Ayr United Under-20s racked up the goals in Cumnock
By the end of the night it was hard to keep up. Ayr United Under-20s racked up the goals in Cumnock on Monday night as they crushed Clyde 12-0. James Hilton scored five, Jamie Martin netted three, Luke McCowan grabbed two, Stuart Faulds got one and Robbie Crawford also struck. Six goals in each half, encouraging run-outs for Crawford and Ross Docherty from more than two months out injured and a sixth win in seven league matches. This was pretty much all you could ask for.
United looked on a mission from the off. McCowan forced an early corner with a near-post drive, before first-team captain Docherty fired over a half volley from the edge of the area on five minutes. McCowan missed two good openings before the breakthrough was made on 23 minutes. A quick free-kick from Faulds released Craig McGuffie down the right flank, he raced to the byeline and picked out Hilton who tucked the ball home at the near post. It would prove to be the first of many for Hilton and, with the deadlock broken, the floodgates opened.
Five minutes later, Ayr doubled their lead. Faulds, outstanding in the middle of the park, latched on to a low cross from the left wing. His left-foot shot squirmed under the Clyde goalkeeper and into the net. United smelled blood and it was obvious that they liked the taste. The third arrived on 31 minutes. Docherty and Crawford combined to play in Hilton. The striker was fouled on the edge of the box and dusted himself down to thunder the resulting free-kick through the wall and into the far corner. It was the mark of a confident forward. On 38 minutes, Crawford raced clean through on goal and tried to round the goalkeeper but was thwarted. The ball was pulled back to Hilton, who blazed over from close range.
Hilton made no mistake four minutes later. A loose pass from Clyde’s No 1 went straight to McGuffie, he ghosted clear down the left and squared the ball for Hilton who slid home his hat-trick. Wave after wave of black and white shirts continued to pour forward and pile the pain on Clyde before the break. This time Crawford got in on the act. Hilton turned provider on the left side and picked out the onrushing midfielder to crash a 12-yard shot into the net for Ayr’s fifth of the night on 44 minutes.
Seeing Crawford’s trademark charge into the box and Docherty’s influence in behind would be a pleasing sight for Ayr United fans. A pleasing sight for Clyde at this point would have been the full-time whistle, never mind half-time as there was enough seconds on the clock for Ayr to grab a sixth before the interval. McCowan’s 20-yard shot spun off the base of the post and, hungry as ever, Hilton was on hand to tap in his fourth.
Six goals clear at the break, you could have forgiven Ayr for taking their foot off the gas. But that never looked likely. Ayr still pressed high, tackled with commitment and chased every ball. There would be no mercy. Crawford was denied from six yards out and McCowan forced a decent save from Clyde’s replacement keeper but the seventh goal did come on 55 minutes. McCowan, who did a power of running, deservedly got his name on the scoresheet in a move that demonstrated the understanding he and Hilton have. The pair exchanged passes five times before Hilton’s shot was saved and McCowan, back to goal, fired home the rebound.
Senior players McGuffie, Crawford and Docherty were withdrawn after 57 minutes and Ayr continued to swarm forward. McCowan’s 63rd-minute strike sneaked under the goalkeeper and Faulds’ crunching tackle sparked a move that Hilton finished off to make it 9-0 after 67 minutes. Two minutes later, Ayr hit double figures. Martin’s free-kick was rolled short to Hilton who returned the ball back for Martin to lash home. Number 11 arrived on 73 minutes. Kieran Balfour lifting the ball over the top for Martin to control, spin away from his man and direct the ball into the far corner.
This was a devastating show of attacking power and it was rounded off on 84 minutes. Hilton was at the heart of everything and he raced clear once more. His shot was palmed into the path of Martin, who grabbed a hat-trick off the bench.
‘That’s been coming,’ insisted five-goal hero Hilton. ‘We have been moving the ball really well. The first team are in form and it’s starting to rub off on us, too. Robbie is different class and Doc is excellent in training, if you look away for a second he is away and gone.’
Introduction to a full-time, first-team environment is offering the likes of McCowan, Leon Murphy, Faulds, Balfour and Hilton to shine. ‘I’ve scored 18 goals in seven games here and on loan at Cumnock,’ added Hilton. ‘I don’t even consider myself a natural striker but I’m getting goals. I’m not the strongest or the biggest but it’s just happening for me at the moment. The free-kick I decided to smash instead of whip and that came off. Including friendlies, we have won eight in a row now and a clean sheet is important, too. We dominated possession as well, so we can be pleased with every aspect of our game’
Scoring 12 goals and conceding none is nothing but a manager’s dream and David White could not be happier with his side after a mesmerising display. ‘That was very pleasing. Attacking and defending, we were excellent. We are getting more consistent and some of these players now look full-time players. We have taken time to adjust but they look the part in how they play and their physicality.
‘The attitude was fantastic. At 11-0, Kieran Balfour tracks back and makes a last-gasp sliding block in with four minutes to go. A lot of them did that and it was relentless. The young guys are driving on the standards and they love playing here. This pitch suits our style but we’ve also shown that we can go to different places and grind out results, too.’
Albion Rovers are up next on Monday and those familiar with Cliftonhill will know that a fast, slick artificial surface will not be waiting.
‘Albion Rovers will be totally different,’ admitted White. ‘It’s a good challenge and we’ll have to adjust again. I’m confident we can go there and produce a similar performance in contrasting conditions.’
Crawford and Docherty lasted 57 minutes and came through the game unscathed as they stepped up their return from long-term injury. ‘It was important for them to get through this,’ said White. ‘They looked to have enjoyed it and there was no injuries. They are back and it was good for McGuffie to also get more game time. Hopefully, they can no play a part in getting promotion for the club. The team looks sharp and if the manager ever needs our guys, then they are ready.’
Ayr team: Hare-Reid; Baird, Ballantyne, Griffiths, Thorburn; Faulds (Millarvie 74*), Docherty (Balfour 57), Crawford (McKenzie 57), McCowan, McGuffie (Martin 57); Hilton. Sub not used: Graham. *Teams are allowed to make up to five subs in three Development League matches
match report by Calum McClurkin