Dunfermline Athletic 0 v 0 Ayr United
Ayr slipped to 2nd place in the Championship after the disappointing draw at East End Park. In a game where neither side created many chances, United carved out the two best opportunities, with Moffat being prevented from putting Ayr ahead by a save from keeper Bell, and, with less than 1 min to go, Lawrence Shankland failed to turn the ball home from a few yards out with the goal beckoning.
The opening 20 mins saw great hustle and bustle from both teams but with little created. A snapshot from the edge of the box from Dunfermline’s Higginbotham which rose comfortably over the bar and a strike from Ayr’s Murdoch, from a similar position, that was deflected wide, the best that either side could manage.
On 19 mins Dunfermline fans were screaming for a penalty. As Dunfermline broke forwards at pace after a period of sustained pressure from Ayr, Michael Rose brought down Keena giving freekick specialist Higginbotham the chance to deliver into the box from some 30 yards out. The looping and curling ball into the box evaded the United defence but Danny Devine seemed to overrun the flight of the ball and over-stretch, then head the ball away, before falling to the ground. He immediately claimed that he had been fouled as he went for the ball, but referee Steven McLean waved play on.
On 29 mins, United could and should have gone ahead, Shankland putting Moffat clear into the box with only keeper Robinson to beat, but the stopper pulled out a great save, the ball rebounding off Moffat towards goal, but in stepped defender Ashcroft to clear off the line.
Throughout the first half, Dunfermline struggled in the final third with a few efforts blocked or easily saved. Higginbotham’s curling free kicks and crosses into the box created the most consternation for United’s backline but no Dunfermline player could time his run, head, or in Aidan Keena’s case, take the simple option to tap in rather than trying a fancy flick. For Ayr, McDaid’s runs on the left were continually causing right-back Craigen difficultly but with close and determined defending by the Dunfermline back line, United were restricted in their efforts.
Early in the second half, Dunfermline came at Ayr with determination but try as they might they lacked the quality to unlock Ayr’s rear-guard, and a series of poor choices saw their efforts fizzle out.
Ayr weren’t letting Dunfermline push them aside and on 50 mins went close. Dunfermline struggled to clear a Harvie long throw into the box and Murdoch nodded on to Moffat, but the striker’s header was well saved by keeper Robinson.
Dunfermline’s closest efforts came from only two attempts, a powerful drive by Thomson from just outside the box which was saved with nonchalant ease by Doohan, and a block by the United keeper at his near post as Keena tried to hit home.
On 81 mins Dunfermline fans were baying for a red card after a crunching tackle where Craigen and Ayr substitute Moore gave no quarter, both lunging in as the ball broke loose off Moore’s shin. With Craigen still lying on the deck, referee McLean decided Moore’s challenge was worthy of a yellow card.
Although not at their best, United were always a threat going forward and there was a feeling that they might just grab the winner. And grab the winner they should have. If Moffat’s first-half chance should have been a certainty, on 89 mins Ayr contrived to miss a ‘bet your house on it’ opportunity.
Craig McGuffie forced his way into the box from the right, his cut-back was dummied by Moore to Shankland who seemed to snatch at the ball and dragged it wide of the post with an empty goal beckoning. Classic heads on hands moment, and with that, the game was over.
So close to three points, but United had to be satisfied with one. Next up for Ayr, a tricky encounter with Queen of the South in Dumfries on Saturday.
Robinson, Beadling, Longridge, Ashcroft, Devine, Craigen, Vincent, Higginbotham, El Bakhtaoui, Kenna, Thomson Substitutes: Gill (GK), L. Martin, McCann, Durnan, Hippolyte, M. Martin, Muirhead
Doohan, Smith, Bell, Rose, Harvie, Geggan, Murdoch, Crawford, McDaid, Moffat, Shankland Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Higgins, Moore, McGuffie, Ferguson, Docherty, McCowan
Referee: Steven McLean