Following a good result in their previous away fixture v St Mirren, Ayr Utd 18s headed to Lanarkshire to play Premier opposition Motherwell. Missing Paul Smith and Finn Ecrepont, who were both on 1st Team duty, in addition to suspended central defender Kinlay Bilham this promised to be a real test of the squad depth.
Overhead conditions were extremely testing as the game kicked off with gusting winds and driving rain. The home side had the benefit of a following breeze which also allowed Ayr to put some extra weight on their passes. Ayr striker Sam McKee was already causing problems to the Motherwell centre backs with his clever movement and good hold up play. Motherwell had a number of tall players which was to prove a real test for the Ayr defence at corners and free kicks. Striker Sam McKee was unlucky to see his angled shot from a Lewis Nohar pass slip agonisingly past the far post. After successfully defending a couple of corners Ayr broke quickly on the counter attack and took the lead in the 10th minute through a superbly executed goal. Captain Andrew Heaney fastened onto the ball some 40 yards out and his deft pass to striker Sam McKee split the two ‘Well centre backs. There was still much work to do as McKee showing great composure ghosted past a defender before coolly rounding the keeper and slipping the ball into the empty net. A goal fit to win any game! As the game ebbed and flowed Motherwell tested both Ayr full backs Lewis Nohar and Jonny Hogg with a succession of diagonal balls which led to a number of corner kicks. However, the Ayr defenders stood firm and just before the interval Ayr centre back Dylan Fraser made a superb recovery tackle to prevent an almost certain goal. Sadly for Ayr this was to be the centre back’s last contribution following a heavy blow to the face.
Half Time : Motherwell 0 Ayr United 1.
Ayr replaced centre back Dylan Fraser with Alex Jeanes as a straight replacement. With a new centre back pairing of both Alex Jeanes and Declan McFadyen this was another real test playing against international striker Cole Starrs. Shortly after Ayr replaced midfielder Ryan Hannah with promising winger Josh Robinson which saw Kaylum Ferguson drop in behind striker Sam McKee. Ayr however wasted little time in extending their lead on 55 minutes. This time full back Jonny Hogg played a great pass into the left channel for striker Sam McKee to run onto. The Ayr forward drove into the Motherwell penalty box and just as he was about to shoot he was brought down by a ‘Well defender. Andrew Heaney confidently placed the ball on the spot and beat the keeper with a well placed finish into the left hand corner. With a deserved two goal lead Ayr were looking good at this point however the home side hit back when Ayr keeper Kirkland could only parry a shot and the striker gleefully fired home the rebound. The game had become a tough battle in the midfield area but Ayr’s Aaron Miller used both his experience and composure to keep good possession for his team. As the game entered the last third Ayr struck again. Striker Sam McKee got his second assist of the game when his free kick from the left was only partially parried by the home keeper and the ever alert Brian Connor picked his spot to restore the two goal cushion. Connor was then brought down after he weaved past three players and this heavy challenge was to prove costly as both Connor and Ferguson had to be replaced due to injury. Ayr made the double substitution by bringing on young striker Fraser Bryden and forward Logan Angus dropping into midfield. Within minutes Motherwell scored their second goal of the game. A diagonal ball found their left winger looking suspiciously offside but the flag stayed down as the cross came into the Ayr box. It looked as if Ayr would clear their lines but a bit of hesitation was to cost them on this occasion. The ball broke to the edge of Ayr’s penalty area and the midfielder curled the ball into the top corner. Game on again! Ayr then had to replace striker Sam McKee who had kept the ‘Well defence ‘on toast’ all evening. Another of Ayr’s promising youngsters Dario Viviani came on to replace McKee which saw him take up the No 10 role with Bryden going through the middle and Angus going wide. However, Ayr’s game management was excellent in the last 12 minutes and they saw the game out for another fine win on the road.
Full Time : Motherwell 2 Ayr United 3
Ayr head coach John Crawford was delighted with the team’s performance in very testing weather conditions and also how they stood up to playing against a strong Motherwell side. Crawford said, ‘The players should be commended for the way they all fought for each other throughout the 90 minutes. Commitment, desire and standing resolute together were all major factors in the win. Some terrific defending and 3 well executed goals all contributed to the team performance. Crawford added how encouraging it is to see so many promising young players coming through from the Academy’s youth system and also how well they are acquitting themselves at this level.
Ayr United :
Kirkland, Nohar, Fraser, McFadyen, Hogg, Hannah, Miller, Heaney, Ferguson, McKee and Connor.
Subs : Jeanes, Robinson, Angus, Bryden and Viviani.