Ayr United 4 v 1 Dunfermline Athletic
United continued their excellent early season form with a comprehensive 4 – 1 victory against a Dunfermline side fancied by many to be in contention for promotion come the end of the season. Matches between the Honest Men and the Pars are always to be relished, but not in many years have United dominated to such an extent or found themselves three goals to the good.
Ayr got off to a flier and the Dunfermline backline looked unsure of themselves from the off. With 1 min on the clock, Smith, Kerr, and Forrest worked the ball from left to right, giving Geggan the chance to lift the ball into the box where Crawford ducked in, his header going narrowly wide due to a fortunate deflection off Craigen.
3 mins later, United took the lead. Andy Murdoch nipped in and stole the ball from Vincent in the centre circle then charged into the Pars’ half before lifting the ball over Ashcroft’s head to Moffat on the left. Moffat did well, turning back in the box, taking Ashcroft out of the play, and with his right foot lofted the ball across the area to Forrest who jumped in front of the flat-footed Devine and J. Longridge before powerfully heading into the net from 16 yards.
Dunfermline were struggling to get into the game and seemed uncomfortable with their 3-5-2 system and lacked the cohesion that that comfort would have given them. United, on the other hand, were well routined, with the midfield dominating and the speedy movement forward adding to the Pars’ nervousness at the back.
10 mins had passed before Dunfermline had their first attempt, Craigen clipping the ball high to the edge of the penalty box on the left where Jackson Longridge arrived but his header seemed uncontrolled and looped high and well wide of Doohan’s goal.
Ayr continued their dominance and Dunfermline gaffer, Alan Johnstone, felt it was becoming time to shuffle things about, and on 29 mins he replaced defender Daniel Devine with tricky forward Miles Hippolyte and altered his team’s formation to 4-4-2. Devine reacted badly to his substitution, kicking water bottles in anger and having heated words with assistant manager Sandy Clark.
Although Hippolyte added a more direct and physical approach to Dunfermline’s forward play, the balance of play stayed much the same as the Pars continued to struggle to get a foothold into the game.
On 36 mins Ayr doubled their lead. Andy Geggan intercepted a woefully casual out-ball from Durnan and slipped the ball forward to Moffat who twisted and turned some 30 yards out before he was assisted in laying the ball to his right and into the path of Forrest by the outstretched foot of Craigen. Forrest played a first-time pass to Shankland then continued his run. Shankland drew two defenders aside before back-heeling the ball into the space he had created at the edge of the box, and into the path of Forrest. Keeper Robinson dived at the flying winger’s feet attempting to block but Forrest had the strength to keep the ball and stay upright, before slotting the ball home. 2 – 0 United, but they hadn’t finished yet.
Just 2 mins later and it was 3 – 0 Ayr. Twice, under pressure, Dunfermline tried to work the ball clear from the edge of their penalty area but struggled to clear. As defender Durnan tried to get to a soft back pass from Craigen, the marauding Crawford raced and blocked, the ball spinning wide to Moffat on the right. Moffat raced into the box taking on Ashcroft who slipped and left the ball to the Ayr man who guided the ball across to Shankland who hit the back of the net from 7-yards.
Dunfermline looked shell-shocked and the halftime whistle, when it came, couldn’t have come quickly enough for them. In truth, the break suited the men from Fife who came out with much more intent in the second half, with their play showing much more fluency, but United still held the upper hand and seemed capable of scoring more.
On 50 mins, Hippolyte showed the Pars’ intent with a rasping drive just over from 30 yards, and 5 mins later they found the net.
This time it was Dunfermline who harried Ayr in midfield and United struggled to clear. Hippolyte found space and chipped into the box, Ryan rose to head to the back of the area where Jackson Longridge found himself in acres of space, and with time to turn the ball home. 3 – 1.
If this was a sign of a Dunfermline comeback, their team missed it, as United stepped up the pace and in a matter of 8 mins had accumulated 4 more chances with Forrest, Shankland (twice), and Moffat all going close.
Dunfermline struggled with the chances they created, Louis Longridge, the biggest culprit, darting into the box on the left before somehow mis-hitting his shot well wide from 5 yards. The Fifers found it difficult against a solid back four of Geggan, Adams, Rose, and Smith, with Doohan in impressive form, as Andy Ryan was to find out on 67 mins. Ryan did well to jink past Adams and into the area but Doohan came off his line and dived at striker’s feet clutching the ball to his chest with two hands.
United’s dominance was finally stamped on the game with 10 mins to go. Substitute Declan McDaid stole the ball from defender Durnan and turn inside only to be brought down truculently by the Dunfermline man, but referee Euan Anderson did well to wave play-on as the ball rolled to Shankland. The United frontman poked the ball past Ashcroft, ran around him and into the penalty area where he drew keeper Robinson to the right before passing to Moffat who tapped in. 4-1 United, game over, and delirium for the United support.
United now face a journey to Dumfries on Saturday to face Queen of the South.
Doohan, Geggan, Adams, Rose, Smith, Crawford, Kerr, Murdoch, Forrest, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Moore, McDaid, McGuffie, Ferguson, Bell, Docherty
Robinson, Craigen, J. Longridge, Devine, Durnan, Ashcroft, Williamson, Vincent, El Bakhtaoui, L. Longridge, Ryan Substitutes: Gill (GK), Todd, Higginbothan, Connolly, Thomson, Hippolyte, McCann
Referee: Euan Anderson