Dunfermline Athletic 0 – 1 Ayr United
Ayr United ran out 0-1 winners against Dunfermline Athletic on Friday night, and with other results in the league going their way, finished the weekend in third spot on 46 points.
With the BBC cameras in attendance for this fixture and the home side looking to draw level with Ayr United if they could get the win, the stage was set for a fascinating encounter.
Ayr United kicked off the game and pressed hard, hardly letting Dunfermline get a touch of the ball for the first few minutes. Daniel Harvie was the first to try and get the ball in to a good position, but his cross was grabbed by the Pars keeper, Ryan Scully, and his long ball out was collected by Bruce Anderson but the striker was unable to control the ball and was frustrated to see the ball nestling safely in the arms of Ross Doohan in the visitors goal.
Ayr continued to pile on the pressure with Michael Moffat and Lawrence Shankland seemingly back on the form they showed at the beginning of the season with some neat passing and positional play beguiling the Pars defenders. Declan McDaid, back on the left wing, was also making his presence felt and his shot on the 15th minute pile driver shot from a Liam Smith cutback was blocked by Ryan Williamson and the danger averted as the ball went out for a throw in.
On 18 minutes, the Pars had their first real attempt at goal. Dunfermline managed to retain possession midway in to Ayr’s half and eventually the ball game to Louis Longridge just outside the centre circle. He attempted to get in to the box, but the Ayr defence held firm and only allowed the striker to take a shot from distance that went sailing harmlessly over the bar.
Moffat had an excellent chance in the 28th minute as Scully failed to get through a group of players to retrieve a crossed ball and it spun loose in to the path of Moffat, but his shot too was blasted over the bar and in to the McCathie stand from 15 yards out.
The breakthrough came three minutes later when Ayr found the back of the net. Daniel Harvie collected the ball just outside Ayr’s box and sent a scudding pass through to Moffat waiting in the centre circle. Looking as if he was going to pass the ball infield, he confused the Pars defenders and sent the ball out to McDaid wide on the wing. The winger sent a teasing cross in from the left, and with all the attention on Shankland running in to take the finish the Pars keeper failed to collect, and the ball ended up in the far side of the net. 0-1 to Ayr United, and if the Ayr drummer had been noisy before-hand, he found a few more decibels from the drum.
On 40 minutes, the Pars suffered a blow as Joe Thomson in possession fell to the ground while in possession with no player around him. It was to be seven minutes later that he left the field on a stretcher with sympathetic applause from both sets of fans to be replaced by James Craigen.
It had been a poor first 45 minutes for the home side with Ayr dominating the play, restricting the hosts to only the three attempts at goal and not troubling Doohan in goal at all.
Steve Crawford’s team talk and obviously injected some fire in to the Pars bellies as they started the second half with more urgency and panache, putting more pressure on the Ayr back line and starting to cause some problems. The game took on the feel of a cup match as play raged up and down the park with both teams desperate for the next goal, to either seal the game or set up a nail biting finish.
United were unlucky not to score in the 59th minute as Shankland nipped in between the Pars defence, but somehow Devine and Scully between them managed to keep the strikers shot out of the net.
A tactical substitution of Bakhtaoui for Higginbotham on 61 minutes nearly paid off, but the quest for glory simply ended up in the side netting and the Ayr fans breathed a sigh of relief as the lead remained intact.
If Ayr had dominated for most of the game, it was to be the Pars that took the reins for the last 15 minutes, pressing hard and getting in to the Ayr box on numerous occasions, but they were unable to break down a resolute Ayr defence and salvage anything from the game.
At the final whistle, Ross Doohan was able to celebrate his 21st birthday with his 19th clean sheet of the season and a well deserved three points for the Honest Men, a result that saw them leapfrog in to third place ahead of Caley Thistle and with a game in hand over the Highland side.
With seven games in the next four weeks, it’s going to be a tough task for the Ayrshire team, but this win will hopefully have set them up for a barnstorming finish to the season as they look to consolidate their position in the promotion playoff slots.
Doohan, Harvie, Kerr, Rose, Moffat, Crawford, McDaid, Bell, Shankland, Murdoch, Smith
Substitutes: Hare-Reid, Geggan, Forrest, Docherty, Cadden, Miller, Muirhead
Scully, Williamson, J Longridge, Ashcroft, Higginbotham, Beadling, L Longridge, Anderson, Devine, Thomson, Vincent.
Substitutes: Gill, Durnan, Bakhtaoui, Todd, McCann, Craigen, Blair
Referee: Gavin Duncan