Ayr United 1 v 2 Peterhead
Following last Saturday’s washed out fixture Ayr returned to league business against a Peterhead side brimming with confidence having trounced Albion Rovers 5-1 in their last fixture and with an impressive record of 11 league games without defeat stretching back to the 31st October. At stake was second place in the league and after 90 minutes it was to be claimed by the Blue Toon.
The early stages of the match saw both sets of players struggling to control the ball on what was an extremely bobbly and slick surface and it wasn’t until the 16th min that a clear-cut chance was created.
Peterhead broke forward following a United attack with Brown finding Sutherland on the right at the halfway line. Sutherland then played the ball along the halfway line to McAllister who slid the ball through the United defence to Dzierzawski at the edge of the United penalty box but his rushed left-footed shot flew over the bar when he should have done much better.
Although Ayr were having most of the ball in attacking positions it was Peterhead who looked the most likely with their fast-paced breakaway football and Sutherland and McAllister a potent and threatening strike force.
On 21mins Peterhead again broke away and Brown charged towards the United goal after a neat flick on by McAllister. As he attempted to get into the penalty area Gerry McLaughlin appeared to be turned but left his leg in position and blocked the ball and the Peterhead attacker went down. While fans debated whether this was a foul or not, referee Alan Muir brought out a yellow card and the United defender was booked.
To add insult to injury up stepped the impressive Shane Sutherland to curl the resultant freekick over the wall and into the net to put the Blue Toon one up.
United were determined to get back into the game and only three minutes later equalised. Ayr worked the ball forward from goalkeeper Greg Fleming and from just inside his own half Gerry McLaughlin released a long pass forward and the faintest of touches from Jordan Preston took the ball past defenders Gilchrist and Ross and into the penalty box. Both Preston and Moore set off at pace with Moore reaching the ball just before the out rushing keeper Smith and hammering it into the net.
Soon after Peterhead had a loud shout for a penalty when Mikey Donald’s misplaced pass was picked up by Sutherland near the halfway line and the forward outmuscled and outpaced the United left back into the penalty area. Sutherland took a heavy touch to the right and Jamie Adams barged straight into him. Again referee Muir surprised many in the crowd by signalling a goal-kick to United.
The match had settled into a regular pattern with Ayr trying to push forward but becoming bogged down in midfield and finding it difficult to get into the final third and past the resolute and well organised Peterhead defence. United weren’t helped by the surface with players attempting second or third touches to try and control the ball and so giving Peterhead the chance to tackle, and also at times finding it difficult to reach their own men with passes.
With four minutes remaining in the half United again went behind, and this was a goal which could and should have been prevented. This was doubly distressing as Ayr were beginning to look more confident and had bossed the final stages of the half.
Peter Murphy returned a Jamie Adams pass back but the midfielder failed to get the ball quickly under control and Kevin Dzierzawski pounced, stealing the ball at the halfway line before sliding it forward towards McAllister. It looked as if Gerry McLauchlan would intercept the ball but he appeared to slip and McAllister charged into the penalty area pursued by Murphy. Greg Fleming came out and forced the striker wide, and although he stumbled badly McAllister kept his feet and from the narrowest of angles hit the ball towards the goal. Murphy attempted to tackle and the ball flipped off his foot and just over the leg of Nicky Devlin whose covering run had seemed certain to whip the ball off the line: but it was not to be. Peterhead were leading 1 -2 and this was an advantage they were determined not to lose.
The second half was one of great frustration for Ayr United as they pushed to find an equaliser but were met by a physical wall of defence playing very deep giving a little space to work their way through or behind. The physicality of the Peterhead approach drew chants of disapproval from the United faithful.
In 47 mins Ally Gilchrist was booked for blocking off Moore as he charged goalward and in 54 minutes it came as no surprise when Jordan Brown was booked for an intentional handball having been previously warned in the early minutes for leading with an elbow when heading and later for a lunging tackle.
In 55 mins Ayr fans howled for a red card as Nicky Devlin charged forward near the halfway line hitting the ball some 20 feet in front of himself only to be kicked from behind by Simon Ferry an action which the referee deemed only to merit a yellow card.
Then on 57 mins Scott Ross lost the ball to Alan Trouten and lunged in at pace with his studs showing, catching the United midfielder on the shins. This again resulted in a yellow card but one which would come back to haunt the defender.
In truth United had been left with slim pickings with attacks being degraded before they could reach the box and Ayr’s only real chance up to this point had been a drive by Ryan Stevenson from some 20 yards out which went over the top left-hand corner of the bar.
In 59 mins Ayr looked to have scored as Moore slammed the ball into the net from 8 yards out but the stand side assistant referee Michael Banks raised his flag for a narrow offside.
Just one minute later Ryan Strachan also found his name in the book after a late challenge.
In the 90th minute and with time running out for Ayr, substitute Alan Forrest charged down the left-hand side outpacing Simon Ferry but was then challenged by Scott Ross who appeared to have made contact with the ball first. Similar to McLauchlan’s booking in the first half this appeared no more than bad body posture as the defender tackled but again the referee saw this differently and Scott Ross was given a second yellow card which resulted in his sending off.
Ayr huffed and puffed to make advantage in the four minutes of added time but could do no more than blast the ball off a resilient Blue Toon defence.
United will have to up to their game considerably when they make their way eastwards to Dunfermline next weekend.
Fleming, Devlin, Donald, Murphy, McLaughlin, Stevenson, Gilmour, Adams, Preston, Trouten, Moore Substitutes Forrest, Wardrope, Graham, Crawford, Muir, McKenzie, Newman (GK)
Smith, Strachan, Ross, Gilchrist, Noble, Brown, Dzierzawski, Ferry, Redman, McAllister, Sutherland Substitutes Blockley, Stevenson, Riley, McIntosh, Lawrence, Rogers, McNeil (GK)
Referee: Alan Muir