Ayr United 2 v 1 Falkirk
United got their Betfred Cup campaign back on track, beating Falkirk 2-1 to grab top spot in Group G. Goals from McCowan (Ayr) and McManus (Falkirk) had taken the sides to the break all even but a second-half goal from Andy Geggan decided the game while 10-man Falkirk were denied from the penalty spot by keeper Doohan.
After losing to Livingston earlier in the week, it was a must-win for the Honest Men to improve their chances of qualifying for the next round. The visitors from Falkirk dominated the early stages of the game with neat one-touch football and looked the most threatening of the two sides going forward.
Then, on 25 mins and against the run of play, United went ahead following a fast counterstrike. Murdoch played the ball forward to Moffat near the halfway line. Moffat then twisted and played the ball into the path of Luke McCowan who charged forward, outpacing the chasing Gomis before launching the ball past the advancing Cammy Bell and into the net from 8 yards.
The Bairns got close to equalising moments later with Ayr defending desperately and Muirhead blocking once on the line from Buchanan and then the follow up from McManus with the Falkirk players unsuccessfully claiming for handball and a penalty.
With United now taking the upper hand, and both Moffat and McCowan going close, it was Falkirk’s turn to score against the run of play. On 41 mins, ‘The Bairns’ broke quickly after a poor pass gave them possession. Charlie Telfer turned the ball into the path of McManus, whose shot looped over Doohan and into the net. 1 – 1 going into the break after what had been an entertaining first half.
The second half started with a bang and some controversy. On 47 mins, Falkirk central defender Mark Durnan took the ball from the halfway line and charged forward, slicing through the United midfield and letting fly from the edge of the box. Doohan failed to hold the shot and the ball spilled forward but he comfortably collected it. Although the ball was safe in the keeper’s hands Durnan ran on and bumped Doohan not once but twice. Doohan reacted, both players went head to head, the referee stepped in, consulted his assistant, booked Doohan and showed red to Durnan.
Despite the supposed advantage, United struggled to capitalise though going close on several occasions, the best coming on 52 mins when McCowan cut back to Stephen Kelly whose shot from 20 yards forced Falkirk keeper Cameron Bell into a terrific one-handed save to tip the ball over the bar.
Ayr finally regained the lead in the 75th min following outstanding play up front. Craig McGuffie cut in from the left, rotated past Telfer, nutmegged Tidser, then drew the ball back to McCowan who darted to the line before finding Geggan 6-yards out near the back post. Geggan skilfully directed the ball home. 2 – 1.
Rather than letting their heads go down, Falkirk immediately went back on the attack and just 3 mins later were awarded a penalty when Steven Bell was adjudged to have bundled Falkirk captain Buchanan to the ground. Ian McShane stepped up, struck the ball well but Doohan dived to his right and saved, much to the delight and relief of the home fans.
An exciting and frenetic final 10 mins saw both teams in attack mode but there were no further goals, leaving the Honest men with all three points, taking their total to six.
Next, Ayr face Stranraer at Somerset Park on Saturday in the last game of the group stage of the cup.
Doohan, Muirhead, Harvie, Kerr, Geggan, Moffat, Forrest, McCowan, Bell, Murdoch, Kelly Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Roscoe, Doolan, McGuffie, Ferguson, Ross, Docherty
Bell, Doyle, Dixon, Buchanan, Durnan, McShane, McManus, Tidser, Telfer, Connolly, Gomis Substitutes: Much (GK), Toshney, Johnstone, Leitch
Referee: Barry Cook