Ayr United 3 v 2 Falkirk
Sometimes the old saying ‘it’s a game of two halves’ describes a football match perfectly, and on Saturday it did. United were two goals down against a Falkirk team who seemed comfortable as they fought for a win to mark manager Ray McKinnon’s first league match in charge, but nothing should be taken for granted against this determined Ayr United team.
A dominant and thrilling second-half performance by the Honest Men turned the game around and blew away any Falkirk hopes that they could take something from the match. Goals from Shankland, Geggan, and an OG from keeper Fasan, wiped out first half counters from Rudden and Petravičius to seal a 3 – 2 victory for Ayr.
The first half was marked by some sloppy passing from United who showed an uncustomary nervousness at times against a Falkirk side that has been underperforming but looked to be well organised and displayed a gritty resolve to improve.
The early stages were ragged, to say the least with both teams hustling and bustling but neither managing to gain control, have sustained periods on the ball, or create any decent chances. A 15th min miss-hit drive which went wide from the edge of the box, by Falkirk’s Aaron Muirhead, was the only serious effort by either team.
Suddenly, Falkirk were in the lead, a goal which United brought upon themselves. Ross Doohan’s clearance from a Jamie Adams’ pass back didn’t rise off the ground and was intercepted by Rudden. Ayr rushed to get back and defend, but couldn’t clear, allowing Falkirk control of the ball just outside the penalty area. Finding space, Irving pushed forward towards the box before finding Petravičius on his right and the Lithuanian crossed hard and low towards the front post where Rudden nipped in to turn the ball home.
18 mins on the clock and it was Ayr United 0 v 1 Falkirk and it was to get worse.
On 25 mins, with Ayr pushing forward, Any Murdoch’s chipped pass went straight to Rudden at the halfway line. Ayr, again, had to race back from attacking positions while Falkirk worked the ball forward and to the left, Rudden to Irving and then to Petravičius at the edge of the penalty area. Petravičius entered the area turned inside Adams before blasting home from 12 yards. 0 – 2 Falkirk and Ayr had a mountain to climb.
Ayr tried to step up the pace while the Falkirk defence seemed to grow in confidence, stature, and determination, buoyed by their 2-goal lead. United had the vast majority of possession but struggled to break down a resolute Falkirk who limited Ayr to only one clear-cut change before the break.
On 39 mins, a long hanging cross from the left found Smith who passed to Crawford. Crawford slipped the ball back to Shankland at the edge of the box, but his first-time drive was palmed away by Fasan.
Asked, after the game, what he had said to the team at halftime, manager Ian McCall replied, ‘That’s a trade secret’, but whatever it was could make a fortune if bottled and sold, as United came out like a team possessed.
It took Ayr only 3 mins to grab one back. Pressurising Irving and Paton as they tried to work the ball out of defence, Shankland stepped in to steal the ball before darting to the edge of the box then powering a low drive under the outstretched hands of keeper Fasal and into the net. 1 – 2 and the volume of the Somerset Road end was turned up to 11.
It was all Ayr now, with attack after attack. Smith and Crawford on the left were torturing the Falkirk back line, Kerr and Murdoch pulling the strings in the middle, with both Geggan and Forrest providing ammunition for those in the middle.
A 5 mins later and Shankland went close again, meeting a cross in the centre of the box but his header ended wide to the right. Then on 57 mins, Ayr were within inches of drawing level. Ayr were encamped around the Falkirk penalty area, pushing and probing, moving from right to left and back again, as the besieged Bairns blocked and parried. Geggan lifted and curled a ball into the 6-yard box and as Crawford tried to turn and fire home Dallison slid in at the last moment to send the ball out for a corner.
There was now an air of expectation around the ground and on 66 mins it was all square at 2 – 2. A long throw into the box by Smith bounced and popped around before Moffat rose and headed to Geggan who rocketed the ball into the top of the next from 8-yards out. Cue mayhem behind the goals and rightful celebrations from Andy Geggan.
At 45 mins few fans would have predicted a draw never mind a win, but a win it was to be, with a third goal arriving 2 mins later.
Ayr gained a freekick near the corner on the left and Alan Forrest played the ball towards the front post. Somehow the ball managed to sneak through a ruck of player and toward the back post. Shankland got a foot in as Kidd challenged, the ball was directed back across towards the front post, smacked off the face of Hasan who was on his hands and knees, and into the net. 3 – 2 Ayr.
United wanted more and continued to push forward. On 72 mins Moffat was crudely bundled to the deck by Petravičius at the edge of the box and Shankland’s rasping drive went narrowly wide.
Falkirk, to their credit, tried hard to get back on level terms with a more direct approach, but United were strong at the back when needed and continued to create chances up to the final whistle, Liam Smith’s solo run and shot bringing out a good save from Fasan, being worthy of note.
A fine comeback and win from United who travel to Alloa next Saturday.
Doohan, Geggan, Adams, Rose, Smith, Forrest, Murdoch, Kerr, Crawford, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Moore, McDaid, McGuffie, Ferguson, Bell, Docherty
Fasan, Kidd, Muirhead, Dallison, Paton, Petravičius, Harrison, Brough, Rudden, McKee, Irving Substitutes: Mutch (GK), Sammut, Lewis, Froxylias, Robson, Mackin, Haber
Referee: Alan Newlands