Academy 20’s edged out by Queens Park
Ayr United Academy Under-20s suffered a 2-1 defeat to Queen’s Park at Lesser Hampden on Tuesday night.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for the 20s after opening the campaign with a 2-1 home loss to Morton.
Things started well in Glasgow for the Honest Men and they took the lead after five minutes. A diagonal ball found Leon Murphy on the left, the winger surged to the byeline and his low cross was cleared to Luke McCowan on the edge of the box. McCowan beat one player on the edge of the box before curling a left-footed strike into the net.
Ayr looked comfortable in the early stages and were happy to concede possession to Queen’s Park, who weren’t looking particularly threatening.
However, a mistake in midfield opened the door for the Spiders on 23 minutes. United lost the ball in midfield and Queen’s broke clear, the attack ended when Stuart Faulds clipped his man 20-yards from goal. Dominic Docherty rifled home the free-kick into the top-right corner for the equaliser.
The leveller unsettled the visitors and Lyle Avci had to make an impressive block from point-blank range minutes later after a lapse at the back. McCowan and Murphy were the most dangerous outlets for Ayr and they combined on 30 minutes.
David Waite’s raking diagonal pass found McCowan on the penalty spot, he teed up Murphy but the Queen’s Park defence scrambled back to clear. Ayr’s best move of the match followed three minutes later.
James Hilton robbed possession on the halfway line.
He linked up with Kieran Balfour before the ball made its way to McCowan, the attacking midfielder saw his deflected effort clawed away from the top corner.
Nathan Baird and Jack Sherrie had to be sharp to keep Queen’s at bay until half-time.
McCowan was proving to be a thorn in Queen’s side and was at the heart of everything positive.
His teasing cross from the left flank on 50 minutes found striker Mark McKenzie, but the 17-year-old couldn’t get enough purchase on the header from six yards out.
From then on in, an experienced Queen’s Park side took control and looked the most likely to clinch a winner. Luke Donnelly fired a foot wide from distance and Sherrie got a critical touch on a dangerous low cross that looked certain to be converted at the back post.
The warnings were stacking up for United.
Queen’s hit the post with a long-range effort and Avci had to get down low to block a low strike from inside the box as the game approached the final 15 minutes.
Scott Granger went close on 77 minutes when his header was placed wide of the left upright. But Ayr were undone by another long-range rocket from Docherty.
This time, Avci got a glove to it but it was not enough to prevent the powerful 22-yard strike from finding the net.
McKenzie miscued a left-footed shot from inside the area and Murphy shot over the top as Ayr chased an equaliser in vain.
United’s next Development League West game is against Airdrieonians at Somerset Park on Tuesday, September 5 and while David White hopes to see improvement, he did find positives to take from the reverse to Queen’s Park.
‘We didn’t do enough to win tonight,’ White admitted. ‘We never created a lot and that’s not like us. But that was a young team we finished with.
That’s a big positive. Young Finn Ecrepont came on at the age of 15, the striker Mark McKenzie is 17. Scott Granger and Jamie Martin are young too, so to come on and make an impact is a positive.
‘That should be a motivation for others. We’ve had a settled 20s team and maybe some of them have been a little too comfortable and the performances of the new guys should motivate the other members of the squad.’
Ayr: Avci; Waite, Baird, Sherrie, Ballantyne; Balfour (Ecrepont 83), Faulds (Granger 64); Murphy, McCowan, Hilton (Martin 58); McKenzie. Sub not used: Connolly.
Match report – written by Calum McClurkin