty for a corner kick. From the resulting set piece Ally Love rose well at the back post to nod the ball back across goal and Ross Davidson slammed the ball home to give the home side a dream start to life in League One.
Rovers then kicked on from their explosive start, as a quick one – two between Paul Willis and Darren Young allowed player manager Young to fire in a volley but he blazed his effort high over the bar from well outside the box.
Ayr were struggling to get a foothold in the game as they struggled to adapt to the condition of the pitch and it took until 16 minutes for the away team to create their first chance. Good build up play outside the box ended with a terrific cross from Docherty from wide on the right. His delivery was met by Jamie Adams, who had made bursting run into the box, but his header sailed over the bar from close range.
United then had another chance as Docherty and Ross Caldwell combined to slip Alan Trouten through but he shot wide when squaring the ball might have been the better option.
Albion Rovers were defending excellently and denying Ayr any space and time on the ball. However, when they were in possession themselves they were always a threat and they made it 2-0 right on the stroke of halftime. Young regained possession for his side in their own half before Ross Davidson sent tricky winger Mullen free down the right. His initial cross was cleared but only and far as Davidson who returned the ball to the winger. This time his wonderfully floated cross to the back post was nodded home by the impressive Love.
The half time whistle sounded and Albion Rovers were fully in control. They looked a totally different team to the one who Ayr swept away in the Petrofac Training Cup just two weeks before. Ayr had a big task on their hand in the second half if they wanted to take anything from the game.
Ayr had a claim for a penalty after 51 minutes as Adams shirt was being pulled by the Albion Rovers defender but the referee saw no wrong doing, leaving Adams bemused and frustrated.
The Honest Men were struggling to find any rhythm and were seriously lacking in the final third and there was very little in the way of a creative spark. On the other hand, the home side were looking energised and should have made it 3-0 as Paul Willis was one on one with Greg Fleming but he wasted the opportunity – firing high over the bar.
Veteran striker John Gemmell was then introduced and was immediately involved in setting up the killer goal for Albion Rovers. Love nodded the ball through the Ayr defence to Gemmell bore down on goal. It looked as if the striker was going to take the effort on himself but unselfishly he cleverly slipped the ball to Love who had the simplest of tasks to knock the ball home for his second of the match. 68 minutes gone and Albion Rovers were three goals to the good.
Ross Docherty was then moved into midfield and he immediately got involved in the action as he sent an effort towards goal. The shot was straight at Ross Stewart as he saved easily. Ayr then created their chance of the game as Martyn Campbell got on the end of a free kick but his back post header went wide of the mark.
The game drew painfully to a close and Ayr appeared glad to hear the final whistle. They failed to create any real chances and struggled to find any passing rhythm against an Albion team that hassled for every ball and looked fired up. After so much optimism, this is a very disappointing result for Ian McCall’s men but after only one game it would be ludicrous to make any assumptions as to how the team will fair this season. McCall knows what he wants from the team this year and with a full squad to choose from next weekend at home to Brechin, hopefully Ayr can kick start their season.
Stewart, Reid, Turnbull, Young, R. Dunlop, M. Dunlop, Mullin, Davidson, Barrowman, Willis, Love
Substitutes Ferry, McRobbie, Gemmell, Lochhead (GK)
Fleming, Adams, Boyle, Docherty, Campbell, Murphy, Gilmour, Crawford, Caldwell, Trouten, Donald Substitutes Forrest, Nisbet, Wardrope, McKenzie, McCracken, Newman (GK)
Referee: Alan Newlands