Ayr United 2 v 2 Stirling Albion
Ayr United kick-started the post Mark Roberts era with a league fixture at Somerset against fellow struggler’s Stirling Albion. Ayr were attempting to win their first game at home since August 23rd, the same date Stirling recorded their only league win of the season away to Stenhousemuir.
Care-taker manager Andy Millen was looking for a debut win as his opposite number, Stuart McLaren, sought his first victory with Stirling since being appointed manager in November.
The game kicked off with Ayr seemingly determined to end their run of poor form but Stirling didn’t appear to be in the mood to allow Ayr to have it all their own way. United took the game to Stirling in the opening stages forcing a couple of corners with early pressure. Peter Murphy might have done better in 15mins when he out jumped the Stirling defence from another corner but his weak header was comfortably saved by Stirling keeper Reidford.
Stirling then burst into life after this early pressure and went straight up the park with a neat counter attacking move. The Ayr defence was stretched to the limit as Stirling carved open a great opportunity for experienced striker Gordon Smith but from 15 yards with the whole Ayr goal in front of him he inexplicably pulled his shot wide allowing Ayr to scramble the ball to safety.
Ayr tried to reassert themselves after this scare and a neat turn and shot from the edge of the box by Ryan Donnelly forced Reidford into a good save.
As the game approached the half hour mark the momentum started to swing in Stirling’s favour. The pace of Sandy Cunningham and Phil Johnston, along with the movement of Steven Doris, was causing concern as they began to find space in the Ayr rear-guard. After a sustained spell of pressure from Stirling, Nicky Devlin was caught in possession by Johnston who immediately released a swinging cross into the box. Stirling’s Smith rose to meet the ball some 8 yards out, but with the goal at his mercy, he was unable to get enough power on his header and in the end David Hutton made a comfortable save.
Scott McLaughlin went close just before half time but Donnelly’s flick at the near post diverted Nicky Devlin’s cross from the right out of the reach of the midfielder as he slid in and the back post.
As the second half kicked off Craig Comrie was booked for a lunge on Ayr’s Nicky Devlin in a scrappy opening period.
Then out of nothing Ayr conjured up the move of the game. Some neat interplay in the midfield created space for Forrest to burst through the heart of the Stirling defence. The youngster seemed to steady himself preparing for a shot but as the Stirling keeper rushed out to narrow the angle, he neatly side stepped him before rounding the sprawling goalie and slotting the ball into the unguarded goals to give Ayr the lead.
Stirling almost equalised in 58 mins after a great run and shot by full back Lee Hamilton was well saved by Hutton.
However in the 65th minute Stirling did draw level. Sandy Cunningham drew a foul from Cummin’s, on the edge of Ayr’s box, and from the resultant free kick Steven Doris smashed a thunderous drive past the helpless Hutton.
Ayr went close to scoring again in the 73rd min when a tremendous drive from Forrest forced the Stirling keeper into making a good save just before Ayr replaced the injured Brian Gilmour with Craig Beattie.
The game opened up as legs tired and Ayr were caught out by another quick Stirling counter attack which managed to find Steven Doris in space down the left hand channel. He burst in to the Ayr box before neatly stroking a controlled shot past the despairing dive of the unsighted Hutton. With just 10mins to go Stirling had taken a 1 v 2 lead.
As the clock edged towards full time Ayr mounted a last gasp attack and launched a long ball in to the Stirling penalty area. Peter Murphy managed to get his head on the end of the cross and nodded the ball into the path of Craig Beattie who swept the ball past keeper Reidfield for a deserved equaliser, much to the relief of the Ayr support.
Attendance – 880
Hutton, Devlin, Crawford, Murphy, Cummings, Gilmour, Forrest, McLaughlin, Donnelly, McGovern, Donald. Subs: Newman, Beattie, Shirkie, Muir, McArthur, McGill
Reidford, Hamilton, Creaney, Beith, McGeachie, Smith, Johnston, Comrie, Doris, Smith, Cunningham. Subs: Robertson, Wedderburn, Weir, Fulton, Small, Al-Sayed, McClune
Report – AU Media