Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 v 0 Ayr United
An injury depleted Ayr United squad took the long road north to Inverness, hoping to get their first win in 5 games, but lost out to a 64 min goal by the hosts. However, with other results in the league helping them, they remain second in the league just three points behind leaders Ross County with a game in hand.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle were first out of the traps, with a Liam Polworth shot supplied by Jordan White whistling past the left-hand post of the Ayr United goal within 40 seconds of the kick-off. An early warning from the hosts that they were determined to get only their second home win of the season that Ayr would do well to heed. With a further two minutes on the clock, Ayr attempted their first attack of the game. Michael Rose intercepted a pass from the attacking Inverness and headed the ball to Moffat, who passed it through to Moore, who in turn passed it on to the advancing Geggan. Sliding the ball neatly past two Inverness defenders and into the path of the Moffat, the Ayr striker headed goalwards, but his shot was weak and was easily stopped by Ridgers.
On the 11th minute, Moffat was the supplier this time, sending a long cross-field pass from left to right which was collected by Moore, who sent the ball scudding in to the area where Moffat was by now waiting for the delivery, but the striker was unable to control the ball and it trundled out harmlessly for a goal kick. It was Inverness that came closest to opening the scoring though on 16 minutes. A cross from the right-hand side by Jamie Doran was blocked by Daniel Harvie, and it was Aaron Doran who was first to the loose ball, his driven shot rebounding off the post, with Ross Doohan stranded and unable to reach it. Inverness continued to press hard, with a low shot by Joe Chalmers from just outside the box also coming close, although Doohan appeared to have the shot covered as it slid past his left-hand post.
Play by now was fast and frenetic, but both teams struggled to retain possession of the ball, seemingly intent on passing to their opponents rather than team members and neither side possessing the clinical touch in front of goal to obtain the opening score. But both sides were to have one more attempt each before the first half ended. The first of these fell to Inverness on the 38th minute. The Ayr defenders failed to clear the ball from their box and despite the attentions of Declan McDaid, Jordan White managed to get a shot off that just slipped past the post. Turning from defence to attacker, McDaid then made a run down the left-hand side, having received the ball from Rose in the centre circle. His shot from just outside the box connected with the foot of Carl Tremarco to sail harmlessly over the bar for a corner kick. At half time with neither side having found a breakthrough.
From the start of the second half, ICT began to impose themselves more on the game, retaining possession better and making multiple attempts on the United goal. Although Ayr did have their chances with shots coming in from McDaid and Moore, the ball stayed resolutely outside the goal. A poor pass from Moffat on 51 minutes saw ICT break forward, eventually finding Jordan White free in space with only Michael Rose to beat. Roses’ sliding tackle was enough to put the ICT striker off though and the ball was collected by Doohan to snub out another attempt to open the scoring.
The deadlock was broken on the 64th minute and it was ICT who would be celebrating. A misplaced pass by Declan McDaid saw ICT get the ball in the centre circle. Aaron Doran took the ball out to the left and evading the attention of David Ferguson crossed the ball into the box from the goal line. Missing everyone though, the ball seemed destined to go out for a throw-in, but Sean Welsh was determined to keep the ball in play. He managed to get to the ball and whipped a cross in from the right-hand side and it was met full on the head by Jordan White to send it into the back of the Ayr United net. 1-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
With only the three outfield substitutes on the bench, options were limited for McCall in ringing the changes. Craig McGuffie came on in the 67th minute to replace Geggan, Higgins took the place of McDaid on 73 minutes and the final change saw McCowan come on for Moore 6 minutes later. Steven Bell pushed up into a more attacking role for the remainder of the game. But ICT were now determined to retain their lead and made it difficult for Ayr to break through their defence, falling back in numbers whenever Ayr pushed forward. In truth, ICT never really looked like they were going to concede a goal against an off-form Ayr United, and so it was as the game ended with a home win for Inverness and second 1-0 defeat on the bounce for Ayr United. However, results elsewhere, especially a 4-0 win for Queen of the South over Ross County, saw Ayr stay second in the table, with Dundee United third on goal difference. Ayr United do have a game in hand against both of their title rivals.
Speaking after the game, Ayr United manager Ian McCall conceded that the team had not performed as well as hoped, regardless of the number of injuries they were currently working with. Thoughts now turn to next weekend and the William Hill Cup game against Auchinleck Talbot.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle: Ridgers, Tremarco, Chalmers, Donaldson, McCart, Polworth, Doran, Walsh, Welsh, White, McHattie Subs: C Mackay, D Mackay, Trafford, McGregor, Nicolson, Brown, Harper
Ayr United: Doohan, Harvie, Rose, Geggan, Moffat, Crawford, Moore, McDaid, Ferguson, Bell, Docherty Subs: Hare-Reid, Higgins, McGuffie, McCowan.
Referee: William Collum