Ayr United 1 v 1 Queen of the South
On Saturday, Somerset Park saw the eagerly awaited encounter between the Honest Men and Queen of the South, United desperate to regain some pride after their 5 – 0 loss at Palmerston earlier this season, and the Doonhamers desperate to get back to winning ways after two defeats on the trot.
After the Falkirk match last week, manager Ian McCall had said that he didn’t expect Queen of the South to do try to be defensive against Ayr, but, even though the Doonhamers gaffer Gary Naysmith was to claim that his change from 4-1-4-1 in the previous two matches to 4-3-1-2 showed his attacking intent, manager McCall was proved wrong.
Queen of the South set out to frustrate United and to try and catch the home team on the break, while United dominated all areas of the game with a display of determined attacking football. At the final whistle, statistics showed that Ayr had 60% of possession, 16 shots (8 on target) compared with 5 (3 on target) for QoS, and 11 corners to the Doonhamer’s 3. Yet at 90mins the match ended in a 1 – 1 draw.
After a perfectly observed one-minute silence marking Remembrance and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, whilst also paying respect to former Ayr captain Johnny Graham and fan Craig Bryson who both passed away recently, the game got underway.
Ayr opened brightly and, before 60 seconds were on the clock, had their first chance. Defenders Fordyce and Semple both hesitated as Jacobs nodded the ball back to them some 25 yards out allowing Craig Moore to nip in and steal the ball, but his shot went wide.
On 7 mins QoS showed their ability to break at speed and cause United problems. QoS switched the ball from left to right near the halfway line, Doyle knocked forward to Jacobs who played the ball outside Daniel Harvey to Dobbie who had crossed behind him and into space. Dobby then curled a low ball into the 6-yard box towards Dykes, but he was thwarted by sliding tackle from Steven Bell that put the ball out for a corner.
Ayr responded immediately, Mark Kerr playing a delicious pinpoint left foot pass between central defenders Fordyce and Semple to Craig Moore who made his way into the box, but his shot was blocked by Semple who had recovered well.
Ayr were on top and constantly attacking with QoS defending the resolutely. On 20 mins, United were awarded a freekick 30 yards out. Lawrence Shankland attempted to curl the ball around the wall but the deftest of flicks took his shot wide.
1 min later, as he skipped and twisted towards the box, Robbie Crawford was upended by Doyle. Up stepped Shankland again, this time to hammer his freekick through the QoS wall. Keeper Martin managed to get down to block but the ball squirmed out of his hands and he only just managed to tap wide as Daniel Harvey raced in.
A 27th min corner from the right by Alan Forrest created a bizarre moment and a great lesson for footballers in general. The ball floated into the 6-yard box where United’s Michael Rose challenged with QoS’ Semple and the ball seemed to have been headed wide. With players on both sides turning their backs on the ball and raising their hands to claim either corner or goal kick, Forrest sprinted towards the line, kept the ball in play and smashed a powerful left-footed shot towards the front post where only an acrobatic dive from Martin prevented United from going one up.
Chance after chance fell to Ayr, going close 6 times in a 6 min spell from the 30th min onwards. Forrest and Shankland twice, Moore and Bell all denied by some frantic defending allied to some excellent goalkeeping from former Ayr stopper, Alan Martin.
Then, out of the blue, on 49 mins QoS almost snatched the lead. From a long Liam Smith throw-in, deep in his own half, Shankland was out jumped and the ball was further nodded on by Dykes and into the path of Dobbie. Dobbie sprinted into the box and fired a looping and curling left-footed shot across the face of the goal where it slammed off the post allowing Harvey to clear. If Ayr needed a reminder that the Doonhamers were dangerous on the break this was certainly it.
At halftime, it was hard to believe that United hadn’t hit the back of the net and the score remained 0 – 0. It was also hard to believe that the rain could get even heavier, but it did. Dark skies, heavy, incessant rain; winter football had truly arrived.
Again, it was Ayr who went for it early on. Just 2 mins in and Rose floated a free kick towards the edge of the penalty area where Bell nodded on to Shankland. Under pressure, Shankland controlled, flipped the ball into the air and then nodded to Moore whose shot hit off Doyle’s back and went wide.
It took QoS just one minute to respond. Ayr were hesitant and failed to clear a high ball into the box from the right allowing Dobbie to create space from himself on the left-hand side of the box and bring out a good near post save from Doohan.
The normal pattern of play resumed with Ayr pressing for a goal. In 55 mins good interplay between Shankland and Moore allowed Moore send in a low swerving drive towards goal which Martin got down to save but could not hold, sending the ball out for a corner.
Ayr continued to carve out chance after chance, and in a matter of seven minutes, Moore sent a shot just over the bar, Shankland’s pass just evaded Moore in front of goal, a Smith drive flew just wide of the post, Martin again saved well from Moore, and Rose headed inches wide.
Ayr finally got the goal their play deserved in the 74th minute when Forrest’s corner from the left was deftly headed in by Rose. This prompted a much-needed change in approach from QoS with their defensive stance altered to an attacking one and the game opened up.
5 mins later and it was all square. Ayr’s defence momentarily switched off allowing a long Harkins freekick to be headed back across goal to substitute Connor Murray who slammed home from 8 yards. Murray had been on the pitch for no more than 20 seconds, after replacing Norman, and his shot on goal was his first touch.
Both sides now pushed for a winner in an exciting final 10 mins but with no way through from either side. It finished 1 -1, a frustrating result for United but one which extends their lead at the top of the Championship to 4 points following second-place Ross County’s defeat to Dundee United.
Next up, Morton visit Ayr on Saturday.
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, Forrest, Murdoch, Kerr, Crawford, Moore, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Ferguson, Higgins, Docherty, McGuffie, McDaid, Moffat.
Queen of the South
Martin, Marshal, Fordyce, Doyle, Jacobs, Todd, Dobbie, Semple, Harkins, Norman, Dykes Substitutes: Leighfield (GK), Mercer, Stirling, Murray, Bell, Frizzell, Irving
Referee: John Beaton