Prior to this match both sides were forced into making changes through injury and suspension but it was the home side Peterhead who coped better as they took control of the game from the first minute and rarely allowed Ayr to get a foothold in this tie.
Ayr’s defence looked nervous and unsure from the start and as early as the third minute the warning signs were evident as Rory McAllister found himself in acres of space after losing his marker 25 yards from goal. However he seemed surprise about how easily he was able to find space for himself and failed to show enough composure to gather in the pass and bear down on the Ayr goal.
United failed to heed the warnings and only 2 mins later Peterhead’s new signing Nicky Riley found more space down the right hand channel. A jinking run followed which saw him draw Ayr keeper Hutton to his near post before a clever cut back found McAllister but with the goal at his mercy he contrived to screw his shot wide of the left hand post from 15 yards, as Ayr breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Although the surface conditions were greasy this suited Peterhead’s slick passing as they moved the ball quickly around the immaculate surface. After 8 mins another neat move ended with a corner for Peterhead taken by the impressive Jamie Stevenson. His delivery caused more problems for the Ayr defence which only ended after Peterhead’s Scott Ross was unable to keep his shot down and blasted over from inside the box.
In the 13th minute there was a claim for a penalty as Peterhead alleged a push by Ayr’s McGovern from yet another corner but referee Alan Muir saw nothing untoward and ignored the hopeful pleas as The Blue Toons Ross Smith was left floundering on the Balmoor turf.
A few minutes later Peterhead went close again as Brian Gilfillan made a darting run to the front post and his outstretched foot flicked at Jamie Stevenson’s cross from the left which seemed to deflect off an Ayr defender before looping agonisingly over keeper Hutton, and fortunately the crossbar, to settle behind the Ayr goal for another corner.
In 19 mins Ayr won their first corner and could have gone ahead after Ryan Donnelly was left unmarked and all alone in the 6 yard box but his well timed downward header crossed the line the wrong side of the near post for a goal kick to Peterhead.
Peterhead immediately retaliated and a good run and shot by Reece Donaldson was well saved by David Hutton. Ayr again briefly threatened from another corner as Mikey Donald’s near post downward header clipped the outside of the post but this wasn’t enough to stem the tide of Peterhead attacks. McAllister should have scored for Peterhead in 31 mins after he broke through on the Ayr goal but Hutton saved Ayr’s blushes blocking McAllister’s low drive with an instinctive save with his foot.
As the first half drew to a close Graeme Sharp, playing his last game for The Blue Toon before heading to Greece due to work commitments, become more involved in the continuing Peterhead attacks. He pushed forward whenever the opportunity appeared on the right flank attempting to finish on a high. However the elusive opening goal failed to materialise and the half ended 0-0.
Peterhead started the second half with renewed vigour and made a tactical change in the 53rd min withdrawing Mark Millar and replacing him with former Ayr player Ryan McCann. This seemed to unsettle Ayr further and another opportunity fell to Rory McAllister in 54 mins when he was again released through on goal and with only Hutton standing between him and the opener he again managed to completely miss the target dragging his left foot shot wide of the goals from just 15 yards. He did however partially redeem himself for this miss when in the 56th min a combination of poor defending by Ayr and some good play by McAllister allowed him to set up Jamie Stevenson to rattle the ball into an unguarded net to make it 1-0 for Peterhead.
Ayr had barely come to terms with losing the opener when worse was to follow in the 62nd min as they allowed Ryan Strachan space and time in the box to fire home Peterhead’s second of the day from around 12 yards.
Peterhead were now giving Ayr a torrid time and Mark Roberts decided to replace Craig Beattie with Dale Shirkie in the 66th min and this was followed by the final throw of the dice in the 80th min as Ayr made a double substitution replacing Donnelly and Donald with youngsters McGill and Muir.
By this stage Peterhead were happy to allow Ayr to have the ball and were content to sit in and hit Ayr on the counter attack as the game ended with a comfortable 2-0 victory for Peterhead which could have been worse had it not been for some poor finishing by Peterhead’s McAllister.
At the end there was a nice touch for long serving defender Graeme Sharp in his final game for Peterhead when he was substituted with less than a minute to go to receive rapturous applause from the home support.
Attendance – 507
Hutton; Devlin; Donald; McLaughlin; McKinlay; Gilmour; Forrest; Beattie; Donnelly; McGovern; Slane
Newman; Shirkie; Crawford; Muir; McGill
Smith; Sharp; Donaldson; Smith; Ross; Strachan; Millar; Gilfillan; McAllister; Stevenson; Riley
Jarvie; Cox; McCann; Richardson; Rogers
Report by AUmedia