Ayr United 0 v 1 Falkirk
Ayr slipped to defeat against bottom of the league Falkirk at Somerset Park on Saturday. By losing, Ayr failed to gain points on league leaders Ross County who had lost to Morton the night before. A win would have put United top on goal difference, but it was Falkirk who claimed the three points and saw themselves moved off bottom spot.
Ayr were without marksman Lawrence Shankland who had suffered a training ground leg injury, and although the final tally of stats showed United with around 60% percent of the possession, they struggled to turn their dominance into goals. At the final whistle is was Zak Rudden’s 56 min goal from a United mistake that took all the points back to Falkirk.
Falkirk, with five January signings in their team, were well marshalled and stuck to their task of frustrating United, working hard to close down players and holding a mostly defensive posture.
At the outset, Ayr found difficulty in coming to terms with an uneven surface and Falkirk’s quick pressing approach stifled United’s usually composed passing game. It took Ayr 10 mins to create a chance with McDaid attempting a shot from the edge of the box, but his effort was, through a wall of Falkirk defenders, eventually blocked.
Rudden and McLean were causing problems for the Ayr defence with their determination and movement and on 14 mins it was McLean who had Falkirk’s first real chance. A long ball to the edge of the box was knocked back by Waddington to the unmarked McLean who attempted a volley, but it lacked power and was easily held by Doohan.
By the 20th min Ayr were starting to show signs that they were capable of breaching the Falkirk defensive wall. Moore beautifully cushioned a header to Moffat who lifted the ball over the head of McKenna and back to Moore who raced into the box. Forced wide, the striker smashed the ball goalward, but keeper Mitchell did well to block.
With 29 minutes on the clock Ayr almost contrived to gift Falkirk a goal. A loose pass from Kerr was intercepted, Murdoch miss-kicked, and eventually the ball was played through Rudden who ballooned over as a Bell slide tackle put him off his stride.
On 33 minutes Ayr thought they had taken the lead when a Michael Moffat shot beat keeper Mitchell to his left before hitting the post and rebounding to Moore. Moore turned the ball into the net only to see assistant referee Andy Taylor’s flag raised on the far side to correctly rule out the strike with the Ayr man being in an off-side position as Moffat hit his shot.
At halftime United had gained the upper hand in terms of possession but had failed to find a key to unlock the Falkirk back door.
The second half began as the first had ended with Ayr patiently maintaining the ball, attempting to probe the full width of the Falkirk defence, but finding little leeway. Andy Murdoch saw a shot go inches wide but hands up to the tenacious Falkirk defence, they were doing their job well. With Falkirk set so deep and Ayr comfortably in control, it surely could only be the action of some capricious god that would find the visitors a goal. With only 6 mins of the second 45 gone, up stepped that capricious god gifting Falkirk the opening goal from the least expected circumstances.
After some good play around the Ayr box, McLean drove in a shot from around 25 yards out, but it headed towards the usually assured Doohan. The keeper spilled the ball and there was Rudden to prod home. Jubilation from the traveling support and disbelief from the home fans.
A boost in confidence and energy for the Falkirk team and lots to do for United. Ayr continued to try and find a way through, but Falkirk stuck to their task even when, as time ran out, United moved Bell up front and pounded the Falkirk defence.
It just wasn’t going to be United’s day with the solid yellow wall of Falkirk players refusing to be undone, with attack after attack from United repelled.
The day was summed up when, deep into injury time, a Moffat shot from the edge of the box could only be parried by Mitchell and with the goal gaping Bell failed to turn the ball home from 3 yards. In the resultant rescue attempts, Docherty failed to make contact and the ball bounced off Moore’s knee with both players within the 6-yard box. All three had looked certain to score.
Next up, on Saturday United travel to Inverness.
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, McDaid, Murdoch, Kerr, Crawford, Moffat, Moore Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Higgins, McGuffie, Ferguson, Ecrepont, Docherty, McCowan
Mitchell, Kidd, McGhee, McLean, Robson, McShane, Rudden, McKee, Dixon, Waddinton, McKenna Substitutes: Fasan (GK), Muirhead, Harrison, Brough, O’Hara, Lavery, Irving
Referee: John Beaton
Attendance: 2,729 ffff