Stranraer 1 v 0 Ayr United
The conditions for the match where surprisingly good following the heavy rainfall during storm ‘Frank’ during the week. Despite the deluge the surface, although soft, was in good condition and with no visible water. However, Stranraer were riding a bit of a wave of their own creation following a 5-1 away victory to Stenhousemuir the previous week while Ayr were still muddling through with a makeshift midfield.
Both teams made a tentative opening to the match with neither able to take control. Stranraer, however, created the first real chance of the match in 7 mins as an in swinging freekick found Scott Robertson near the back post but his header flashed wide.
It took until the 17th min for the next opening and again it fell to Stranraer with a drive by Sam McCloskey blocked on the line by Ayr’s Captain Nicky Devlin.
On 20 mins Ayr created the first clear chance. A beautifully curled and flighted cross from a freekick by Ryan Stevenson found the head of in-rushing Gerry McLauchlan but his header lacked power and nestled securely in the hands of keeper David McGurn.
Stranraer were beginning to take control with Paul Cairney prompting and driving his team forward from the midfield. Ayr were starved of the ball and struggled to carve out any meaningful chances and were kept in the game by Greg Fleming in the United goals making a string of excellent saves from Malcolm, McCloskey and McGuigan. The best of these came in the 22nd min.
Stranraer moved the ball from right to left with an excellent cross-field pass from Craig Pettigrew finding McCloskey on the touchline. McCloskey played the ball inside to Cairney who prodded the ball forward to Craig Malcolm on the edge. With his back to the Ayr goal Malcolm held the ball up before again finding Cairney who played a delicious pass behind the Ayr backline and into the path of Mark McGuigan who saw his short blocked and flipped over the bar by Fleming.
In 33 mins United did manage to carve out a chance. Muir launched a long ball forward down the left and Preston held it up before slipping it to Crawford who darted into the box and to the by-line. Crawford then played the ball back to Preston in the centre of the box but his goalward drive was blocked by the out rushing Liam Dick.
In the second half Stranraer continued to have more of the ball and substitute Alan Trouten even found himself forced into deeper positions to defend but it was from this that Ayr gained the best opportunity of the match. On 54mins Trouten tackled and won the ball in the United penalty area and dribbled to his own corner flag before launching the ball up field. As Jordan Preston charged towards the ball defender Scott Rumsby looked odds-on to take control but an unusually high bounce took it over his head allowing the Ayr forward to run into the box. Preston found himself in a one-on-one situation with the keeper but his shot was saved by the Stranraer keeper.
Just 5mins later Stranraer were ahead. Longworth charged forward evading McLauchlan’s last-ditch tackle some 40 yards out and then found McCloskey to his left in the penalty area. Somehow Fleming managed to save his drive but could only watch helplessly as Longworth followed up by smashing the rebound into the net.
The lead was no more than Stranraer deserved and they had their tails up. Two minutes later they almost doubled their lead and again United had Fleming to thank for keeping them in the game. Longworth curled a cross field pass to McCloskey who outpaced Donald before releasing powerful drive which the keeper saved acrobatically.
On 80 mins Stranraer were forced to replace goalkeeper McGurn who raced out of his box to go toe-to-toe in a slide tackle with Ayr’s Ryan Stevenson. The game was held up as the keeper was stretchered off but the referee acknowledged that both players had committed to strong but legal challenges and no one was to blame.
It did not go unnoticed by the United manager that for the final 10 mins Stranraer’s inexperienced young keeper Max Currie hadn’t a save to make and that only Mikey Donald attempted a shot.
Stranraer deserved their victory and a quick look at the statistics shows that United were nowhere near their best with around 42% possession and only 9 shots in the full 90 mins. Whereas an earlier Saturday off seemed to signal the start of this stutter in form and results, this break is certainly a godsend which should allow the Honest Men the time to recover and regroup.
McGurn, Pettigrew, Dick, Bell, Rumsby, Robertson, Cairney, McCloskey, McGuigan, Malcolm, Longworth Substitutes Currie [GK], Keenan, Stirling, Kemp, Turner, McGill, Nequecaur
Fleming, Devlin, Muir, Murphy, McLauchlan, Stevenson, Donald, Crawford, Preston, Caldwell, Forrest Substitutes Newman [GK], Graham, Trouten, McKenzie, McCracken.
Referee: Colin Steven