Inverness field strong team against Ayr
Ayr approached this evening’s game in the knowledge they would require a hugely improved performance from the previous week in the away draw to St Johnstone.
Inverness fielding 9 full time players in their starting line up had the previous week scored 7 goals v Partick which was no mean feat considering Thistle themselves had scored 5 without reply the week before against the Saints!
However, Ayr proceeded to produce their best first half performance of the season against a very good side. With heavy rain having fallen on the Cumnock Astro for several hours prior to kick off the ball was holding a bit more than normal on the surface.
This game was to be played at a high tempo and intensity throughout the ninety minutes and the home side went on to dominate large spells of the first period.
Ayr were making inroads down the Inverness right side with Joy Goma prominent in most attacks. His pace and willingness to run at defenders caused no end of problems for ICT and in the fifteenth minute could and maybe should have won a penalty kick for his side.
Going past three defenders and driving into the box saw clear contact in the second challenge, however Goma stayed on his feet and was just thwarted with a sliding tackle as about to shoot.
Unfortunately the resulting corner came to nothing and the danger was cleared. Inverness went close on a couple of occasions and one of those saw a speculative shot clip the top of Ayr keeper Graham’s crossbar.
Ayr were producing some very good passages of play and quick transitions from midfield forward, with Paul Smith prominent in the No 10 role. Ayr’s midfield three of Griffiths, Heaney and Smith were getting through a power of work and driving their team forward.
Goma on the left continued to cause problems with his pace and power and quite how his marker got through 45 minutes without a card was hard to understand. Paul Smith went close after evading a couple of challenges but failed to get enough power in his shot to seriously trouble the away keeper.
Robbie Laurie then had a good run down the right side and his cut back unfortunately found no takers.
The tireless running of Goma, McSkeane and Laurie kept the ICT defenders on their toes but the all important breakthrough just wouldn’t come. Ayr were solid at the back with central defenders Richardson and Love keeping a firm grip of ICT’s dangerous strikers and were ably backed up by fellow full backs Moffat and Oliphant.
Ayr’s keeper Graham had a couple of decent stops as well as starting some quick counter attacks through recycling the ball well for his team.
Half Time : Ayr United 0 ICT 0.
The away side changed their shape at the interval from a conventional 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 set up and also withdrew their right full back who had experienced a torrid time from Ayr’s pacey winger Joy Goma.
These changes certainly helped ICT to regain some control and the second period proved to be more even in terms of possession of the ball.
Ayr perhaps lacked a little of their earlier high intensity and pressing which in turn allowed the away side to retain and move the ball more quickly.
With 55 minutes gone the breakthrough finally came but unfortunately for the away side.
Ayr gave the ball away with a square pass which was intercepted and then resulted in a corner kick being awarded. The ball duly arrived in Ayr’s box among a number of players and unluckily deflected straight to ICT’s no 9 who had a simple task to side foot home from 4 yards out.
A real body blow to Ayr at this stage as it was evident from early on that the first goal of the game would be hugely important in the final outcome.
Shortly after, the home side lost their captain and central defender Ross Love with a muscle injury.,Love was however replaced by the dependable Hamish Brown who slotted in comfortably beside Blair Richardson.
As the game began to stretch both sides found ‘pockets of space’ which earlier had been hard to find. With the onus on Ayr to find a leveller ICT were happy to sit within their shape and hit Ayr on the counter attack.
Ayr then replaced both Aidan Moffat and Robbie Laurie with Logan Angus and Joe Barker in an effort to increase their attacking options. A change of shape was also made to to a 4-3-1-2 as Ayr sought an equaliser.
Ayr keeper Graham made a good stop as ICT counter attacked with their pacey forwards.
Ayr made a further change replacing their hard working striker Nathan McSkeane with forward Robert Frew.
However, in the 80th minute the game was more or less finished as a contest.
This time the award of a penalty kick at the edge of Ayr’s box seemed to leave a 50/50 opinion as to whether the official got this one right. There appeared to be little contact as the ICT player went to ground with Ayr’s midfielder Euan Griffiths adamant that he had got the ball.
However, the match official had made up his mind and whether right or wrong the spot kick was duly dispatched and Ayr now had a mountain to climb.
Despite pushing hard to the end the home side could not find a way through the well disciplined and well drilled ICT defence.
Full Time : Ayr United 0 ICT 2
Head Coach John Crawford was disappointed for his players who had given a thoroughly committed performance on the night and had also produced some of their best football for a long time in the first period. Crawford said, ‘In a match of this kind it is the fine margins which ultimately decide the outcome. In terms of our intensity of pressing and tempo within the game we couldn’t have asked for more from our players. Our passing and possession of the ball particularly first half was of a very good standard as were our fitness levels playing against a team with 9 full time players in their starting line up.’ Crawford added, ‘ We must now carry the positives and standard set from this performance into our next game.’
Ayr United :
Graham, Moffat, Richardson, Love, Oliphant,
Griffiths, Heaney, Smith, Laurie, McSkeane, Goma.
Subs : Barker, Angus, Brown, Frew, McFadyen, Bilham, Burns.