Ayr 0 Inverness 2

By AU Media

High-flying United were brought back to earth as they suffered a frustrating 0-2 loss to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and missed the opportunity to claim top spot in the Championship on Saturday. A controversial goal from James Vincent gave Caley the lead half an hour into the game before a second half strike from Shaun Rooney sealed the victory for the visitors at Somerset Park.

With not even a min gone, Inverness had their first chance to open the scoring. A defensive mistake from Ayr allowed Jordan White to steal the ball and header it on to Miles Storey who broke down the right wing into the box. He sent a low cross towards the goal from eight yards, but Ross Doohan went down at the right post and tipped the shot wide.

After the shaky start, Ayr settled into the game and started to become the slightly more threatening side with a good chance coming their way on 5 mins. Ross Docherty won the ball near the halfway line and squared it to Stephen Kelly who sent a low drive forward to Luke McCowan on the right. McCowan flicked it on promptly to feed Michael Moffat at the edge of the box. Moffat stepped over Jamie McCart and only had Mark Ridgers left to beat, but the keeper did well to save the one-on-one.

On 9 mins, Ridgers was called into action again and only great goalkeeping denied United an opening goal. Carl Tremarco failed to control the ball in his own half and McCowan picked it up to send a cross-field pass out to Alan Forrest on the left. The winger cut in and, despite pressure from Rooney, brought himself in a good position, but Ridgers left his line to block Forrest’s effort at his feet.

While Ayr remained the more attacking team, the Caley defence did well to cancel the home side’s efforts out and didn’t allow them to create any clear-cut chances in open play.

United’s best chance came from a set piece on 23 mins. Kelly delivered a corner from the left which fell to McCowan on the opposite edge of the box. He picked the ball out of the air and controlled it before sending a short pass in to Moffat who flicked goalwards, but saw his attempt held by Ridgers.

With 31 mins on the clock, and against the run of play, Inverness took the lead in controversial fashion. White appeared to blatantly shove Docherty as he rose to reach a goal kick that had reached the halfway and, amidst shouts for a free kick, the Inverness man headed on to Roddy MacGregor who turned and broke forward. MacGregor sent the ball out to Aaron Doran who crossed in from the left. White, near the back post, seemed to throw himself into Harvie without getting near to the ball but again referee Steven McLean saw nothing wrong and play continued.  White went down near the right post, seemingly injured, and Rooney picked the up the ball on the right and sent a tight-angled cross low over his team-mate and into the box. Ayr seemed hesitant with the Caley player still down and left without a chance to defend as Vincent got on the end of the cross and from12 yards slid it under Doohan and into the net to put the visitors ahead.

The Honest Men looked to have somewhat lost their composure after conceding while Inverness’ physical play held the hosts at bay and so the remaining 15 mins of the first half ticked down without any more significant chances for either side.

The second set of 45 mins had a similar tone to the first one with a lot of football being played in midfield and each side preventing the other from creating something.

Ayr almost equalised on 61 mins when Kelly brought in a corner from the left. Sam Roscoe went in for a header in the box but had the ball taken off him by White who headed it away. The rebound fell to Docherty at 22 yards who sent a stinging drive through the Caley defence, but Ridgers went down to collect.

In the 64th min, Inverness sealed the deal with a brilliant effort. Rooney cleared a shot forward towards the Caley goal and headed it to Storey near the halfway line. Storey played it back into his own defence where Coll Donaldson, despite pressure from Kelly, sent a long ball down the right wing which found Rooney in the Ayr half. The defender continued his run and advanced straight through the United defence and into the box before slotting it past Doohan from six yards to double his side’s lead.

The Caley Jags were now in control and slowed the game down to manage their advantage.

A late chance to add another one to their tally came the visitors’ way in the dying mins of the game. Vincent intercepted a sloppy back-pass just inside the box and drove towards the goal, but Doohan came off his line and got a foot on it to lift the attempt over the bar and the scoreline remained 0-2 at full time.

As table toppers Dundee United also lost their game on Friday evening away to Alloa, Ayr remain second in the league on equal points with the Tangerines, but Inverness in third are now only two points adrift.