Ayr United 2 – 1 Brechin City
United secured the first three points of the league season in a tight encounter in the sunshine at Somerset Park. Manager Ian McCall had been determined that his team would put in a much better performance than the previous week that had seen them going down three nil to Albion Rovers, and felt that but for some missed chances in the first half this could have been a much easier victory for the Honest Men. Brechin gaffer Darren Dods believed that his team deserved to get something out of the match and was much more content with his team’s performance when compared with last week’s match against Dunfermline and their defeat in the League Cup only two weeks ago against Ayr.
The game had opened with Ayr on the front foot, pacey and fluent moving forward with debutant Craig Moore linking up well with Forrest, Trouten, Gilmour and Crawford and causing some concerns in the initially shaky Brechin defence.
As early as 3mins Crawford found himself at the edge of the box but his powerful shot was deflected wide for a corner. In 5mins Moore’s pace put him on to a poor pass back by Dods and he showed great creativity in lifting the ball over the outrushing keeper Smith but unfortunately the ball flew narrowly over the bar.
Ayr went close again in the 7th minute when after a spell of good short passes McLauchlan played a long ball down the right hand side allowing Trouten to get behind the defence and burst into the box only to see his powerful shot well saved by Graeme Smith in the Brechin goals. McLauchlan and Trouten again combined in the 15th minute but this time Trouten’s shot went wide.
At this point Ayr were the dominant team, commanding midfield and creating the majority of chances with Brechin being forced to resort to shots from distance which caused few problems for Fleming in the United goal. It was therefore no surprise when Ayr took the lead.
Brian Gilmour played a beautiful ball through to Moore whose strike was blocked by Smith, deflected off defender McCormack and drove narrowly wide for a corner. Gilmour’s flighted corner proved difficult for the Brechin defence and was headed back to him by defender Gary Fusco. Gilmour then moved into the penalty area dragging the Brechin defenders from the 6 yard box before lifting the ball over them towards the back post to in-rushing Forrest who nodded the ball into the net from close in. With 21mins gone it was 1 – 0 United.
Anyone who believed that this would be the signal for Brechin to crumble and for Ayr to dominate were to be disappointed as it had the opposite effect. ‘The City’ stepped up a gear and slowly gained dominance of midfield with Johnston, Jackson and Thomson being brought more and more into the play upfront. Suddenly the chances began to fall for Brechin.
In 26mins a ball into the box by Tiffoney showed a previously unseen fragility in the United backline who failed to clear giving a chance to Jamie Montgomerie whose left footed shot from the centre the box was well saved by Fleming. Only one minute later Jackson was flagged narrowly offside as he burst onto a through ball to take him one-on-one with Ayr’s keeper and put the ball in the net.
Although Ayr had a Forrest shot go narrowly wide and a freekick from Murphy curling inches past at the near post it was Brechin who made the most chances in the last 15 minutes of the half. On 35mins Jackson found space in the centre of the box and his left-footed drive was deflected past the right post. Brechin then had a succession of corners with United finding it difficult to clear their lines, and from one of these McCormack struck a cracker of a left-footed shot from outside the box but Ayr keeper Fleming somehow saved to his right.
But half-time Ayr United’s one goal lead appeared tenuous and manager McCall made a tactical change, bringing on Jamie Adams for Brian Gilmour, hoping that Adams’ height and more combative style would assist Ayr to re-gain the upper hand in midfield, but it was Brechin who came out after the break with the same intent and drive as it shown in the latter stages of the first half.
The opening phase saw ‘The City’ forcing two corners and having Gary Fusco’s sweetly struck shot from the right stopped by a timely block by McLauchlan. Slowly Ayr appeared to be getting back into the match with Ross Docherty showing tenacious determination in midfield and the defensive line appearing much more secure. As often happens the simplest of balls out of nowhere can turn a situation on its head. In 68mins this happened.
After some scrappy play in midfield Craig Molloy turned well in the centre circle and created space for himself before lifting the ball over the heads of the United central defence giving Robert Thomson the chance to nip in between the turning McLauchlan and the outrushing Fleming to nod the ball home. Brechin had got the goal that their play deserved and it was 1 – 1.
In recent seasons this would be the signal for Ayr to crumble but this squad were determined not to quit and their heads never dropped. Instead United went on the attack. Only four minutes after Brechin had drawn level Ayr were back in front.
Adams picked up the ball deep in his own half and moved towards the half-way line before releasing the ball to Moore some 25 yards in front of him. Moore, with his back to goal, cutely turned his covering defender before sprinting forwards then sliding the ball between Brechin’s two central defenders Dods and Fusco. Trouten charged into that space and outpaced the Brechin men into the box and looked certain to score before Dods twisting leg caught him on the calf pulling the Ayr man down for a stonewall penalty.
Although Ayr’s Devlin and Brechin’s Dods and Molloy had already been booked, this had been a hard but not unfair contest, but Brechin’s keeper Graeme Smith’s reaction acted as a precursor of what was to come. Smith chased after the referee and manhandled Ayr’s Docherty who responded by winding up the keeper who continued to threaten the midfielder as the Ayr man moved away. Smith received a deserved booking but worse was to follow.
Ayr freshened up their team with Donald replacing the tiring Forrest, and Caldwell for debutant striker Moore. This gave Ayr added impetus and both substitutes came close. The best of these chances was in the 81st min when Caldwell held the ball up well before releasing Donald on the left. Donald darted into the box and smashed in a powerful drive which was blocked on the line and cleared.
Brechin attempted to turn up the heat and moved forward with purpose but created few clear chances in the last 10 minutes. Then, with the clock ticking away they almost snatched an equaliser. From just inside the United half Jackson lifted the ball over the top of the Ayr defence and into space on the right-hand side of the penalty area. Again it was Thomson who chased the ball but this time McLauchlan managed to get a foot to it but it did not go out of play. Fleming raced out to attempt reach the ball first but Thomson turned his back to him only allowing Fleming the merest of touches on the ball with his hand. Thomson had got the better the keeper and flicked the ball to the edge of the penalty area where his strike partner Jackson was in space and with an empty net wide open. For no apparent reason he failed to control the ball and was forced left allowing Murphy to clear but catching the United defender and the ankle for a freekick.
With 90mins on the clock things turned nasty as Brechin keeper Smith made his way into the United penalty box for a last minute corner. Failing to reach the ball he ran after it before fouling Devlin then reacted as Murphy tackled him just as the referee’s whistle blew. Right in front of the official Smith elbowed Murphy straight in the face and was instantly sent off but the enraged keeper remained long enough to lash out at other players. After all had quietened down Tiffoney also went into the book.
For the remaining added time United seemed comfortable and on 94 ½ minutes the final whistle blew giving Ayr their first three points of the season.
Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Docherty, McLauchlan, Murphy, Forrest, Crawford, Moore, Trouten, Gilmour Substitutes Caldwell, Donald, Nisbet, McCracken, Muir, Adams, Newman (GK)
Smith, Montgomery, Tiffoney, McCormack, Dods, Fusco, Johnston, Molloy, Jackson, Thomson, Smith Substitutes Dale, Buchan, Trialist, O’Neil (GK)
Referee: Barry Cook
Match Report: AUmedia