Ayr United 1 v 0 Ross County
United advanced to the next round of the William Hill Scottish Cup after beating Premiership Ross County 1-0 on Saturday. Steven Bell’s header home from a corner in the first half was enough to guarantee the Honest Men the win at Somerset Park and a place in the round of the last 16.
Ross County took the initiative in the early stages of the game and broke forward into the Ayr box on multiple occasions, but the United defence stood firm and dealt well with the attacks thrown at them.
County looked dangerous every time they got on the break and created the first major chance on 18 mins. Harry Paton lifted the ball over the defence to set up Lee Erwin who only had Ross Doohan left to beat from 10 yards, but the keeper came off his line to block the effort and keep the scoreline at 0-0.
4 mins later, Ayr came close to open the scoring when Steven Bell took a free kick in his own half and sent it into the County box. The ball was met by Michael Moffat who nodded back for Stephen Kelly whose half-volley from 20 yards went inches past the right post.
The game started to open up and while Paton and Erwin continued to cause trouble, chances now came evenly for both sides as United began to show much more attacking intent. At times, Ayr outplayed their opponents and new loan signing from Ipswich Town, Aaron Drinan, proved to be a handful for the Highlanders up front.
The Honest Men’s efforts paid off when they broke the deadlock on 37 mins. Stephen Kelly delivered a corner from the right and Bell broke away from his marker to head the ball past County keeper Nathan Baxter and make it 1-0 United.
The visitors immediately upped the tempo and came close to an equaliser on 40 mins. Sean Kelly crossed a curling ball from the left wing into the path of Erwin, but he yet again saw his attempt from the edge of the box denied by Doohan and Ayr stayed in front at the break.
County’s first attempt of the second half came after 3 mins when Josh Mullin connected with a Blair Spittal pass, but he failed to get enough power and accuracy on his half-volley
which did not trouble Doohan.
The Staggies dominated possession but lacked penetration or urgency and were outfought by Ayr. Confident and hardworking United remained focussed and determined and almost added another goal through Drinan, but the big striker mishit his shot after striding into the box after latching onto a pass from Aaron Muirhead.
Trying to get back into the game, County switched things around on 57 mins, introducing attackers Billy McKay and Brian Graham for Paton and Spittal. United responded immediately and strengthened their defence by swapping Michael Moffat for defender Sam Roscoe.
Ayr sat deep to protect their lead and made finding a way through difficult for their Premiership visitors. County’s best chance to draw level came 5 mins before full time when
Erwin was put into the box by McKay only to lift his effort over the bar from 10 yards.
United saw the game out in relative comfort and secured a 1-0 victory that grants them a place in the last 16.
Next Saturday, Ayr are back in league action as they welcome Inverness Caledonian Thistle to Somerset Park.
Doohan, Muirhead, Harvie, Kerr, Moffat, Forrest, Houston, Bell, Drinan, Docherty, Kelly
Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Roscoe, Doolan, McCowan, McGuffie, Hewitt, McKenzie
Baxter, Kelly, Fontaine, Erwin, Vigurs, Mullin, Foster, Spittal, Tillson, Paton, Donaldson
Substitutes: Laidlaw (GK), McKay, Watson, Spence, Henderson, Graham, Chalmers
Referee: Andrew Dallas