Dunfermline Athletic 0 v 2 Ayr United
An away-day trip to Dunfermline has not been a very fruitful one over the last few years and with ‘The Pars’ top of the table and scoring for fun this was always going to be a tough one for United. Many fans made the trip East feeling that a draw would be an excellent result and show how far United had improved under Ian McCall’s stewardship. McCall and his squad had higher aspirations and a belief that they could do even better.
Ayr took the game to Dunfermline from the start and in the opening 10 minutes a shot from Alan Forrest and a header from Craig Moore had both ended up on the side netting with the Pars struggling to come to terms with United’s attacking threesome of Forrest, Moore and Jordan Preston.
Unlike their previous matches where the Pars imposed themselves early on with fast paced attacking football regularly leading to a goal, it took them some time to come into the match and in the opening stages the movement forward was relatively ineffective and easily dealt with by the United back four.
Just as Dunfermline started to up the pace it was United who again created an excellent chance. In 14 mins Ayr broke down a Dunfermline attack and moved forward at speed, Preston spreading the ball across the park to Gilmour who deftly laid the ball off to Boyle on the left but his tantalising cross was cleared as the United forwards attempted to capitalise.
There followed a short period of Dunfermline pressure with, first, prolific goal scorer Joe Cardle lining up a shot which, luckily for Ayr, was deflected into goalkeeper Greg Fleming’s hands. Second, Fleming pulled off the first of a number excellent saves when former United striker Michael Moffat went one-on-one with him in the box.
It was, however, Ayr who took the lead. In the 22min Forrest picked up the ball deep in the United half and pushed forward into Dunfermline territory before sliding the ball through to Moore whose audacious back heel return allowed Forrest to make his way into the penalty area. With a coolness belying his age he turned to his right and the usually dominant Ben Richards-Everton slid past him opening up a clear space for the youngster to confidently pick his spot and stroke the ball into the net.
In the 27th min there came an incident which was to set the tone for the rest of the match. Ayr players and fans had become continually frustrated by repeated jersey pulling and physical handling of players being ignored by referee Kevin Graham and this boiled over. Ayr attacked down the right and Forrest played the ball forward to Preston who held the ball up well and looked for Devlin who was making an overlapping run. Dunfermline’s Cardle failed to keep up with Devlin so deftly tugged his jersey before delicately flicking the Ayr skipper’s ankles sending him to the deck. The referee failed to act and Preston was forced to turn inside and the ball was lost. Dunfermline darted to the halfway line attempting to exploit the space left by Devlin. The aggrieved Devlin charged back towards the halfway line before diving in on a challenge on Dunfermline midfielder Josh Falkingham.
The Dunfermline faithful bayed for blood demanding a red card but referee Graham issued yellow.
Shortly afterwards Jamie Adams was booked for an unnecessary barge shortly after being involved in a collision with Dunfermline captain Callum Fordyce and was deservedly booked.
In 42 mins Dunfermline should have pulled level with Moffat racing through on goal before laying the ball off to Cardle in the penalty box leaving the diminutive wide-man with only the keeper to beat. Yet again Fleming in the United goal pulled off a wonderful save only to see the ball drop at the feet of Moffat who inexplicably failed to take advantage of the situation and the ball was cleared.
One minute later, there was a most unfortunate incident which resulted in Dunfermline’s captain Callum Fordyce being stretchered off with a suspected broken leg. Fordyce drove forward into the United half and was fairly slide tackled by Craig Moore who retrieved the ball but the Dunfermline man twisted and landed awkwardly as he fell, his lower leg bending sickeningly. Fordyce was replaced by recent signing from Queens Park Shaun Rooney.
The second half started at pace with the Pars determined to bring themselves level. Manager Allan Johnston continued to show his attacking philosophy with at times up to 7 men leading attacks into the final third but they were resisted by a strong and well organised United back four with the redoubtable Gerry McLauchlan and Peter Murphy in sterling form.
Dunfermline attempted to add an extra bite to the forward line by replacing Moffat with experienced striker Mickael Antoine-Curier who had signed earlier in the week but before he could have any effect United struck again.
In 59 mins Murphy delivered a long high curling ball into the penalty area which Dunfermline keeper Sean Murdoch looked odds-on to collect but fumbled under pressure from Moore. Reacting first the United forward dived and headed the ball towards the goals only for it to be nodded off the line. The ball then landed in front of Preston, some 8 yards out, who with great composure smashed a first-time drive into the net and Ayr were two up.
Dunfermline reacted immediately bringing on Ryan Wallace for the hard-working Michael Paton and again launched waves of attacks.
Ayr’s Moore then received a booking but with the pressure from fans and players alike and it felt almost inevitable that he would not be the last.
In 67 minutes came the save of the match when Greg Fleming reacted instinctively to Faissal El-Bakhtaoui’s powerful downward header from close range and knocked it off the line with a strong right hand.
In 69 mins Ross Caldwell replaced the impressive Moore who had put in a hard shift and possibly to protect the man from a further card. This appeared to be an astute move as yellow cards made regular appearances in the following minutes. First Ayr’s McLauchlan went into the book for a foul from behind on Ryan Wallace. He was followed shortly afterwards by Alan Trouten (a 78th min sub for Forrest) and Dunfermline’s Cardle after they had tussled on the ground following a challenge. Cardle may count himself lucky as he appeared to strike Trouten on the face with his forearm. Antoine-Curier found himself the final booking after an unnecessary push on Murphy off the ball was spotted by the officials.
Dunfermline continued to press forward in numbers but failed to create any definite chances or were denied by passionate defending by the United team. No matter how much Dunfermline tried they did not look as if they would score as the Ayr team resisted with confidence and determination.
When the final whistle blew the United team celebrated the breaking of the long held hoodoo at East End Park with the raucous travelling support.
Murdoch, Martin, Talbot, Fordyce, Richards-Everton, Geggan, Paton, Falkingham, Moffat, El-Bakhtaoui, Cardle Substitutes Potter, Byrne, Hopkirk, Wallace, Rooney, Mickael Antoine-Curier, Hutton (GK)
Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Docherty, McLauchlan, Murphy, Gilmour, Adams, Preston, Moore, Forrest Substitutes Graham, Caldwell, Crawford, Trouten, Donald, Muir, Newman (GK)
Referee: Kevin Graham