Ayr United 4 v 1 Arbroath
Somerset Park served up an enthralling Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie between the Honest Men and the Red Lichties. This match had everything, non-stop, end to end football played at pace, skills and goals aplenty, controversy, passion, then a manager storming onto the pitch and shortly after watching the rest of the match from the stand. This is what cup football is all about.
Fuelled on with the desire to make up for two home defeats against Arbroath in the league, the most recent only two weeks ago, United charged forward from the off with Alan Forrest chipping the ball into the box and finding Lawrence Shankland but his header was saved by former Ayr keeper David Hutton in the Arbroath goals.
Arbroath had arrived with the same philosophy, fast attacking football, and were soon to have their first attempt. With 4 mins on the clock United defender, Michael Rose failed to clear and allowed Arbroath striker Leighton McIntosh to smash a right-footed drive from the centre of the box which brought out a miraculous one-handed acrobatic save from keeper Jack Ruddy.
On 8 mins United took the lead. Craig Moore laid the ball off to Shankland who then turned and sprayed the ball left to the left where he found Declan McDaid at the edge of the penalty area. McDaid stepped inside, created some space for himself and curled a delicious ball into the net giving keeper Hutton no chance.
Arbroath pushed forward attempting to get back on level terms with keeper Ruddy showing his mettle with saves from McIntosh, Swankie, and Denholm in the 11th, 15th, and 24th mins respectively. United then took the upper hand with attempts from Shankland (twice), Craig Moore and David Ferguson bringing out saves from keeper Hutton.
Halftime saw Ayr maintaining their 1 goal advantage but with Arbroath snapping on their coat-tails no one would have dared predict the outcome, never mind the excitement and controversy of the second half.
The second half started off at the same frenetic pace as the first with Arbroath charging down the wings and attempting to get behind the Ayr defence sending in 4 crosses in a row and on 49 mins Swankie saw his shot smash of the base of the post and go clear.
The early onslaught faded and on 56 mins Forrest first had a shot blocked in the box and then, from a Ruddy kick out, Craig Moore was sent through on goal but his attempt from the edge of the box was also stopped.
One minute later, and United took a 2-goal lead. A Forrest corner from the left wasn’t fully cleared and fell at the feet of McDaid who, from the edge of the box, slipped the ball to Shankland on his right. The striker took one touch to settle and then lifted and curled a left footed shot from the right side of the box that settled itself in the top left-hand corner of the net. This was a strike of pure quality.
On 65 mins Arbroath went for broke with a triple substitution and a formation change that left four players in attacking positions and, by the end of the match, six up front. The Gayfield men had clearly stated their intent to adopt an all-out attack policy with the belief they could still get back into the game.
Next up came a moment of great controversy. A long ball from the Arbroath half found Lichties’ winger Danny Denholm free in the box and clear on goal. As he controlled the ball United defender, David Ferguson appeared to body hug him from behind and both players crashed to the ground but referee Mike Roncone inexplicably waved play on. Touch paper lit, Arbroath gaffer stormed onto the pitch to confront the whistler and was eventually sent to the stand after numerous requests.
Ayr almost took a 3-goal advantage when on 77 mins a poor clearance from Hutton landed with Shankland who cutely chipped the keeper, but the ball went just over.
Only one minute later, Arbroath struck and brought themselves right back into the game. Another long ball from the halfway line reached Gavin Swankie who couldn’t get the ball fully under control and Rose, Moffat, and Boyle failed to take their chances to clear allowing substitute Ryan McCord to charge in and poke the ball past Ruddy and into the net.
2 – 1 with 12 mins to go. Ayr fans held their breath remembering that only two weeks before Arbroath had come from behind to win at Somerset Park, but this was a completely a different day.
On 83 mins United restored their 2-goal lead. Moore set off down the right before finding McDaid just outside the penalty area. The winger made his way into the box, cut left, and then found Shankland who blasted the ball goalwards. Hutton saved well but couldn’t hold onto the ball letting McDaid pick up the scraps, go around the keeper and find the net.
Arbroath poured forward creating some good chances, but United weren’t going to let this one slip out of their hands. With 5 mins to go McDaid this time came to Ayr’s rescue, clearing the ball off the line as an Arbroath shot looked likely to go in at the back post. Then keeper Ruddy was called into action twice in the final minutes of normal time first denying McCord on 86 mins, blocking his close-in shot on and on 89 mins saving Swankie’s 20-yard drive at his top right-hand corner.
With 2 mins of added time on the clock, Ayr wrapped up the contest with a fourth counter. Shankland, looking suspiciously offside, found himself clear on the right then drew the ball across to strike partner Moore in the centre who blasted the ball home.
On Saturday it’s back to league duties for the Honest Men with a journey to the national stadium where the opponents will be Queens Park.
Ruddy, Boyle, Rose, Moffat, Moore, Forrest, McDaid, Ferguson, Adams, Shankland, Reid. Substitutes: Hart (GK), McGuffie, Faulds, Murphy, McCowan
Hutton, Little, Hamilton, O’Brien, Yule, Whatley, Linn, Martin, McIntosh, Swankie, Denholm. Substitutes: Gomes (GK), Hester, Gold, Kader, McCord, Skelly
Referee: Mike Roncone