Brechin City 2 V 1 Ayr United
The Honest Men took the long journey to the north east on Saturday with hopes that the newly installed management duo of Ian McCall and John Henry could deliver them a much needed win and end their recent run of poor form. The Ian McCall era started with two surprise changes to the starting eleven. New loan signing Morgan Neill and youth development player Craig McCracken, both just 18, were selected to partner each other at the heart of the Ayr defence as Craig Beattie and Sean McKenzie dropped to the bench. United also adopted a different formation with a 4-1-4-1 set up the preferred option as John Paul McGovern sat just in front of the defence with Ryan Donnelly employed as a lone striker.
As kick off approached a minor snow storm abated just as the ref blew to start the game and in chilly conditions with blue skies overhead the game started as Ayr entered a new period in the clubs history. However it was Brechin who started the better team in the opening stages as they quickly got in to their stride taking the game to Ayr from the off.
United took longer to settle and adapt to the new formation. Although they looked reasonably assured in defence and midfield they couldn’t get bodies forward quickly enough to support Donnelly who began to appear isolated up front.
Just as it seemed Ayr were going to weather the early pressure it was former Ayr target Bobby Barr that came back to haunt them. A neat piece of skill on the touchline saw him elude a United defender and get to the by-line. He drove a low cross from the left back across goal and as the Ayr defence were caught flat footed Brechin full-back Paul McLean stole in from the right to drill a first time shot past David Hutton from 16 yards. This goal was made even more special as it also coincided with his 200th appearance for Brechin City.
The pace of Barr was a constant worry for Ayr and in 25 minutes he should have made it 2-0 for Brechin. He latched on to a long clearance before outpacing the Ayr defence. It looked like he was certain to score but David Hutton had narrowed the angle sufficiently enough to enable him to block Barr’s shot when clean through on goal.
Barr again caused Ayr problems in 32mins when he set up a chance for Andy Jackson, who did well to turn in the box and get a shot off at the Ayr goal. Fortunately for Ayr the angle was too tight and the ball hit the outside of the upright and out for a goal kick.
There were further chances for Wighton and Trouten before Ayr managed to get their first shot on target in the 41st min after good work by Crawford but his effort was easily saved by Brechin’s Graeme Smith.
Into the second half and Ayr looked a lot livelier at the start as they looked to impose themselves on Brechin. But again it was Brechin and Paul Mclean who were more direct as he flashed a shot across goal from a tight angle on the left in the 54th min.
Ian McCall replaced Ryan Donnelly with the experienced Craig Beattie in 57 mins and his presence had an immediate impact as he set up an opening for Alan Forrest. However Graeme Smith was on hand to deny Forrest as he quickly closed the distance between himself and the young forward to save at his feet.
The second half was much more evenly matched but Brechin always carried more of a threat going forward. This threat was then superbly demonstrated in the 79th minute when Robert Thomson, who earlier replaced Wighton, broke through to execute a sublime chip from the edge of the box and put Brechin 2-0 up.
Ayr tried to rally and Brian Gilmour had a shot go wide in the 83rd minute. The tremendous travelling Ayr support who sung their hearts out all day were eventually rewarded for their endeavours when right on the stroke of full time Alan Forrest scored a well taken goal from the edge of the box.
Over the 90 minutes Brechin deserved their win as they carried more of a threat in front of goal but United can be pleased with the performance of the young central defensive pairing of Neill and McCracken. However Ian McCall can be in no doubt the size of task he has in front of him in order to rebuild this Ayr team and escape the relegation drop zone.
Hutton, Devlin, Donald, McGovern, McCracken, Neill, Forrest, McLaughlin, Donnelly, Crawford, McKinlay Subs
Gilmour, Beattie, McKenzie, McGill, Newman
Smith, McLean, Hamilton, McCormack, McLauchlan, Fusco, Touten, Molloy, Jackson, Wighton, Barr Subs; Thomson, Ferguson, McNeil, Cameron, Jackson, O’Neil
Referee: Mat Northcroft