Ayr United 1 v 0 Queen of the South
On Saturday, United bounced back from defeat two weeks ago against Dundee with a narrow 1-0 win over Queen of the South. A first half volley from Steven Kelly was enough for the Honest Men to take all three points at a sun-drenched Somerset Park.
The visitors had the stronger start to the game and created two good early chances. First, on 2 mins, Gary Oliver found Connor Murray free inside the box on the left, but his shot went past the right-hand post. 3 mins later,
Faissal El Bakhtaoui got on the end of a long ball up the park, neatly placed the ball round Daniel Harvie and into the box to the on-running Gary Oliver. Oliver struck the ball from 12 yards out but was denied by an outstanding full-stretch, right-handed save from Ross Doohan.
Queen of the South looked the more organised and threatening team, pushing forward at speed, and closing Ayr down whenever they got on the ball. This forced United to defend rather than attack in the opening stages of the match.
The Doonhamers kept pressing and their next major chance came on 21 mins when a tight-angled cross into the box from Scott Mercer was met by Stephen Dobbie at close range. Dobbie looked odds to put the visitors in front but, under pressure from Jamie Adams who came in to block, the veteran striker lifted the ball over the bar.
It took Ayr 25 mins to get their first attempt on goal. A short pass from Luke McCowan was picked up by Alan Forrest breaking down the left. His cross into the box from near the goal line was, however, easily collected by Queens’ keeper Robbie McCrorie and the scoreline remained even.
1 min later, United took the lead. Steven Kelly won the ball in midfield and played it forward to Forrest. His marker, Scott Mercer, slipped and Forrest made use of this to sprint clear on the left before lifting a high, curling ball into the box but Queens’ defender Lee Kilday rose first to make contact. The ball looped upwards before dropping towards the edge of the box from where Steven Kelly spectacularly volleyed home.
Ayr briefly picked up momentum and became more threatening going forward while Queens looked shell-shocked, having conceded against the run of play. It didn’t take the visitors long to settle back into their rhythm and they soon took the upper hand again.
Queen of the South should have equalised on 36 mins when El Bakhtaoui failed to take advantage of a guilt-edged opportunity. The striker dispossessed Steven Bell 25 yards on and raced in on into the defenceless penalty area but his attempt was once again brilliantly blocked and knocked away by keeper Ross Doohan.
Despite being a goal up, Ayr found themselves put on the spot with Queens dominating and looking the stronger side at the half time whistle.
The second half started with both teams showing intent and creating half-chances, but the hot (28.5°C in the shade of the stand) and muggy conditions soon took their toll with the game settling and the pace slowing down.
Ayr looked to have a good penalty claim turned down when Andy Murdoch appeared to be blatantly pushed in the back by center-half Darren Brownlie, but referee Kirkland waved appeals away.
Queen of the South broke the silence in the 71st min when, yet again, only outstanding goalkeeping kept them from levelling the game. Connor Murray controlled a pass 15 yards out on the left-wing and crossed the ball into the box where it was met by Daniel Pybus. His downward header from close range looked goal-bound, but Doohan threw himself to his left and turned the ball wide with his left hand.
The game reignited and Ayr were next to create a major chance with 77 mins on the clock. Kelly delivered a corner from the left which was initially cleared but picked up by Alan Forrest on the right.
The winger beat cut in along the edge of the penalty area from the right then hit a stinging drive from 16 yards out which was spectacularly saved at the top left-hand corner by McCrorie.
Ayr kept their concentration high and despite a desperate last-minute attempt from El Bakhtaoui, who sent a shot from 30 yards wide of the right post, United played down the remaining minutes and nursed their advantage home.
On Saturday, United are away to Partick Thistle at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.
Doohan, Harvie, Geggan, Moffat, Forrest, McCowan, Bell, Adams, Murdoch, Docherty, Kelly
Subs: Hare-Reid (GK), Muirhead, Kerr, Roscoe, McGuffie, Doolan, Ferguson
Queen of the South
McCrorie, Mercer, Holt, Brownlie, Kilday, Pybus, Murray, Dobbie, Oliver, El Bakhtaoui, Kidd
Subs: Burns (GK), Irving, Lyon, Luissint, McCarthy, Hamilton
Referee: Steven Kirkland