Partick Thistle 2 v 3 Ayr United
On Saturday, United recorded back-to-back Championship victories when they came from behind to beat nine man Partick Thistle 2-3 at Firhill. First-half goals from Thistle’s Stuart Bannigan and Shea Gordon, with one from United’s Luke McCowan, gave the home team a 2-1 advantage at half time but, with both Thistle goal scorers being sent off, the Honest Men had the edge and goals from Kris Doolan (on his return to Firhill after leaving at the end of last season) and Stephen Kelly sealed the win for United.
Ayr were forced into an early substitution when Andy Murdoch went down with a knee injury only 2 mins into the game and was replaced by Mark Kerr.
United coped well with the change and looked like they had taken the lead on 10 mins. Stephen Kelly intercepted a pass in midfield and flicked it out to Luke McCowan on the right-wing. McCowan controlled it and curled a ball into the box and across the goal towards the left post where Alan Forrest raced in to chip it into the back of the net but it was flagged offside and the score remained 0-0.
Only 4 mins later, the hosts opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Cammy Palmer picked up a mishit clearance from Ross Doohan and flicked it on to Thistle debutant Dario Zanatta.
The striker raced into the box and got in front of Mark Kerr who had tried to match his run. Zanatta hit the deck and referee Dallas pointed the spot despite protestations that there had been no contact. Stuart Bannigan stepped up to take the spot-kick and slotted the ball past Doohan into the bottom left-hand corner to give the home side the lead.
Although Ayr seemed to struggle under the Jags’ attacking force, the visitors found a way back into the game on 23 mins. A long ball up the park from Daniel Harvie was initially met by Ben Hall at the edge of the box, but, under pressure from Forrest, he failed to control it and his sloppy header was picked up by McCowan who clipped it over the outrushing keeper Jamie Sneddon and into the net and the game was level again.
Despite the equaliser, the home side remained the stronger, more threatening force on the park and retook the advantage in the 43rd min. Shea Gordon won the ball in midfield and passed it on to Zanatta who broke through from his own half, beating four Ayr players on his way into the penalty area, before passing to Alex Jones. Jones returned the ball to Zanatta then fed it to Shea Gordon who hit home from seven yards.
The joy was short-lived though when Gordon saw a straight red for a nasty challenge on McCowan only 1 min later and Thistle were down to ten men at half time.
It was a balanced start to the second half with both teams showing intent and Thistle carrying the one man disadvantage well.
A substitution on 60 mins that saw Michael Moffat come on for Andy Geggan lifted Ayr’s performance and, for the first time in the game, the visitors started to dominate, creating successive good chances and pressing for a goal.
United’s newly found confidence got another boost on 64 mins when Bannigan was sent off for a high challenge on Stephen Kelly taking the hosts down to 9 men.
It seemed to be a question of when not if United would score and the equaliser eventually came in the 71st min. McCowan sent a high cross into the penalty area from the right-wing which was initially headered away by Ryan Williamson. The clearance fell to Steven Bell 25 yards out. He fired a shot at the goal which hit the left post, and the rebound was picked up by Kris Doolan who hit the ball straight into the back of the net. Thistle had suffered the curse of the return of a former favourite.
Ayr kept the pressure up high and took the lead 6 mins later. Moffat picked up the ball some 30 yards out and stroked it to Bell who then sent wide to Forrest on the right edge of the penalty area. The winger controlled then played a short pass to Kelly who, from18 yards, lifted a spectacular shot into the top right-hand corner, giving keeper Sneddon no chance.
Partick Thistle never gave up and continued to look threatening when they got on the break but United were now in full control and played down the minutes to secure the maximum 3 points.
This result sees Ayr move up to second in the league table, three points behind Dundee United and two ahead of Inverness in third.
Next up, United take on AFC Wrexham in the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup at Racecourse Ground next Saturday.
Sneddon, Williamson, Hall, McGinty, Bannigan, Miller, Jones, Gordon, Robson, Palmer, Zanatta Substitutes: Fox (GK), O’Ware, Cardle, Mansell, De Vita, Niang, Saunders
Doohan, Harvie, Geggan, Doolan, Forrest, McCowan, Bell, Adams, Murdoch, Docherty, Kelly Substitutes: Hare-Reid (GK), Muirhead, Kerr, Roscoe, Moffat, McGuffie, Houston
Referee: Andrew Dallas