Ayr United 18s travelled the longest journey of the season to play Ross County at the Highland Football Academy, Dingwall. Having won their last three league fixtures away from home the Somerset Parkers were keen to record another win on the road. Boosted by the inclusion of Paul Smith and Finn Ecrepont the Ayr line up had a strong look about it prior to kick off. Conditions were good for football with some hazy sunshine and a light wind. Despite a 4 and a half hour journey Ayr quickly went to work and made a very positive start. In fact the Honest Man were in front within 7 minutes when a good pass down the line by Finn Ecrepont found Ayr front man Brian Connor. As the ball sat up nicely for Connor he fairly lashed his shot high into the net from some 17 yards out. Taken with the outside of his foot this was a terrific finish and not giving the home keeper any chance to save.
Ross County were causing Ayr some problems with their direct style of play through their tall number 9 who held the ball up well. Ayr had to defend several corners but did do successfully. However, the away side were quickly back into their stride and Brian Connor brought out an excellent save from the home keeper when his volley from outside the box was finger tipped onto the crossbar. Then on the twenty minute mark Ayr extended their lead with another very well taken goal. The home keeper handled a pass back at the edge of his box and a free kick was awarded in a central position just outside the 18 yard line. Normally Paul Smith steps to take free kicks but on this occasion Smith rolled the ball to striker Sam McKee who expertly curled the ball round the defensive wall and beat the keeper at his left hand lost. Minutes later Brian Connor looked very unlucky to be given offside as he again beat the home keeper with a smart finish. Ayr keeper Lauchlan Kirkland then made a superb close range stop from County’s No 9 although the referee blew for offside. Ayr could have extended their lead when a Paul Smith corner was headed into the ground from Finn Ecrepont but unluckily bounced over the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.
Half Time : Ross County 0 Ayr United 2
The old adage of ‘a game of two halves’ certainly applied in this game as the home side ramped up the pressure on Ayr by going even more direct then the first period. The home side squeezed the game up leaving Ayr very little or no time on the ball. Playing almost constantly through their No 9 the home side forced a number of corners and free kicks throughout the second half. However, the Ayr team defended superbly despite the home side having a number of tall players. Ayr keeper Kirkland also played his part by producing several good saves at important times. One fierce shot high to his right was parried past for a corner, another header to his left finger tipped round the post and a difficult bouncing ball blocked with both hands. Ayr rang the changes by replacing Jonny Hogg and Josh Robinson with Alex Jeanes and Dario Viviani. The onslaught however continued with Ayr defending several more corners and free kicks. However, a sweeping move from the Ayr side very nearly put this game to bed. The ball was worked from right to left which saw midfielder Aaron Miller release Brian Connor on the left. Connor ghosted past a defender into the box only to see his effort go agonisingly past the post. Further changes saw Ayr replace striker Sam McKee with Kaylum Ferguson and midfielder Aaron Miller with front man Fraser Bryden. This saw Dario Viviani drop into a more familiar midfield role. Striker Ferguson looking sharp cleverly turned his marker only to see his well hit shot saved by the home keeper. Fraser Bryden also full of running brushed past three defenders only to be stopped at the last minute as he was about to shoot. Then with just twelve minutes left Ayr finished this game as a contest. Great work by Fraser Bryden on the right hand side saw his deep cross towards the back post bravely headed home by Brian Connor despite the attention of two defenders. Ayr then replaced midfielder Paul Smith with yet another promising young player Reece Mitchell from the Academy’s conveyer belt of talent. Finn Ecrepont moved in beside Andrew Heaney in front of the back four with Mitchell slotting comfortably into left full back. Ayr saw out the remaining minutes to record another fine away win.
Full Time : Ross County 0 Ayr United 3
Head Coach John Crawford praised the team for another very solid away performance. Crawford said, ‘It’s never easy to win games on the road but today saw another very good all round team performance. What is also hugely encouraging is the number of younger players coming through our Academy system and making an impact at this level. Today we included 4 players, Josh Robinson, Dario Viviani, Fraser Bryden and Reece Mitchell all recently introduced into the 18s squad from the Under 16s. All four players contributed positively to the team performance today which shows the future is bright’.
Ayr United :
Kirkland, Hogg, Fraser, Bilham, Ecrepont, Smith, Miller, Heaney, Robinson, McKee, Connor.
Jeanes, Ferguson, Bryden, Viviani, Mitchell.