Ayr United 3 v 0 Alloa Athletic
United returned to the top of the Championship table with a 3- 0 win over Alloa at a chilly Somerset Park on Tuesday night. Alloa set up to frustrate United with a defensive wall comprising of almost every player on the park, defence and midfield so close together as to be inseparable. This was effective in the first half although Ayr continually pressed and sought to find a way to goal. An early strike from Lawrence Shankland in the second half broke the Wasps’ resolve, and with Alan Forrest adding a second then Shankland claiming the third (his 50th goal for the Honest Men) the scoreline finally showed a true reflection of the match.
Ayr started with an attacking frame of mind and with only 2 mins gone caused panic for the Alloa rear-guard. Moffat flicked the ball forward towards Shankland who was only prevented from darting into the box by Alloa defender Sam Roscoe sliding in and knocking the ball wide where it was picked up by Forrest. As he was to do continuously throughout the match, the winger twisted, turned and tortured right back Scott Taggart before lifting the ball towards goal. Keeper Parry seemed to overstretch as he tried to prevent the ball from ending up in the back of the net, flapping the ball down into the 6-yard box where only a scrambled last-second clearance by Robertson prevented Michael Moffat from tapping home.
For the next 10 mins United were camped in and around the Alloa penalty box, a Geggan header going just over, Shankland doing well to control at the edge of the box, his shot eventually saved by Parry, and a Forrest effort also saved after Taggart managed to get a foot in to take power off the ball.
Alloa’s first attempt didn’t come until the 14th min, Flannigan finding Hastie who charged down the left wing and attempted a ball towards goal which Doohan saved easily.
On 23 mins Ayr went close. Alloa left-back Liam Dick misjudged the flight of Michael Rose’s pass to the wing, allowing Declan McDaid to chase onto the ball before flipping it into the 6-yard box where Shankland, with back to goal, cutely back flicked it towards goal. Keeper Parry bent down to pick the ball up, let it bounce out of his hands, then had to dive at full stretch to his right to touch it off the line. So close for United.
Just 3 mins later Ayr worked the ball down the right, McDaid finding Steven Bell who pushed forward before passing to Shankland some 20 yards out. Shankland composed himself before striking a powerful drive towards goal but Parry did well to get down to his left and save.
Next, it was Andy Geggan’s turn to try his luck, making a run to the edge of the 6-yard box to meet McDaid’s floated corner, his header blocked by Robertson on the line and turned past the post. McDaid changed the flight of the second corner, lifting it into the centre of the 6-yard box, causing all kinds of difficulties for the Alloa defence, Roscoe finally blasting clear as both Geggan and Shankland pressured to try and turn the ball home.
When the referee’s whistle blew for half-time it was hard to believe that the score was still all even with United creating chance after chance and dominating the attacking play.
The second half started with a bang. Hardly had the applause died down from congratulating the league winning Ayr United women’s team, who were presented to the Somerset Park crowd at halftime, before it was time to celebrate United’s opening goal. To be precise, 51.89 seconds after the start United were one up.
With United already managing two crosses into the box, one shot, and a corner, Geggan headed the ball towards goal from 10 yards but Parry did well to knock it wide at full stretch. Unfortunately for the keeper, it landed at the feet of Lawrence Shankland. The angle seemed too narrow, too difficult for lesser mortals, but Shankland pivoted and smashed the ball into the net.
2 mins later Shankland almost created a second. Flicking the ball between Robertson and Roscoe, the striker made his way into the box before bamboozling Graham, Robertson, Roscoe, and Dick, turning inside then quickly outside, before blasting a shot to the near post which Parry blocked.
With their game plan torn up, Alloa had to do something different and at last attempted to come out of their defensive shell, with the addition of Cawley for Shields adding more creativity and forward intent. The diminutive midfielder did much to make two chances for himself, the first a drive from 20 yards, the second, from close in under great pressure from Bell, but both went harmlessly wide.
United were still on the front foot with Moffat, Smith, Shankland, and McDaid all going close. Manager McCall decided to freshen things up, Crawford replacing Geggan, in midfield and Moore on for Moffat up front. Adams also joined the additions on 73 mins for McDaid.
Despite dominance, a one-goal lead is always precarious but there was a sense that the second was on its way. And come it did on 80 mins.
Ayr switched the ball from right to left across the face of the penalty area, Crawford’s short could only be parried away by Parry and Shankland was first to react, nipping in in front of Liam Dick to turn the ball towards goal. Parry dived acrobatically to first knock the ball away before ending up in the side netting. Shankland then flicked the ball to Forrest who prodded the ball over the line despite a valiant effort by Parry to extricate himself from the netting and punch the ball away. 2 – 0 to Ayr and, to be honest, it was game over for Alloa.
Ayr wanted more, and they deserved more to make this a result that reflected their dominance. As far as ‘icing on the cake’ moments go, United’s third was special as it marked Lawrence Shankland’s 50th for the club.
With 90 +1 mins on the clock, Crawford intercepted the ball deep within his own half then charged forward before playing the ball to Craig Moore on his left. Moore blasted in a shot from an angle on the left-hand side of the box which Parry could only flip sideways to where Shankland waited to place the ball into the empty net. Celebrations, 3 points, and back to the top of the Championship.
Next for United a trip up to Falkirk on Saturday.
Doohan, Smith, Rose, Bell, Harvie, Forrest, Geggan, Murdoch, McDaid, Moffat, Shankland
Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Crawford, Moore, McGuffie, Ferguson, Adams, Docherty
Parry, Taggart, Dick, Roscoe, Graham, Robertson, Flannigan, Burt, Hastie, Zanatta, Shields
Substitute: Henry (GK), Cawley, Spence, Trouten, Brown, Peggie, Hetherington
Referee: David Munro