Ayr United 0 v 0 Stranraer
(Ayr win 3 – 1 on penalties after extra time)
Ayr United clinched promotion to the Championship as they triumphed on penalties thanks to the heroics of keeper Greg Fleming. In what was a tense 120 minutes of football at Somerset it was The Honest Men who prevailed with Andy Graham hitting the winning spot-kick after 3 consecutive saves from Fleming.
Gaffer Ian McCall made 2 changes to the team from Wednesday as Stevenson and Gilmour came in for Moore and McCrorie.
The game started off at a frantic pace and after only 2 minutes Ayr had their first chance of the game. Gilmour whipped in a free-kick at the front post and Devlin got ahead of his marker at the front post but his header flashed just over the bar.
3 minutes later and the away side were handed their first chance of the game through Stirling. The tricky winger broke into the Ayr box and his strike was blocked by the Ayr defence who stood firm. Stirling then had another chance when his audacious strike from 25 yards had to be well saved by Fleming as the ball looked like it would creep into the top right corner.
9 minutes gone and it was Devlin again causing problems in the Stranraer box as he got onto another corner however his header flew over the bar. Preston was next to try his luck and his fizzing drive from the edge of the area was well saved by keeper Belford.
United almost gifted a goal to the away side when miscommunication between Fleming and Malcolm allowed the striker to sneak through on goal with the ball however Fleming did well to smother his shot from close range.
Both teams went into half-time on level terms as the tension heightened within Somerset; 0-0 on the day and 1-1 on aggregate.
Stranraer were quick to get going in the second half and after 54 minutes Stirling broke into the box and with plenty of time on the ball he could only smash his effort over the bar from 12 yards. 4 minutes later and it was McGuigan who almost opened the scoring but his header from a Pettigrew cross was well saved.
10 minutes from time and Ayr almost snatched the lead when they were handed a glorious chance. Preston pounced upon a mistake by the Stranraer defence and after steadying himself on the edge of the box he ballooned his shot well over the bar as Ayr headed into extra time with still all to play for.
It took until the second half of extra time before the next real opportunity was created and this time it was for visitors. Gibson swung in a corner from the right and substitute Longworth’s header flashed just wide of the far post. 3 minutes later and it was another Gibson delivery causing Ayr problems as Bell got on the end of it however his header across goal evaded everyone as it looked destined for the net.
5 minutes from time and Ayr had their last chance of the game as Boyle’s flick header looped over the bar.
120 minutes up and the play off final was to be decided on penalties towards the Railway End.
Cairney was first up for Stranraer and his fizzing strike was brilliantly saved by Fleming who guessed the right way and got a strong hand to the ball.
Preston was next up and he coolly slotted the ball home, 1-0 Ayr.
Longworth then stepped up and his poor penalty was saved by Fleming who again guessed the right way.
Trouten was next up for Ayr and he made no mistake from the spot slotting the ball into the net with ease, 2-0 Ayr.
Fleming then made it an incredible hat-trick of saves as he got a foot onto Barron’s penalty down the middle.
Docherty then stepped up to try and seal promotion for United however his penalty bounced back off the left hand post.
Gibson was left with the task of keeping Stranraer in the shoot-out and he made no mistake, firing into the bottom corner giving Fleming, although he again guessed the right way, no chance. 2-1 Ayr and one more successful penalty and they were promoted.
Next up was Graham who knew if he could convert he would send The Honest Men into the Championship next season. And that was an opportunity he wasn’t going to squander as he stroked the ball into the net. 3-1 Ayr and Somerset was sent into raptures.
After what has been a roller-coaster season for United, they now have got much to look forward to as they prepare for life in the Championship.
Fleming, Devlin, Adams, Murphy, Boyle, Gilmour, Docherty, Crawford, Donald, Stevenson, Preston. Substitutes Newman (GK), Trouten, McCrorie, Forrest, McLauchlan, Graham, Wardrope.
Belford, Pettigrew, Bell, Robertson, Dick, Gibson, Cairney, Thomson, Stirling, Malcolm, McGuigan. Substitutes Kemp (GK), Barron, McCloskey, Currie, Longworth, Turner, Rumsby.
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Match Report: AUmedia