Ayr United 3 v 0 Airdrieonians
Ayr United took their goal tally for the season to 102 against a difficult Airdrieonians side and it was that man, Andy Geggan, who started off the scoring with the winner against Kilmarnock back in July, who claimed the landmark 100th with a strike in the 50th min. Lawrence Shankland added two more goals to the tally to secure a 3-0 win to the home side.
With Robbie Crawford and Ross Docherty returning to the squad from long-term injuries, Ayr manager Ian McCall had an almost full squad to pick from. The Gaffer shuffled the pack,
Alan Forrest and Craig Moore recalled to the starting eleven with Michael Moffat and Craig McGuffie on the bench.
Both teams found the going tough early in the first half and failed to get a grip on the game. Attempts weren’t clear-cut, possession was constantly handed over and neither side were able to convert chances into goals. Airdrie held the upper hand in possession while United appeared uncharacteristically nervous in front of goal through-out the half, the monkey on their back hanging heavy as they tried to bag their century goal.
On 29 mins Airdrie gave Ayr a real scare. A long looping freekick from the left evaded the United defence, McGregor sneaked in between the centre-backs and from 5 yards out flicked the ball over the bar as he stretched.
Ayr saw their best chance of the half with 32 mins on the clock. Breaking from an Airdrie attack, Craig Moore made a great run down the left and crossed to Shankland inside the box. His shot was well saved by Diamonds’ keeper Ferguson, denying the home side the lead.
36 mins into the game and Ayr again failed to deal with a long freekick into the box and the ball fell to Tom Fry who attempted to lob keeper Ruddy but watched as the ball dropped onto the top of the netting.
A last-gasp attempt by Ayr to take the lead before the half time whistle saw Moore getting through the defence and going one-on-one with the keeper. As he went forwards he failed to get full control with the ball bobbling off the turf, and this allowed Ferguson to dive at the striker’s feet and save.
The teams went into half time 0-0 and whatever Manager McCall said it worked as Ayr came out a different entity and turned the first-half possession, heavily balanced towards Airdrie, on its head.
Ayr started the second half strongly and after just 5 mins, scored the opening goal of the game and the landmark 100th goal of the season for the Honest Men.
A McDaid corner was only half-cleared by Airdrie allowing Mark Kerr to slide the ball back to McDaid now some 18 yards out on the left. The winger then whipped in a cross to the front post which bounced off Dean Cairns’ back as he turned when Moore dived in to head. The ball arrived at Andy Geggans’ feet just 5 yards out and the midfielder smashed the ball home. Cue celebration and a collective sigh of relief from players and fans alike.
Both teams started to find their way into the game and showed a massively improved performance compared to the first half. With almost equal possession and both teams pressing forward, either side looked capable of grabbing the next goal.
United may have been in the lead but Airdrie were certainly not out of this game and immediately went on the attack. Diamonds’ captain Scott Stewart, played an inch perfect pass to Fry in space some 25 yards out and his swerving drive was saved at the second attempt by Ruddy.
Ayr responded with Moore clipping the ball just past the post from the edge of the box. This game had really come to life.
On 56 mins, Stewart created another chance for the Diamonds, barrelling down the wing, evading Paddy Boyle and cutting into the box before hitting the ball at pace towards the front post where he found Darryl Duffy who just failed to turn home.
In the 58th min, Ayr came close to doubling their lead. A poor clearance found Alan Forrest at the edge of the box, who sent a left-footed screamer towards goal but a superb acrobatic save by Ferguson turned the ball past the post.
Two minutes later, and it was United keeper’s turn to show off his skills. As Ayr failed to clear, the ball reached Fry in the box. The Airdrie man stepped inside and drove the ball between Steven Bell’s legs and somehow the unsighted Ruddy managed to get down and block with one hand. The danger wasn’t over and only quick reactions from Michael Rose allowed him to flick the ball away as Dale Carrick looked odds-on to score.
Airdrie increased the pressure when they sent in a freekick into the box in the 75th minute and forced Steven Bell to a great header to put the ball over the bar for a corner.
Then came an additional boost to United’s run-in chances, when on 72 mins United fans welcomed back Robbie Crawford for his first appearance since being injured at Alloa in November. He was later joined by club captain Ross Docherty to similar applause.
On 77 mins Ayr had two loud shouts for penalties. First, Andy Geggan appeared to have his jersey pulled and then was tripped as he moved towards the front post to meet a McDaid corner. With referee Alan Newlands waving away appeals, Ayr again put the ball into the box eventually reaching substitute Michael Moffat who swivelled at shot only to see Kieran MacDonald’s raised hand whipping ball away. No penalty said the whistler.
2 mins later and Ayr were awarded a spot kick, Jordan McGregor handling as he tried to stop Shankland going around him. The striker stepped up and made no mistake, slamming the ball straight down the middle to double the United’s side’s lead.
Only 180 seconds passed and it was 3 -0 to the Honest Men and number 2 for Shankland. Keeper Ferguson dashed to the edge of the box and only just got to the ball before Moffat. Ferguson couldn’t clutch the ball which bounced out to Shankland, who controlled, turned across the edge of the penalty area, leaving three in his wake and the keeper in no man’s land, before powering the home with a left foot strike.
And so finished an eventful day, 3 – 0 victors, that 100th goal achieved, and Raith’s lead in the league reduced to 4 points and United having a game in hand.
Ayr travel to Arbroath on Saturday hoping to close the gap further but the Red Lichties will provide a stern test to the Ayrshire men.
Ruddy, Boyle, Rose, Geggan, Moore, Forrest, McDaid, Adams, Shankland, Kerr, Bell Substitutes: Hart (GK), Moffat, Crawford, McGuffie, Ferguson, Docherty, Reid
Ferguson, O’Neil, MacDonald, McGregor, Brownlie, Cairns, Stewart, Brown, Duffy, Carrick, Fry Substitutes: Muir (GK), Higgins, Edwards, Brown, Hastie, McIntosh, Russell
Referee: Alan Newlands