Ayr United 1 v 2 St. Johnstone
United are out of the Scottish Cup after falling to a 1-2 defeat against Premiership side St. Johnstone on Saturday at Somerset Park. Aaron Drinan put the Honest Men into the lead early on, but the Saints drew level shortly after through an Aaron Muirhead own goal before Muirhead got sent off and Ayr went down to ten men. Almost instantly Callum Hendry put the Saints ahead and this was enough to see the visitors progress to the quarter finals.
Ayr got off to a perfect start as they opened the scoring only 4 mins into the match. Alan Forrest and Grant Gillespie combined for the latter to slide a precision pass through to Aaron Drinan who found himself in open space and drove towards the goal. The striker was one-on-one with Alexander Clark and took his shot early to slot it past the Saints keeper and give his side the lead.
United dominated possession and held the upper hand, but St. Johnstone stayed calm and steadily worked their way back into the game.
The Saints’ organised approach paid off when they equalised on 18 mins. David Wotherspoon’s high, curling ball from the left wing was met by Callum Hendry for a header from close range which took a deflection off Aaron Muirhead as it went into the net.
Things went from bad to worse for Muirhead who entered the referee’s book 5 mins later for a rash challenge on Hendry and was dismissed on 26 mins after a straight red for a reckless tackle on Liam Craig.
St. Johnstone capitalised on Ayr having to regroup and struck immediately. The free kick resulting from the foul was played out to Drey Wright on the right wing for a cross into the path of Hendry who knocked a header home at the left post to give his side the advantage and United a mountain to climb.
At this point latest, the game turned in favour of the Premiership side. St. Johnstone played with full confidence and came close again through Callum Booth and David Wotherspoon before the half-time whistle, but neither converted his chance and it remained 1-2.
Only 2 mins into the second half, St. Johnstone seemed certain to add to their advantage as Hendry’s free kick from 20 yards looked goal-bound but was tipped over the bar at the top right-hand corner by Ross Doohan.
The weather conditions got worse with storm Ciara coming in and left both teams with a real challenge on the park.
St. Johnstone maintained their grip on the game and kept the Ayr defence busy as they pushed for a third goal and continued to create threatening chances.
United meanwhile struggled to get into the final third and looked unlikely to trouble for an equaliser.
Outstanding goalkeeping denied the visitors again on 77 mins when Wright sent a cross-field pass to Wotherspoon who cut in for an effort from 10 yards which looked destined to find the back of the net but was turned wide by a one-handed save from Doohan.
Ayr’s best chance of the second half came on 82 mins when an attempt from Jordan Houston was initially blocked by the Saints defence, but he collected the rebound and played it to Drinan on the right of the box, but the Striker mishit and fluffed his shot wide.
Substitute Isaiah Jones (a recent target for United) created a late chance for St. Johnstone on 87 mins when he got on the end of a long ball forward from Craig but went down in the box, under pressure but with minimum impact from Sam Roscoe, and Doohan collected the ball.
The visitors had to content themselves with the 1-2 but safely progress to the quarter finals while Ayr are out of the Scottish Cup.
Next Saturday, United are back in Championship action as they welcome Greenock Morton to Somerset Park.
Doohan, Muirhead, Harvie, Kerr, Forrest, McCowan, Houston, Bell, Drinan, Gillespie, Kelly
Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Roscoe, Moffat, Malley, Tiffoney, McKenzie, Smith
Clark, Ralston, Booth, Kerr, McCart, Wright, Wotherspoon, McCann, Craig, May, Hendry
Substitutes: Parish (GK), Gordon, Tanser, Kane, Butcher, Jones, Holt
Referee: Steven McLean