Ayr United 4 Greenock Morton 2

By AU Media

Ayr United opened their 2019/20 Ladbrokes Championship season with a 4-2 victory over Greenock Morton at Somerset Park on Saturday. Goals from Moffat, McCowan and Forrest gave United a comfortable 3-0 lead, but Morton retaliated and clawed two back through Tumilty and Cadden before a late winner from McGuffie sealed the deal for the Honest Men.

It was a steady start to the game with both teams trying to find their footing with the home side first to get into their rhythm and, for the second week in a row, scoring early on.

Alan Forrest already having come close with a drive which was palmed wide by keeper Sam Ramsbottom, on 9 mins Ayr went ahead. Michael Moffat picked up a long pass from Daniel Harvie and chipped it on to Luke McCowan on the right wing. McCowan controlled it and slid a delightful pass through midfield back to Moffat, 18 yards out. The striker strode into the box, stepped over Henk van Schaik’s attempted tackle, and steered the ball past Ramsbottom and into the bottom right-hand corner.

United kept the upper hand and forced Ramsbottom to two great saves in succession. The first came on 11 mins, when Andy Murdoch released McCowan into the box, but the keeper saved from a tight angle. 2 mins later Stephen Kelly set up Alan Forrest for a low drive from 10 yards which was saved one-handedly at his front post by Ramsbottom.

Ayr looked strong but failed to convert their chances and allowed Morton to get back into the game, and while struggling to create clear cut chances, put some pressure on the United defence.

The whistle couldn’t have come at a better time for Ayr who had nursed their advantage into half time but seemed under threat from a Morton side that had found its groove after a shaky start.

Both sides took the break as a chance to refocus and went into the second half with all guns blazing. A fast-paced start saw both teams push forward while trying to deal with the increasingly wet and slippery conditions created by the torrential rainfall that saw fans sent scurrying from the uncovered terracing.

In 55 mins, United were first to seize an opportunity. Harvie delivered a throw-in from the left which was picked up by Forrest at the edge of the box.  His initial attempt from the edge of the area was blocked but picked up by Moffat who beat Ramsbottom and then sent the ball across the goal mouth to the unmarked McCowan who tapped in from extreme close range. 2 – 0 United.

Morton came close to responding on 60 mins when Aidan Nesbitt brought in a corner from the left. His curling high ball was met in the box by Brian McLean which looked goal-bound but was it was flicked away by Harvie. As Ayr struggled to clear, the ball fell back to Nesbitt on the left wing and his cross into the box was met by Robbie Muirhead at the right post, but his headed effort went just wide.

The visitors smelled blood but, yet again, it would be United who would find the back of the net, this time with an absolute screamer from Forrest.

McCowan stole the ball in midfield and sent a short pass to Stephen Kelly who slid it onwards to Forrest. The winger made short work of it at the edge of the penalty area and sent a stinging shot, that left Ramsbottom without a chance, straight into the top right-hand corner to give Ayr what looked like a comfortable and insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Morton didn’t give in though and the Ton got on the scoresheet on 73 mins when they capitalised on a keeper mistake. A high cross into the box from Nicky Cadden looked to be collected by Ross Doohan at the right post, but the ball slipped through his hands and, before anyone could clear, Reghan Tumilty raced in to smash the ball home.

Ayr went close, twice in the next 5 mins, with substitute McGuffie first playing in a fast-paced cross into the 6-yard box which was only millimetres away from connecting with Kelly. Then the wingman smashed in a drive from the edge of the penalty area only for the slightest of deflections to turn the ball past the post.

Morton then brought themselves back into the game with a bang. On 79 mins substitute Bob McHugh who, under pressure from Steven Bell, did well to flick it on to former Ayr man, Nicky Cadden. He outpaced Andy Geggan to continue his run on goal, then fired the ball under the legs of Doohan from 15 yards for Morton’s second goal of the match.

3 – 2; and signal an edge-of-the-seats nerve tingling final 10 mins where it looked equally likely for Morton to level or for Ayr to find a late winner. It turned out to be the latter, with an astonishing goal from Craig McGuffie in the 2nd min of added time settling the match.

Substitute Kris Doolan drove forwards and Ramsbottom came off his line to block the striker’s effort at the edge of the box. As the Morton defence switched off, McGuffie stayed alert and casually looped the ball over the heads of the keeper and defenders into the empty net from 25 yards out. It was 4-2 United and a win to open the league campaign was sealed for the Honest Men.