Berwick Rangers 0 v 7 Ayr United
United travelled down to England to open their BetFred account with a thumping seven-goal victory against Berwick Rangers. Ayr fans made up the bulk of the 603 in attendance and basked in the sunshine as The Honest Men put on a display of dominant and attractive attacking football that left newly re-signed keeper Ross Doohan as much of a spectator as those on the terraces throughout the 90 mins. At the other end, if it wasn’t for a string of first-class saves from the Wee Gers’ on form keeper Sean Brennan, United would probably have hit double figures.
Manager Ian McCall was satisfied with the club’s first competitive outing of the season commenting ‘we had 4, 5 or 6 ballplayers on the pitch at one time, and some of the passing, movement and skills was just great to watch.’ Up front, Ayr were well served by Moffat and Doolan, each grabbing a couple, and the defence was solid and rarely troubled, but it was the attacking midfield that really caught the eye. McCowan and McGuffie filled the wide roles and tortured the full backs, while Kerr acted as midfield general, dictating and directing the forward movement. The powerhouse role was filled by debutant Stephen Kelly will who covered every blade of grass, tackling, marking, pressing, passing and making himself available to receive. ‘He made the game look very easy,’ stated McCall, ‘he was outstanding, as was Luke McCowan’.
United showed their intentions early on and on 6 mins came close when McGuffie struck a delicious curling shot from the edge of the box only to see keeper Brennan pull off a first-class save at the top corner and touch the ball wide. From the resultant corner, Doolan’s header was cleared off the line.
A determined Berwick did well to keep United out until the 20th min when Moffat struck. A precise one-two between Kerr and McGuffie allowed Kerr to break towards the Berwick Half. Kerr’s crossfield pass found McCowan who then found Doolan on his right. Doolan the slipped the ball behind the defenders and into the penalty area where Moffat stroked home. A superb goal with which to start the season.
6 mins later, Ayr went 2 up. A corner from the left was nodded by Muirhead to his right towards McCowan at the edge of the box. McCowan, without letting the looping delivery hit the deck, swung his foot through the ball and fired an unstoppable drive into the back of the net.
Ayr continued to press and on 34 mins, after some wonderful interplay through midfield, McGuffie on the left clipped the ball into the box where Doolan ducked down to direct the ball into the net with his head. Dools had opened his account for Ayr. 0 – 3.
60 seconds later and United had taken a 4-goal lead. Geggan refused to let defender Kevin Waugh settle on a ball passed to him in the penalty box. Geggan dispossessed him, drove to the line and cut back to Moffat who beat Brennan from close range.
Berwick were under the cosh and couldn’t afford to make any mistakes at the back, but on 41 mins that was exactly what they did. A slack pass forward from the edge of the box was intercepted by McGuffie, who made his way into the box before slamming the ball past Brennan at his near post. 0 -5.
The Halftime whistle couldn’t have come quickly enough for Berwick who made good use of their time and re-organised, making themselves a better defensive entity with the ability to attack on the break for the second half: but it was not to be enough.
Ayr grabbed their 6th goal in 69 mins. Kelly delightfully clipped the ball forward down the left wing into the path of Harvie who had rocketed forward. The left-back then picked out McCown who had moved into the box where from 7-yards out he steered the ball into the net.
The 7th and final goal didn’t come until the 85th min but was one which had fans bamboozled by a bizarre optical illusion. Substitute David Ferguson came forward at pace down the right-hand side and was found by McCowan. The full-back delivered an enticing low curving ball into the 6-yard box which Doolan slid in to meet. At that moment, some boys behind the goals kicked a ball high and away making it look for all intents and purposes that Dools had missed, but this was not the case. The ball had been stopped by Doolan, it had rolled under him, and as others just stood and watched he wriggled and knocked the ball forward and over the line.
The second half had also allowed Ayr to give some of the bench a chance to shine (Ferguson, Forrest, and Ross) and they didn’t disappoint. Frank Ross, on his first competitive appearance for Ayr, showed enough to suggest that Aberdeen are right to highly rate the midfielder.
Next up for Ayr, a journey to Livingston on Tuesday to meet Premiership opponents in the BetFred Cup.
Brennan, Lumsden, Cook, Waugh, Forster, E. Smith, A. Smith, Wright, Barr, Windram, Healy Substitutes: Fletcher (GK), Purves, Jack, Rose, Chalmers
Doohan, Geggan, Muirhead, Roscoe, Harvie, McCowan, Kerr, Kelly, McGuffie, Moffat, Doolan Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Forrest, Ferguson, Ross, Murdoch, McKenzie, Docherty
Referee: Scott Lambie