Wrexham 1 v 1 Ayr United
(Wrexham win 6 – 5 on penalties)
On Saturday, United exited the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup losing 6-5 to Wrexham on penalties following a 1 – 1 draw. A second-half goal from Jake Bickerstaff put the hosts in front at the Racecourse Ground, but a late equaliser from Sam Roscoe took the game to a penalty shoot-out in which Wrexham came out on top.
Ian McCall was without nine first team players – Ross Doohan, Daniel Harvie and Stephen Kelly on international duty with the Scotland U21s, Jordan Houston cup-tied and Andy Murdoch, Jamie Adams, Frank Ross, Craig McGuffie and Craig Moore ruled out injured – which saw four changes to the team, including a debut for goalkeeper Ellis Hare-Reid.
Ayr’s injury woes were increased early on when, on 13 mins, Aaron Muirhead had to come off after suffering a leg injury and was replaced by Finn Ecrepont at left back.
Ayr dominated possession in the opening stages, but Wrexham found their feet and started to look more dangerous creating a good chance in the 27th min. Devonte Redmond broke through and sent the ball forward to Jake Bickerstaff but his low effort was denied by Hare-Reid at his right-hand post.
The hosts kept the pressure up and came close again on 35 mins. Jazzi Barnum-Bobb hit the ball in from the right and despite Hare-Reid initially blocking, he dropped the ball under pressure from Leighton McIntosh. Ben Tollitt then pounced on the loose ball, but his attempt was blocked again then cleared by Luke McCowan.
Ayr got back into the game and began to look more threatening. Despite successive close misses from Ross Docherty, Finn Ecrepont and Alan Forrest in the final minutes before half time, United couldn’t find the back of the net and the scoreline remained 0-0 at the end of the half.
It was a balanced start to the second 45 mins with both teams showing intent, but it was the hosts who created the first major chance of the half. On 52 mins, Barnum-Bobb sent a great ball with the outside of his boot, to Bickerstaff on the right wing. He stroked the ball across the 6-yard box and past Hare-Reid but Leighton McIntosh, the former Dundee and Airdrie striker, failed to connect by the narrowest of margins and the ball curled wide.
Ayr came close to opening the scoring on 67 mins when a deadly low cross from Forrest on the right was met by Kris Doolan at the front post, but he couldn’t direct his flick target on target and the ball rose over the bar.
Both sides were pressing for a goal and, on 70 mins, following a sustained period of attacks from Ayr, it was Wrexham who finally broke the deadlock. Doug Tharme played a long ball down the left for McIntosh who curled the ball in from near the line. As Ayr failed to clear, Bickerstaff stepped in and blasted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from 10 yards to give the home side the lead.
Ayr briefly looked shell-shocked but continued to keep the pressure up and, on 85 mins, created their best chance of the match so far. Luke McCowan curled the ball over the Wrexham defence and into the box, where it was met by a diving header from Forrest, but his effort was tipped over the bar by keeper Dawid Szczepaniak.
Only 1 min later, United found the back of the net. Forrest took a short corner on the left and received the ball back from Mark Kerr. Forrest then crossed the ball into the box where it took a deflection off Mathew Jones and was met by Sam Roscoe who headered home from close range. 1 – 1 and United upped the pressure.
Ayr went all out for the win and came close to avoiding a penalty shoot-out. With only seconds of the match remaining, Docherty found Forrest in space on the left and the winger drove into the box where his delicate curving shot from 8 yards went inches past the far post.
With no late winner for either side, the score remained 1-1 at full time and the game went straight to penalties.
The first ten penalties went in. Docherty, Moffat, Bell, Geggan, and Forrest all scoring comfortably for United and Rutherford, Bickerstaff, Barnum-Bobb, Tollitt and Barton doing similarly for Wrexham. The shootout then went to sudden death mode.
McCowan stepped up for Ayr but was denied by Szczepaniak who saved his shot at the bottom right-hand corner. All Jake Lawler had to do now was to convert his penalty for the hosts to come out on top. The defender blasted the ball at goal and despite Hare-Reid getting a hand on it, the ball found the back of the net and sent Wrexham through to the next round of the Challenge Cup.
Next up, Ayr return to League action as they face Dundee United at Somerset Park on Saturday.
Szczepaniak, Barnum-Bobb, Lawlor, Tollitt, Redmond, Rutherford, Barton, Tharme, Bickerstaff, Cleworth, McIntosh Substitutes: Dibble (GK), Beaumont, Huxley, Jones, Parry, Robinson-Murray, Williams
Hare-Reid, Muirhead, Kerr, Roscoe, Geggan, Moffat, Doolan, Forrest, McCowan, Bell, Docherty Substitutes: Graham (GK), Ecrepont, McKenzie
Referee: Steven Gregg