Ayr United 0 v 2 Stranraer
Ayr’s home support turned up at Somerset Park more in hope than expectation of a result as league leaders Stranraer first footed United in the opening league game of 2015.
United were hoping for their first win at home since August 23rd when they defeated Forfar 2-0. However injury to key personnel, lack of confidence and a change of manager has resulted in a horrendous run of form that has seen United plunge to second bottom of the division.
There was a surprise inclusion in Ayr’s back four as Craig Beattie stood in for the injured Peter Murphy in central defence. After last week’s poor display at Airdrie, there were further changes to the United formation with Sean McKenzie making his debut full start partnering Ryan Donnelly upfront as Ayr began the game with a 4-4-2 formation.
It was United however that survived an early scare as former United youngster Jackson Longridge went close after just 3mins. His late run from deep almost caught out the Ayr defence when he slid in at the back post. Fortunately for United he could only direct Sean Winter’s low cross wide of the back post.
Ayr were not without their own opportunities early on and in 13mins Sean McKenzie had a header that went just wide after good work on the right by Devlin.
There were early bookings for Ayr’s McKinlay and Stranraer’s Stirling when both players squared up to one another after becoming embroiled in a tussle in 20mins.
Stranraer carried more of a threat going forward as their pace caused Ayr’s defence problems but United were not letting Stranraer have it all their own way. A dogged display by Robbie Crawford in midfield saw him snapping at the heels of any Stranraer player with the ball which resulted in United having good spells of possession and forcing a number of corners.
By the half hour mark the game was beginning to open up slightly. Barry Russell took the opportunity of some space in midfield to wander forward from the left back position. He composed himself before letting go with a 30 yard screamer which whistled just past Ayr keeper Hutton’s right hand post.
2mins later it was former United striker Craig Malcom who showed his team mate how it should be done when he held up the ball and turned the Ayr defence then showed good composure to guide the ball past Hutton from 15 yards and put Stranraer one ahead.
There was yet another setback for Ayr just before half-time as Craig Beattie was replaced by young Josh McArthur following a groin injury, as United went in at the interval 0-1 down.
Ayr started the second half like a team on a mission, forcing Stranraer back in to their own penalty box and winning a number of corners in the early stages but again Stranraer always looked threatening in their forays forward.
In the 54thmin a last gasp challenge by Stranraer’s Rumsby denied Allan Forrest as his goal bound shot was deflected wide for another corner.
The game had really opened up on the hour mark as was being played more like a cup tie as both teams went toe to toe with each other.
Mikey Donald forced Starnraer’s goalkeeper Mitchell into a great one handed save in 64mins which preceded a penalty claim for Ayr in 68mins. Nicky Devlin forced his way to the penalty box seemingly getting the better of Longridge. The former United player slid in for the ball upending Devlin in the process. The Somerset Road end screamed penalty as Devlin crashed to the turf but the referee Newlands and his assistant waived play on, much to the dismay of the home fans.
United at this point seemed to be in the ascendency as they searched for the elusive equaliser. However with 73mins on the clock Ayr’s defence was posted missing. A deep free kick was floated to the far post where the unmarked Longworth had time to direct his header beyond David Hutton and in to the Ayr goal to make it 2-0 for Stranraer.
United didn’t give up in the last quarter and again forced a number of corners but just didn’t seem to have the ability to unlock the Stranraer defence that held on for a 2-0 win.
Although this was a much improved performance from the previous game against Airdrie it didn’t disguise the fact that Ayr have still a lot of work to do to get that elusive home win.
Hutton, Devlin, Crawford, McKinlay, McKenzie, Donald, Forrest, McLaughlin, Beattie, McGovern, Donnelly Subs Newman, McGill, Muir, McArthur, Shirkie
Mitchell, Pettigrew, Russell, Rumsby, McKeown, Aitken, Winter, Gallacher, Malcom, Stirling, Longridge Subs Tobin, Longworth, Gibson, Marenghi, Stoney, Forde, McCluskey
Match report: AUmedia