Ross County 2 v 0 Ayr United
On Tuesday night, Ayr United made the long trip north to Dingwall to face premiership outfit, Ross County. Both sides went into the game on the back of good results, United defeating Stranraer whilst Ross County had thumped Kilmarnock 4-0 on their recent travels. However, Ian McCall and Jim McIntyre decided to freshen things up for the League Cup tie – opting to make five change to their winning sides from the weekend. County were heavy favourites ahead of the game but McIntyre was under no illusions as to how tough this game would be for his side but he couldn’t have asked for a better start as his side raced into the lead after only two minutes.
Left back Jamie Reckford chipped the ball forward to Jackson Irvine who had space on the edge of the United penalty area. The midfielder cushioned the ball with his chest before paying the ball into the path of striker Liam Boyce and his shot deflected off of Paddy Boyle into the net.
It would have been easy for Ayr to lie down after that early blow but they responded well and looked lively as they tried to unlock the home sides defence. Alan Trouten delightfully played Devlin in behind full back Reckford, with only a lunging challenge preventing Michael Donald from poking home Devlin’s cross. Devlin was proving a threat for Ayr and yet again he was released down the right hand side this time after excellent play from Ross Caldwell but his cross was cleared by the solid Staggies’ defence.
The Honest Men were forced into a change after only 22 minutes as Trouten was replaced by Alan Forrest – the former suffering from a groin injury. The change did not disrupt Ayr’s play and they almost drew level through an unlikely source in Craig McCracken. Brian Gilmour delivered an excellent free kick to the back post where Jamie Adams used all his strength to win the header. His knockdown landed at the feet of centre back, McCracken who volleyed his effort wide of the post.
County then came back into the game as Michael Gardyne’s cross evaded everyone in the box for but was caught by Reckford on the opposite flank. He then chipped the ball back into the middle but striker Brian Graham nodded his header over the bar when he should have done better.
As the half time whistle sounded, United would be encouraged by their response to going a goal down – they were shading it in parts and playing some good football. Meanwhile, Ross County were showing their premiership qualities as they were quick on the break and very rarely allowed Ayr to cut through their defensive back line. Ian McCall replaced Caldwell with Preston at half time to try to give the Ayr front line an extra cutting edge.
Ayr had a great chance to draw level just a minute into the second half as lovely link up play down the left freed Paddy Boyle. The full back swung a cross into the box which was controlled by Brian Gilmour but his shot flashed across the face of goal, evading everyone.
Ross County then delivered a killer blow and stretched their lead. Scorer turned provider as Boyce battled for the ball in the midfield area before giving the ball to Gardyne. He then cut in onto his left foot and, as the Ayr defence backed, curled the ball past Fleming and into the far corner of the net – a terrific finish from the County man.
After more great play from Gardyne the Staggies almost went three up. The winger laid the ball on a plate for Graham but the Ayr defence just did enough and the front man headed his effort wide of the target. Raffaele De Vita was next to try as luck as he found space on the left hand side of the penalty area but Greg Fleming denied him with an brilliant stop.
Graham was then presented with a golden chance to kill the game off as he intercepted a poor back pass from Ross Docherty. It looked as if he had the simplest of tasks just to slot the ball home but somehow sent his effort wide of the mark.
On the hour mark, United should have pulled one back. Devlin was in behind the county defence once more. Clean through on goal and with just the keeper to beat, he blazed his effort high over the bar.
Fleming then produced the save of the match as he was equal to a superb curling drive from the aptly named, Tony Dingwall after 73 minutes.
The final chance of the match fell to the home side and Boyle had to be on his toes to clear Brian Graham’s effort off the line following a corner.
Full time and it finished Ross County 2 – 0 Ayr United. The fantastic band of 136 traveling supporters left the stadium heartened by another battling performance from United. Ayr had started to tire towards the latter stages of the match following three games in a congested 6 day period but had shown a style and appetite which could only hearten fans for future league matches
The schedule doesn’t get any easier on United as they welcome league leaders, Forfar to Somerset Park on Saturday before Stenhousemuir visit next Tuesday night. Ayr will be motivated by the realisation that if they win these two encounters they will go top of League One ahead of a tie against league favourites Dunfermline
Bachmann (GK), Boyd, Davies, Boyce, McShane, Gardyne, Reckford, De Vita, Irvine, Fraser, Graham Substitutes Fox (GK)), Dingwall, Holden, Robertson, Foster, Murdoch, Quinn
Fleming (GK), Devlin, Boyle, Docherty, McLauchlan, McCracken, Gilmour, Adams, Caldwell, Trouten, Donald Substitutes Newman (GK), Forrest, Crawford, Preston, Moore, Nisbet, Muir
Referee: Craig Charleston